Five: Education, training, and information. Credit unions provide financial education to their
members as well as the communities they serve.
(Editor’s note: SC Telco FCU
Community Relations Manager Terri Hendrix recently traveled to Brazil as part
of the World Council of Credit Unions’ International CU Leadership Program (ICULP).
Hendrix shares her key takeaways from this visit, which took place January 13-24,
2014 at numerous SICREDI credit union locations in the states of Rio Grande do
Sul and Parana, Brazil.)
|Terri Hendrix (far left) of SC Telco FCU is pictured with Brazilian & US credit union representatives during her recent visit to Sicredi Central, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do
Sul, Brazil. |
in World Council of Credit Unions’ International Credit Union Leadership
Program exchange with Brazil opened my eyes to the value of providing cooperative education and
credit unions view themselves as cooperatives
first and financial institutions
second. For example, after joining each
member is invited back to the branch for an orientation on cooperative principles
and is versed on the responsibilities of being a credit union member (and not
just products/services/rates of the credit union).
orientation, if the member likes this ‘cooperative’ method and wants further
involvement, they can sign up for additional courses that prepare them to serve
as nuclei coordinators. These
coordinators share information from the management and board throughout the
membership base, and provide feedback to credit union management. Depending on
the size of the credit union, a nuclei coordinator group could have as many as
800 or 900 members.
coordinators take their tasks very seriously. Despite term limits for this volunteer
position, credit unions have a steady pipeline of educated members willing to
serve. Credit unions in Brazil don’t
neglect the children either. They are in
hundreds of classrooms each year teaching the next generation the benefits of
exercising the cooperative principles.
like a really good idea, one that we should implement immediately. But then other thoughts began to creep in: ‘Why would we want to educate our members on
what a cooperative is?, ’ and ‘Would members accept the responsibility of ownership
in the credit cooperative?’
interesting questions, but I wonder what our credit union system be like if we
all concentrated on educating members regarding the rights and privileges of cooperative
ownership? It seems to me one benefit would be a more engaged membership when
it comes to legislative threats. Members who understood what a cooperative is
and how it is different would be lighting up the phones, email, Twitter and
Facebook demanding THEIR cooperative
not be federally taxed! Our efforts
nationally would be enhanced 10-fold!
can also help with strategic planning and direction. Wouldn’t it be easier for credit union boards
and management to outline a strategic path when the membership itself has
communicated upwards what they need and want?
Members would better understand what the credit union is capable of
offering to them in the form of services and products. And don’t forget individual
member growth and advancement because of this sense of duty to learn and make
better financial choices for themselves and their families. A strong, knowledgeable membership base can
only make the credit union itself stronger.
unions do an excellent job of educating and informing their members, but we
need to teach the cooperative principles
– to members and non-members alike. Our
young people need to know there is a better alternative for financial services,
one that puts them in the driver’s seat and offers a fair shake in return for
making a commitment to cooperate.
unions that live by this principal of cooperative education and expect members
to take ownership seriously will in my view be the better for it. Maybe like the Brazilians we need to say, "A vida é melhor quando é cooperativa” – Life is better when we cooperate.
Growing up in the rural northwestern
corner of Spartanburg County, Terri learned at an early age the positive impact
that credit unions could have on the average working family. Her mother, an
industrial nurse at the local carpet plant, was a member of the credit
union. Through the years this small,
local credit union financed her first car, made college expenses manageable
through savings, and gave her a solid financial foundation on which to build a
Since those early years, she has
spent most of her adult life promoting the benefits of credit union
membership. In addition to her job
duties on the state and local level to promote SC Telco in a positive image,
Terri, a Credit Union Development Educator/ International Credit Union
Development Educator has participated in the World Council of Credit Unions'
International Credit Union Leadership Program in Brazil; served as a
technical adviser to credit societies in Malawi, Africa, and hosted credit
union interns from Latvia, Lithuania and the Dominican Republic. Terri is also a credit union advocate,
serving on the Governmental Affairs Committee for the Carolinas CU League. She also serves as the CULAC
trustee for South Carolina.