Why choose a credit union? What motivates people to have a credit union handle their finances over a bank or other financial institution? Well, one of the big draws a credit union has over their competitors is their nonprofit status and commitment to community, the focus of which are usually laid out in the credit union’s mission statement. But how does a credit union take a mere statement and make it into a daily mission? How does the staff go about acting on it in their everyday business?
The origin of the mission
Looking at the history of credit unions, we can see that at the time of their initial founding, they were first formed by communities of people helping people–friends lending money to other friends who needed it. This concept blossomed into what credit unions are today, financial institutions helping the community in which they reside. Connection to the community is the essence of a credit union and should be an integral part of any mission statement. But it shouldn’t stop there, it’s essential that this statement then be represented not only in the operations of the credit union, but by each staff member as well.
I have no idea how to write a mission statement – what do I do?
While credit union mission statements come in all shapes and sizes, they typically mention the two things credit unions stand for: finances and community. Because while it’s important to let your members know you care about them and the community you share, they’re also focused on their finances, and want to know you can help them succeed.
Developing a mission statement doesn’t have to be a big production; it’s not even necessary to hire a consultant or have a weekend retreat to help develop your statement. Simply know your credit union and your people. Talk to staff, talk to board members, talk to the management team, ask for their input. Keep it simple. Think about what your credit union does, why they do it, and who they do it for. Why are those things important? Jot down a sentence or two and then ask for feedback. Make sure the mission statement resonates with all those involved with the credit union.
I have a mission statement, now what?
Once you’ve developed a mission statement, the real work begins: actively following it. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily business and operations of a credit union and forget the mission of the organization. You forget the purpose of why your credit union exists and what good you are doing for your community. Don’t let the mission statement just be empty words on the wall or on your website; rather, make sure that it’s the reason the credit union staff come to work each day. Make it part of the culture of your credit union. This can be accomplished by talking about it at staff meetings and/or having staff give specific examples of where they’ve seen the mission statement in action while at work. However, the leadership team needs to set the example and pave the way for the cultural change of mission statement driven work.
Keep the mission statement in the hearts and heads of the entire staff. Double check that actions and decisions are made with the statement of the credit union in mind. Having it as a core part of the culture at the credit union is going to make staff proud of the work they do and where they do it.
Let’s bring it back to our roots: people helping people.