Our Members and Potential Members

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had conversations with several credit union friends. It seems that some credit unions have minimum credit scores for membership. It’s a practice enacted perhaps to protect the credit union from loss – which is understandable… but so incredibly short-sighted.

Our community population is made up of either credit union members or potential members. Drawing a line and saying, “we’ll accept these potential members but not those,” goes against the ways that we can serve. Our community members are all unique. They come to us from all sorts of different backgrounds, from all sorts of different levels of financial literacy. Not every member will be an ideal candidate to lend to on Day 1 of their membership. But isn’t part of what we’re supposed to do be people helping people?

There is so much opportunity to have a profound impact on the lives of the people around us if we acknowledge that we are all human. We are all flawed.  We all have lessons that we can share with one another. And for those of us in cooperative financial services, we have an obligation to share the knowledge we have that can help others gain financial literacy.

Do you know what I think we should do when we receive negative credit report or negative results when pulling an eFunds/ChexSystems report? I think we should ask our potential members about what happened. Not everyone might share what happened… but as they do, we have such an opportunity to learn about how we can best help them. I don’t know anyone who was born knowing how to balance a checkbook, or how to create and follow a budget. As we understand what effected their credit, we learn what their needs are to become stronger financially, and we can guide them to be in a better position to qualify for the help they need from us.

We can begin a conversation about what steps they can be taking so that we can expand our relationship with them. We can provide the resources and support to help them learn financial habits that set them up for success. We can help them to develop payment plans to payoff closed accounts, to help them pay off collections items. We may be the first people who will teach them how to tend to their financial needs, how to change their detrimental financial habits.

There is a revolution going on. If we are going to take advantage of this opportunity to reach people who are frustrated with a system that has set them up for failure, that has imprisoned them in debt… we need to be able to provide them the tools to begin rebuilding their future. We need to be guiding them through the challenges that they face in the areas that we can provide help. Because we can only serve our members… why are we making it so difficult for people to be members?

This will take a lot of cooperation. We will need to ask for our members to cooperate with us, as we cooperate with them. And furthermore, we must cooperate with one another – we must seek to uplift our colleagues at other credit unions, and not feel competitive with one another.

As we do this, we’ll have more and more people who are eligible for loans. We will have so many members who will be loyal to us, who will be committed to paying us back because of the ways that we have helped them to take charge of their future.

If we do not serve our communities through seeing the world around us as a world of CU members and potential members… we’ll miss the opportunity to serve this revolution in the many ways that we can.

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