What “People-Helping-People” Means—A Cooperative Labor Day Story

Many credit union practitioners describe their employment satisfaction by citing the credit union slogan of People Helping People.   This explanation is contrasted with the traditional business priorities of profit, market share, growth and personal financial rewards.

There are definitely credit unions whose culture and employee interactions exemplify this aspiration.  In practice however, many member interactions are straight forward: opening accounts, making loans and other service assists that mirror those of many other community financial institutions.

When a consumer or member really needs “help” the circumstances are often not pretty.   There are financial problems frequently aggravated by other issues of health, job loss or family misfortune.   “Helping” in these situations means the credit union and its staff are now becoming more involved with a member’s circumstances.  They learn about personal difficulties and must often become part of a solution.

“Helping” Starts at the Top

In a recent CEO’s monthly report to staff there is a case study of how the credit union tries to implement this oft quoted standard.

The CEO reminded staff that he puts his email address in the member’s monthly newsletter and invites them to “talk with him.” He wants to recognize their role as owners.  This also demonstrates the credit union’s vision of being their “members most trusted financial partner.”

On August 15, 2023 a member wrote to the CEO as follows (names omitted for privacy):

Dear Mr. (CEO):

I was a previous member of the credit union a few years ago and I am a current member as of 11/2019.  I’ve had some life circumstance and made some mistakes as many of us have.  I tried and I’m still working really hard to do better and to be better financially.

I’ve tried to get a loan to consolidate my debt but the only answer I get told is no.  Which is discouraging.  After adopting my niece and nephew at 19 months, who just happen to be twins, like me, I’m just trying to make ends meet.  They are now 15 years old, and like any other teenager, have their share of troubles.   I just want to be able to pay off all my bills, including the debt I owe to you, so that I can spend more family time with them without struggling. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this. God bless!

The CEO asked two staff to call the member, learn about her situation, and see what the credit union might do. Could she pay us back?  Is this where we might make a difference “one person at a time?”

On August 22, 2023, just seven days later,  the member wrote back to the CEO as follows:

Good afternoon Mr. (CEO’s name).

I just want to say thank you for trusting me.   There are no words to describe how grateful I am to you and your staff for giving me a second chance. I can breathe and enjoy my family with peace of mind. 

I failed to mention my sister is in the late stages of dementia.  I can now possibly visit before she succumbs to her illness.   Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart for lightening the financial burden I’ve been carrying.  I hope to do more business with the credit union in the future as I pay down my second chance finance with you all. 

God is good!  Have a Blessed Day.  Thank you.

A Labor of Service and Peace of Mind

The CEO explained the restructure saved the member over $450 per month in payments.  It may be years before the credit union knows the outcome of the story.   The two credit union employees did the “hard work” by investing their time and experience to find a better way for the member.  They went beyond the credit score and payment history to see who she was and her commitment to learn from prior mistakes.

All members have choices of financial services, even those in difficult situations where predator’s options are close at hand.

This credit union has almost 65,000 members, but believes in serving each member individually, one at a time. 

This is why this cooperative team and millions of others are proud to be part of organizations fulfilling the at times difficult jobs of People-Really-Helping-People.  

As this member might say this holiday weekend, may your labors in coops continue to bless for years to come.





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