Credit unions need a clear Purpose to thrive.

Mission is your credit union’s not-so-secret weapon

“Why are you here?”

It’s a small question. And it’s a big question, too – the biggest, really. The answer, and more importantly the truth of that answer, will determine whether a credit union thrives and survives.

“No, why are you really here?”

We’re not talking about a slogan, a tag line, or the boring, committee-spawned ignoreable mission statement . We’re talking about a clear Purpose, a Mission, a reason why. Maybe you call it a Vision. Moxie? Mojo? Spark? Spirit?

What you call it and the way you put it into words don’t matter much; what matters is how well the people in your credit union know why the credit union exists, who it exists to serve, what they want and need, and how well they follow through. What is the credit union doing and not doing, every day, to build a better world?

I’ve worked with credit unions a long time, and under the stresses of the last few years the differences between CUs that thrive and CUs that have lost some of their connection to their Purpose have become clearer than ever.

Credit unions that understand and carry out their mission, their Purpose, their Secret Sauce, their mojo, whatever you call it, are doing well. They’re irreplaceable and indispensable parts of their members’ lives and their communities.

Those that are just going through the motions, managing strictly by the numbers, settling for middle of the road, answering the call of the mild, and becoming mini-banks, are in trouble — or headed for trouble.

Mission is your built-in secret weapon

The good news is that your Purpose, your Mission, your reason for being, is built right in to the credit union business model. That’s part of what can make small CUs roar. And of course, it’s not exclusive to small CUs; large credit unions can’t just coast on OK numbers; they have to be purpose-driven for long-term, sustainable success.

It has to be real

When we help a CU rediscover and articulate their brand, it requires three things: emotion, uniqueness, and authenticity. That last bit is one of the more difficult pieces; it has to be true and real and lived every day, not lip service or wishful thinking.

Members and potential members are looking at what you do, and deciding whether it aligns with their values. Are you socially responsible? Ethical? Do you care about the same things they do?

Share your Purpose with your members, show them how you’re building a better world, and invite them to be a part of it. That’s a lot more exciting and longer-lasting than “great rates and friendly service”, guaranteed.

Brian Wringer

Email this article to a friend or coworker.