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Survey Volunteering is up CUs show how its done

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WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (2/27/12)--Voluntarism is alive in the U.S., with nearly 64.3 million people volunteering through or for an organization at least once from September 2010 to September 2011.  Since credit unions have voluntarism stamped in their DNA, it's likely that quite a few were from credit unions.

The volunteer rate rose a 0.5 percentage point--to 26.8%, or roughly 1.5 million more volunteers--in the year before September 2011, said statistics released Wednesday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increase followed a decline of equal size during 2010, said the bureau, which collected the data through a supplement to the September 2011 Current Population Survey sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The increase was attributed to more full-time employees getting involved during the period.

Credit unions are well represented on the volunteer scene. For example, Shell FCU in Deer Park, Texas, reported more than 294 volunteers from the credit union donated 1,485 hours of personal time during 2011 and raised $15,785 in more than 50 sponsored events, said the Texas Credit Union League  (LoneStar Leaguer Feb. 24). Since the inception of the credit union's Furthering Community Unity Team in 2008, the team has raised $43,322 and donated 4,986 volunteer hours.

Another example is Oregon Community CU, Eugene, Ore., whose employees organized events to raise funds for local chapters of charities such as the American Cancer Society, United Way, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and the American Red Cross. Overall, the credit union awarded $237,325 in scholarships and spent $176,500 in donations and sponsors for a total of $413,825 in 2011.  It gave more than $315,000 to non-profits and topped the Portland Business Journal's 2011 Corporate Philanthropy Awards.

During President's Day the credit union closed its offices so 230 employees could complete community service projects at nine different nonprofit organizations. They donated more than 600 volunteer hours.

"We just proved that you can do amazing things when you are a high performing team that has great expectations and believes in what you do. Being able to become a united group and devote an afternoon  to help change people's lives made a difference in our lives too," said CEO Mandy Jones.

Although credit unions have no trouble finding volunteers for their many charitable efforts among their staff and membership, they might be interested in the demographics of who is doing the volunteering for a religious, educational or other nonprofit organization.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' U.S. Bureau of Statistic Report on Volunteering:

  • Roughly 29.6% of full-time workers volunteered, while 33.3% of part-time workers and 23.8% of unemployed workers did so.
  • Women continued to volunteer at a higher rate--29.9%, an increase from the previous year's 29.3%--than men. Roughly 23.5% of men volunteered, about the same as the previous year.
  • More married people (32.3%) volunteered than single people (21.5%), and people with children under age 18  (33.7%) volunteered more than those without children (24.1%).
  • Those with higher level of education were more likely to volunteer than those with lesser education.  Among people age 25 or older, 42.4%  with college degrees volunteered while 18.2% of high school only graduates and 9.8% of those with less than a high school diploma volunteer.
  • By age, the most likely to volunteer were ages 35-44 (at 31.8%) and ages 45-54 (at 30.6%). Least likely to volunteer: People in their early 20s (19.4%).
Volunteers spent a median 51 hours on volunteer activities during the period--ranging from a high of 96 hours for volunteers 65 or older to a low of 32 hours for 25- to 24-year olds.  Men tended to engage in general labor; coach, referee or supervise sports teams; or fundraise. Women were most likely to fundraise; participate in activities related to distributing food; or tutor/teach.

IAPI cites CUNA in market analysis

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NEW YORK (2/27/12)--A Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist was quoted in an Associated Press article that analyzed the recent Dow Jones industrial average flirtation with the 13,000 level and other market volatility.

The article, "Dow flirts with 13,000 again but can't make it," by Christine Rexrode, AP business writer, discussed the factors that have made the market rise, such as good news on U.S. job gains, and the influences that send the market downward, such as the rising cost of oil and gasoline.

The article points out that the stock market has not settled into an identifiable trend. In the 35 completed trading days as of Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose on 20 days and fell on 15 days.

"On Tuesday the world is ending, on Wednesday the opposite happens, after two or three weeks we're right where we started because not much happened," Bill Hampel, CUNA chief economist, told the AP.

To read the article, use the link.

BizKid launches fifth season with help from CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (2/27/12)--Credit unions are continuing to back Biz Kid$ as the award-winning financial education program uses its fifth season to take a look at the economy, businesses that give back and how to make good financial choices.

A coalition of credit unions and credit union organizations underwrites the program, raising $10.4 million over the past six years to support its production, website and curriculum. The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) oversees fundraising, outreach and administration.

Launched in January, the 13-part fifth season resumes BizKid$' light-hearted approach to financial literacy with young hosts and comic sketches designed to appeal to kids from late elementary school through high school.

Episodes help viewers learn to identify businesses that are "green" and socially conscious; run a fundraiser; recognize media manipulation; choose a business structure; and become independent. The season ends with a profile of Beaverhead Ranch in Montana, which won a national contest to find America's favorite family business.

Every BizKid$ episode opens and closes with a narrator reminding viewers that "Production funding for BizKid$ is provided by America's Credit Unions, where people are worth more than money."

With the current season, Biz Kid$ tops 65 episodes, which means it can move into broadcast syndication. BizKid$ has been broadcast to more than 111 million households in all 50 states on more than 330 public television stations since its premiere in January 2008.

The NCUF offers starter kits to help teachers and parents tap BizKid$ for financial education. The free curriculum offered on the BizKid$ web site includes downloadable lesson plans, video segments and other resources.

NWCUA launches resources for CU4Kids fundraising

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (2/27/12)--The Northwest Credit Union Association has launched a website offering resources for credit unions raising funds for Credit Unions for Kids, the "charity of choice" for many credit unions nationwide.

The website shares ideas with credit unions staging events for each of the Northwest region's six Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. Also posted on the site are news release toolkits, a schedule of upcoming events and "champion stories " that chronicle services made available to young patients through the hospitals.

"We adopted the success model proven by so many contributing credit unions in Oregon and Washington, to establish a convenient one-stop resource center," said RoxAnne Kruger, association senior vice president. "A visit to the site gives our member-credit unions ideas for events and an opportunity to share their success stories."  

Credit Union For Kids began in 1986 when a group of Oregon and Southwest Washington credit unions began raising money to benefit sick children. Enthusiasm for the cause spread throughout the Northwest. A decade later, the model was adopted nationally, with more than $80 million contributed to 170 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

"One-hundred percent of every dollar donated is sent to the regional CMN Hospital," said Kasey Rockwell, NWCUA director of outreach programs. "Our new website gives credit unions go-to information from their peers who have a lot of experience making their fundraising ideas work."

To access the website, use the link.

Texas foundation disperses 237K in grants for 2011

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (2/27/12)--The Texas Credit Union Foundation followed the distribution of more than $237,285 in 2011 by awarding $73,400 in grants in the first quarter of 2012.

The 2011 grants were distributed statewide to support financial literacy initiatives, provide professional development for staff and volunteers through credit unions and chapters, offer Southwest CUNA Management School scholarships and create opportunities for credit union professionals to become development educators through the National Credit Union Foundation.

Grants made so far in 2012 include $7,500 in "Make the Difference" grants of up to $500 each to credit unions and partners to support financial education and highlight National Financial Literacy Month in April.

In addition, the Texas foundation is co-sponsoring the BizKid$ PBS education series on television station KERA with the Fort Worth Chapter of Credit Unions. The series combines on-air programming with curriculum and materials that can be used in classrooms.

ACUC offers 17 Discovery Sessions

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MADISON, Wis. (2/27/12)--The Credit Union National Association and CUNA Mutual Group announced speakers and topics for the Discovery Sessions at the 2012 America's Credit Union Conference, June 17-20, in San Diego.

"This year's Discovery Session speakers and topics address the most urgent issues facing credit unions," said Jeff Post, CUNA Mutual president/CEO. "We've found that credit union leaders really engage with the speakers and each other at these small, interactive sessions."

Additional speakers, session topics and programs will be announced in the weeks to come. For more information, use the link or follow @CUNAverse on Twitter.

Discovery speakers and sessions include:

  • Changing Trends in Executive Compensation: Presented by Scott Albraccio, sales specialist manager, executive benefits, CUNA Mutual Group. During the next five years, more than a quarter of all credit union CEOs will reach retirement age. Albraccio will show attendees how to prepare their credit union for building competitive executive retirement solutions to meet the evolving needs of top leadership.
  • Reaching Gen Y and Millennials with a Message They'll Actually Listen To: Presented by Josh Allison, founder and chief ideator, Think Café. This session presents a blueprint for creating relevant relationships with teens and young adults through smarter marketing, social relevance and strong values.
  • Don't Be an Idea Killer! The Future of Innovation at Your Organization: Presented byTasha Dahl, synergy leader, Affinity Plus FCU, St. Paul, Minn. The innovation and change needed to push the credit union movement into the next generation of financial services will not come from the usual small group of leaders. This session will explain why credit union leaders should give their employees complete control of innovation at their credit union.
  • Future of the Branch: Presented by George Hofheimer, chief research officer, Filene Research Institute. This session summarizes a Filene Research Institute colloquium on the future of the branch. Perspectives from academic thinkers, credit union executives, and branch design/building firms sketch the interplay of different branching priorities for different credit unions and memberships.
  • Effective Credit Card Program Management: Presented by Ondine Irving, founder, Card Analysis Solutions. This session covers effective portfolio analysis techniques, how to best control the expenses of a credit union's credit card program, and a review of alternative options for credit card processing.
  • Credit Union Sustainability: A Long Term Model for Success: Presented by Mike Higgins Jr., partner, Higgins & Associates. Higgins will explain a sustainability model that avoids the shortcomings of traditional measures and focuses on new drivers of longer-term value creation. He will demonstrate how the concepts can be applied to any credit union business model.
  • For Every Consumer Intention, There Should be an Equal and Opposite Credit Union Action: Presented by David Polet, Voice of Customer Program manager, CUNA Mutual Group. This interactive session will investigate how economic shifts beyond the Great Recession and housing crash will likely impact members' perceptions, attitudes and expectations of credit unions and other financial institutions and how this affects strategic initiatives concerning insurance and investment offerings.
  • "Tell Me We Aren't Doing That!": Presented by Denny Graham, president/CEO, FI-Strategies LLC. Graham will demonstrate how leading credit unions identify productivity enhancements from their own employees and how to build a stronger sales and service culture. The title is a quote from a CEO after looking at the results of a survey to his employees.
  • Innovation Technology: Redefining What IT Means for Credit Unions: Presented by Mark Sievewright, president, CU division, FiServ. Get a crash course in the primary innovations enabled by technology that will impact member acquisition and retention, and the delivery of financial services in the next three years. This session will cover the rapid evolution of "Mobiliti" and the likely impact of social business. Attendees also will get a glimpse of what online banking, new payment models and member-centric tactics and techniques will look like in the future.
  • Five Best Practices for Online Cross-Selling: Presented by Geoff Knapp, vice president, online banking and consumer insights, FiServ. This session will pinpoint five online retailer practices that can benefit credit unions and identify others that do not. Attendees will learn from consumer research and focus group findings how to successfully market online.
  • Align Your Team or Forever Fight the Steering Wheel: Neil Goldman, partner, GCS Consulting. Address the reality of the whirlwind of daily credit union life and discover new tools to create a cohesive, uniformly focused institution. Learn how to eliminate silo management and unify and focus teams for enhanced teamwork and employee engagement.
  • The Business Case for Employee Engagement: Presented by Randy Kohout, vice president, human resources, CUNA Mutual Group. Despite the volatile economy and high unemployment, a Towers Watson 2011 Survey found almost 60% of North American companies struggle to attract critical-skill employees. This presentation discusses how to align engagement programs with your business objectives, desired culture, total rewards strategy, and attraction and retention goals.
The ACUC also will feature five panels:

  • Digital Branding: Presented by Hofheimer and Katie Sollenberger, account manager, financial services vertical, Google. Mobile phones, ubiquitous internet, iPhone apps and social media are all rewiring the way consumers choose and interact with brands. This session summarizes a Filene Research Institute colloquium and presents insights on how to reach, strengthen, and sell to these markets.
  • 2012--The Year of Chip Technology: How to Eliminate Magnetic Stripe Card Fraud! Presented by Ann Davidson, consultant, risk management, CUNA Mutual Group; Leanne Phelps, senior vice president, card services, State Employees' C (SECU), Raleigh, N.C.; and Hap Huynh, Chip Center of Excellence, Visa. Attendees will learn about this chip technology and how it reduces card fraud risk. This session will retell a credit union story of how SECU incorporated chip technology successfully into its card program.
  • How to Thrive in Today's Economy: Presented by Bob Larson, financial support consultant, CUNA Mutual Group; Steve Behler, president/CEO, Kemba CU Inc., West Chester, Ohio; John Cassidy, president/CEO, Sierra Central. Attendees will participate in a dialogue with decision makers from credit unions who have consistently posted successful results in spite of challenging times. Credit union professionals will explore what these credit unions do to combat a troubling economy.
  • Working for Good: How Social Responsibility is Driving the Next Generation of Leaders: Presented by Brent Dixon, young adult advisor, Filene Research Institute; and a panel of Filene Research Institute Young Adult Group Members. In a groundbreaking research initiative, the Filene Research Institute and Net Impact partnered to examine how doing good motivates the millennial work force.
  • Superior Consumer Lenders during the Great Recession: Presented by

    Facilitator Patrick McElhenie, sales planner, CUNA Mutual Group; Garth Strand, CEO, Hutchinson (Kan.) CU; Joe Rossa, senior vice president, EECU, Jackson, Mich.; and another credit union panelist to be announced. Hear how three credit unions increased consumer lending portfolios by more than 5% each year during the Great Recession.
Conference information can be found by using the link below.

Federation beefs up growing investments program

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NEW YORK (2/27/12)--The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions is beefing up its Community Development Investments Program with new hires to help manage more than $55 million in the program.

Doaman, who joined the federation in January, will manage the federation's portfolio of secondary capital investments and risk-shared deposits, conduct research on the products' performance and handle all investor compliance.

Lewis joined the federation in 2005 as a college intern while completing a business marketing degree at St. John's University.  She was a part-time program assistant for the CDCU Mortgage Center LLC, and in 2009 became a full-time program associate for the Community Development Investment Program and the mortgage center.

James joined the federation's Community Development Investment Program in late 2011 as a program associate, where she provided program support, including CDCU reporting and due diligence; the CDCU Mortgage Center LLC's  tax and insurance compliance, and several special projects.

A former research librarian for years, she also has served as director for a variety of programs and was a former board chairman of Hoffman LaRoche CU (now Proponent CU), Nutley, N.J.

Dirty Dozen tax scams released by IRS

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WASHINGTON (2/2712)--As credit unions help consumers with tax preparation under the Internal Revenue Services' Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) programs, they will need to make their members aware of a new list of tax scams released last week by the IRS.

The VITA Program offers free tax help to people who make $50,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.

The EITC is refundable federal income tax credit for low- to moderate-income working individuals and families.

The IRS recently issued its annual Dirty Dozen ranking of tax scams so tax payers can protect themselves again schemes ranging from identity theft to return preparer fraud.

The Dirty Dozen tax scams for 2012 include:

  1. Identity theft. Responding to growing identity theft concerns, the IRS has focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases. In addition to the law-enforcement crackdown, the IRS stepped up its internal reviews to spot false tax returns before tax refunds are issued. The agency also is working to help victims of the identity theft refund schemes.
  1. Phishing. Phishing is a scam typically carried out with the help of unsolicited email or a fake website that poses as a legitimate site to lure in potential victims and prompt them to provide valuable personal and financial information. Tell members to keep in mind the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail to request personal or financial information.
  1. Return preparer fraud. Questionable return preparers have been known to skim off their clients' refunds, charge inflated fees for return preparation services and attract new clients by promising guaranteed or inflated refunds. Tell members to choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer.
  1. Hiding income offshore. While there are legitimate reasons for maintaining financial accounts abroad, reporting requirements must be met. U.S. taxpayers who maintain such accounts and do not comply with reporting and disclosure requirements are breaking the law and risk significant penalties and fines, and the possibility of criminal prosecution, said the IRS.
  1. "Free money" from the IRS and tax scams involving Social Security. Scammers prey on low-income individuals and the elderly. They build false hopes and charge people good money for bad advice. In the end, the victims discover their claims are rejected. Meanwhile, the promoters are long gone. Warn your members to remain vigilant.
  1. False/inflated income and expenses. Including income that was never earned, either as wages or as self-employment income to maximize refundable credits, is another popular scam, one that could have serious repercussions.
  1. False Form 1099 refund claims. In this ongoing scam, the perpetrator files a fake information return, such as a Form 1099 Original Issue Discount (OID), to justify a false refund claim on a corresponding tax return. Members should be advised not to fall prey to people who encourage them to claim deductions or credits to which they are not entitled. Nor should they willingly allow others to use their information to file false returns.
  1. Frivolous arguments. Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, no one has the right to disobey the law, said the IRS.
  1. Falsely claiming zero wages. Filing a phony information return is an illegal way to lower the amount of taxes an individual owes. Members should resist participating in any variations of this scheme. Filing this type of return may result in a $5,000 penalty.
  1. Abuse of charitable organizations and deductions. IRS examiners continue to uncover the intentional abuse of charitable organizations, including arrangements that improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets or the income from donated property. The IRS is investigating schemes that involve the donation of non-cash assets--including situations in which several organizations claim the full value of the same non-cash contribution.
  1. Disguised corporate ownership. Third parties are improperly used to request employer identification numbers and form corporations that obscure the true ownership of the business. These entities can be used to underreport income, claim fictitious deductions, avoid filing tax returns, participate in listed transactions and facilitate money laundering, and financial crimes.
  1. Misuse of trusts. IRS personnel have seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to shift income and deduct personal expenses. As with other arrangements, urge members to seek the advice of a reputable professional before entering a trust arrangement.

Minnesota CUs showcase cooperative spirit

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (2/27/12)--Credit unions in Minnesota are not only creating awareness that they're a smarter financial choice but also furthering the mission of cooperatives and the People Helping People philosophy this year as part of the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC), said the Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN).

Postal CU is a member of the Cooperative Network, which serves more than 600 member cooperatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin Postal President/CEO Russ Plunkett also serves as a board member of the Credit Union National Association's Cooperative Alliance Committee.  The network provides a powerful business and political resource, said the credit union. It also sponsors students' attendance at an annual Co-op Youth Leadership Conference, encouraging the younger generation to learn more about the cooperative model.

At SPIRE FCU, President/CEO Dan Stoltz said his credit union is an "involved supporter" of the cooperative sector. He pointed to his affiliation with several cooperative organizations, including the Cooperative Network Board and Cooperative Foundation Board. He served as chairman of the latter board.  SPIRE also offers a Visa card program through a partnership with four area grocery co-ops. The program offers special benefits to members and shares a portion of the proceeds with the participating co-ops. The card is co-branded with the grocer's logo.

Minnesota has roughly 1,000 cooperatives, including energy and agricultural co-ops.  As the IYC celebration continues, these organizations can explore more ways to create partnerships and share resources, said MnCUN.

At its Annual Meeting & Convention April 13-14, MnCUN will host a panel discussion featuring representatives from co-ops around the state who will address ways to get involved in the cooperative movement.

"Minnesota's cooperatives, including its many credit unions, offer a vast array of products, services and programs that help build the well-being of their members," said MnCUN President/CEO Mark Cummins. "Through their cooperative structure, credit unions and all cooperatives give consumers a better chance."

The United Nations designated 2012 as IYC. Cooperatives have more than one billion members across 96 countries, reports the Worldwatch Institute in its Vital Signs Online publication. In 2008, the world's 300 largest co-ops generated revenues of more than $1.6 trillion. In the financial sector, a World Bank report found that credit union branches account for 23% of bank branches worldwide and serve 870 million people, making them the second-largest financial services network in the world (CPI Financial Feb. 23).