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Hyland challenges CUs to improve awareness outreach
WASHINGTON (2/25/14)--National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) Executive Director Gigi Hyland on Monday urged credit unions to improve their outreach efforts. 

Click to view larger image NCUF Executive Director Gigi Hyland urges credit unions to improve their information outreach efforts, saying that too often during her 23 years in the credit union movement, even friends and neighbors have responded with confusion when she discusses credit unions with them. (CUNA Photo)
Hyland listed ideas and potential partnerships for credit unions at the Credit Union National Association Government Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. She said that while the credit union brand is strong, there is still plenty of room left to create better awareness. 

"I'm going to exert every bit of diplomacy I have learned," the former National Credit Union Administration board member said. Even so, she added that credit unions are "really bad at creating awareness." 

She said that too often throughout her 23-year career in the credit union movement, even friends and neighbors have responded with confusion when she has discussed credit unions with them. 

Hyland highlighted three ways credit unions could boost their profile.

She first told conference attendees to make themselves part of the "strategic architecture of your community's financial well-being" by collaborating with local governments, nonprofits and cooperatives such as farmers' markets that strive to implement ethical business models.

Hyland then encouraged credit unions to integrate "business and benevolence"--by tying both philanthropic efforts to improving Americans' financial well-being and financial services to institutional charitable donations.

She concluded by telling credit unions to become a trusted resource beyond their members. Holding reality fairs, retirement fairs and readily offering financial information and education could, Hyland said, turn heads. She encouraged conference attendees to consult either the NCUF or state credit union foundations for other ideas and suggestions.

Hyland said that the timing of outreach is critical, pointing to Americans' glaring lack of affordable financial services. She cited a 2012 Financial Industry Regulatory Authority survey that found 19% of Americans spend more than they earn, 26% have unpaid medical debt and 56% have no emergency savings. Credit unions can fulfill this "huge unmet need," she said.

"But if they don't know you're there, they can't choose you," she concluded.

The NCUF is the U.S. credit union movement's primary national philanthropic program provider. Through NCUF grants and programs, credit unions provide widespread financial education, create greater access to affordable financial services, and empower more consumers to save, build assets, and own homes.

CUNA and CUNA Mutual Group are among the foundation's chief corporate supporters.


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