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Cooperative efforts bring the credit union message home

Credit Union Alliance of San Diego localizing statewide campaign

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The banking industry nationwide is continuing an organized campaign, calling for both federal and state governments to eliminate the tax-exempt status of credit unions.

To counter these attacks and deliver the credit union message to elected officials and members of the community, organized outreach campaigns have been launched at the national and state levels.

Regionally, the Credit Union Alliance of San Diego is bringing the message home by localizing a two-state Public Advocacy Program sponsored by the California and Nevada Credit Union leagues.

The umbrella Public Advocacy Program was created to promote awareness of the distinctive qualities of credit unions that make them unique within the financial services industry, the direct benefits credit unions provide for members and the community, and the indirect influence of credit unions that encourages competition and provides choices that benefit all consumers. The campaign includes radio and print advertising in major markets across California and Nevada.

For six years, 23 San Diego-based credit unions have pooled resources to broaden their impact on San Diego communities. The Credit Union Alliance of San Diego provides volunteer hours, education and financial contributions to a wide variety of community programs. This is the second year that the alliance is leveraging the significant league investment in the awareness campaign and applying the message to San Diego.

"By educating elected officials and consumers about the benefits credit unions provide for everyone, we intend to significantly strengthen our grassroots efforts and build widespread support to retain our tax-exempt status and continue to provide the credit union difference within our communities," said Geri Dillingham, spokesperson for the Credit Union Alliance of San Diego and executive vice president and chief operating officer of North Island Credit Union.

Credit unions are distinctly different from banks in the decision-making structure:

* Every member has a vote in the credit union;

* Credit unions are run by its stakeholders (members), not stockholders, for the benefit of the entire membership;

* Credit unions have democratic elections;

* Credit union board members are volunteers from the membership; and

* Credit unions serve as financial educators and advocates on behalf of their members.

Another benefit of credit union membership is the interest rates they pay depositors, which are often higher than banks. Credit union loan rates are frequently lower than those at banks. And credit unions generally do better than banks on car loans, personal loans, credit cards and home-equity lending due to their tax-exempt status.

"Credit unions and banks are not differentiated by the products each offer. Our differences go to the very heart of how we are structured and who we work for," Dillingham said. "For banks, it's shareholders. For credit unions, it's each and every member."

The Credit Union Alliance of San Diego is a voluntary organization representing 23 credit unions in San Diego County. These credit unions serve nearly 1 million members from select employee groups and diverse fields of membership. The CUA addresses unique needs of credit unions in areas of issue management, community relations, cooperative marketing and regional operations. More information about the CUA and its 23 member credit unions is available at www.creditunionalliance.org.

Submitted by Credit Union Alliance of San Diego

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