International Credit Union (ICU) Day has been celebrated on the third Thursday of October since 1948. The day is recognized to reflect upon the credit union movement’s history and to promote its achievements. It is a day to honour those who have dedicated their lives to the movement, recognise the hard work of those working in the credit union community and show members our appreciation.
This theme of year’s ICU Day “Credit Unions Unite for Good: A Better Way,” emphasises the benefits of cooperation among credit unions worldwide.
The ultimate goal is to raise awareness about the great work that credit unions are doing around the world and give members the opportunity to get more involved.
The story of credit unions is a simple one.
It all started with an idea: that people could pool their money and make loans to each other.
The idea evolved from the cooperative activities of early 19th century Europe.
The first of these cooperatives was an 1844 marketing cooperative organised by a group of workers in Rochdale, England. That same year in Germany, Victor Aime Huber began developing and publicising some of the early European cooperative theories.
The idea of credit societies was a part of this effort.
Moved by the crop failure and famine that had devastated Germany in 1846–1847, Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch and Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen created the first true credit unions in the mid-19th century.
After organising a cooperatively owned mill and bakery, Schulze-Delitzsch founded the first “people’s bank” in 1852 to provide credit to entrepreneurs in the city.
Raiffeisen had established a credit society in Flammersfeld, Germany in 1849 that depended on the charity of wealthy men for its support.
He remained committed to that concept until 1864, when he organised a new credit union for farmers along the principles of cooperative interdependence, a community-first mentality and a volunteer management structure that are still fundamental today.
Over the years, credit unions spread to communities around the world.
There are now an estimated 56,000 credit unions internationally.
The First Credit Union Day
As time passed, a desire emerged to establish an annual occasion to acknowledge both the credit unions’ important role in creating opportunity for their members and communities and the achievements of pioneers who laid the foundation for ongoing credit union success.
On January 17, 1927, the Credit Union League of Massachusetts celebrated the first official holiday for credit union members and workers.
They selected January 17 because it was the birthday of America’s “Apostle of Thrift,”
Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), who early credit union founders believed symbolised “the life and teaching embodied in the spirit and purpose of credit unions.”
After a brief trial period, Credit Union Day quietly disappeared.
In 1948, the U.S. Credit Union National Association (CUNA) decided to initiate a new national Credit Union Day celebration. CUNA and CUNA Mutual Insurance Society set aside the third Thursday of October as the national day of observance.
By then, many more credit union leaders believed there was a need for an occasion that would bring people together to reflect upon credit union history and achievements and to promote the credit union idea across the world.
New movements joined the credit union family each year, and an increasing number of people were interested in celebrating their uniqueness and unity with a special holiday that could be enjoyed by everyone—regardless of religion, political beliefs, cultural differences or language.
Many credit unions and leagues began to distribute publications, banners, slogans and kits, and Credit Union Day became an international celebration.
By 1971, substantial worldwide credit union progress led to the creation of World Council of Credit Unions to assist others in establishing and maintaining viable credit union movements in countries across the globe.
In Canada, Australia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, New Zealand, Great Britain and the South Pacific, national and regional credit union federations and confederations were established to support and endorse credit union development.
Check with your local credit union to see what activities they have planned for International Credit Union Day.