Start Your Own Credit Union Chapter in 5 Steps
Posted by Katy Wagnon on January 8, 2024
Creating a Chapter is a great way to build your network or credit union community through connections and collaboration. But where do you start?
After working closely with groups across Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming, GoWest’s Credit Union Communities Manager Lexy Strong shares these tips:
1. Build your governing board
Anyone at any level can start a Chapter, but at least four people are necessary to fill essential roles and create a quorum: President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary. Passion for the role is important — it’s necessary for a successful Chapter, said Strong.
Establish term limits at this time and create director roles to be filled in later, such as a Social Media Director or an Advocacy Coordinator. Reach out to Strong to get your Chapter listed and post open positions on GoWest’s website.
2. Develop your brand and vision
Chapters are structured around the foundational framework of “LEAP” Pillars: Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Philosophy in Action.
Once your board is in place, discuss how those themes can be developed. Plan the first year around your vision at an initial strategy session — how can the pillars be represented through events or collaborative initiatives with other chapters, organizations, or industry professionals?
Consider offering diverse activities, which can broaden your reach and build recognition. Food drives, charity fundraising, or engaging in volunteer efforts like building furniture for Habitat for Humanity to address community-specific needs are all good options. You can also address hot topics like lending through a council featuring C-Suite lending officers or hold an executive leadership roundtable that’s open to Young Professionals, said Strong.
“The possibilities are endless,” she said. “Not only are you creating this place for credit unions to join forces and be empowered to make a difference, but you’re also giving back to the community and supporting the ‘People Helping People’ mantra.”
Whatever you choose, be thoughtful and deliberate. Building your chapter gradually, with a clear vision and consistent effort, will be the key to your success, Strong said.
3. Establish a dues structure and bylaws
Chapters must know this information to obtain a 501(c)(6) designation, which can be required to receive donations, charge event fees, and manage finances. Laws for that designation differ in each state, so contact Strong if you need assistance. GoWest offers a sample bylaw form you can fill out with your Chapter’s information.
Each Chapter must also decide whether to charge dues. Some credit unions receive sponsorship scholarships from business partners; others do not. Building a dues framework can be tricky — do board members from credit unions with higher asset sizes pay more? — but it’s your choice. GoWest encourages credit unions to develop a model they can be fully responsible for.
4. Determine your meeting cadence
After you’ve held a strategy meeting and mapped out first-year planning, figure out the best day and time to hold regular gatherings, board elections, and an annual meeting, which could cover any successes or improvements.
Initial and sustained engagement can be challenging for new Chapters. Post on Facebook and LinkedIn (consider creating introductory “why should you join” videos), talk to your networks and contact Strong to use GoWest’s listserv. At meetings, encourage attendees to keep coming. Or even create a new member application that clearly states your expectations and time commitment, so members know if they’re a good fit.
It takes some work to build a chapter, but it’s worth it.
“Chapters offer a range of benefits that contribute to the professional development, networking, and advancement of credit union professionals and the Credit Union Movement,” Strong said.
If you have questions during any step of the chapter process, contact Strong at 208-713-9596 or [email protected]. She is happy to help and can attend initial meetings to get you started.