‘Members Matter Most’ is theme of ICU Day

Members Matter Most is the theme of International Credit Union (ICU) Day 2012.

Members Matter Most is the theme of International Credit Union (ICU) Day 2012.

On Thursday, October 18, credit unions worldwide will come together to celebrate International Credit Union Day and the role that financial cooperatives play in improving the communities they serve and the lives of their members the world over. The theme of the event, “Members Matter Most,” encapsulates what has long been the credit unions’ principal mission – creating value through member service.

In an era that continuously poses economic and financial challenges for people around the world, this theme honours credit unions’ principle of putting people before profits. It is the goal of all credit unions to offer access to affordable financial services to all their members and provide even the most financially disadvantaged the tools and the opportunity to be financially self-sufficient.

Credit unions are unique because they are not-for-profit, democratically controlled, member-owned cooperatives. Credit unions pool their members’ assets to provide low-cost loans and other financial services in the best interest of the members, not to earn shareholder profits.

The credit union movement’s cooperative spirit is embraced by more than 196 million members served by 51,000 credit unions in 100 countries worldwide, working together to achieve economic progress. Credit unions play a vital role in the economic development and stability of the communities they serve, helping people improve their lives through access to affordable financial services and making the world a better place to live.

Stellar member service and democratic control are just some of the many benefits of being a credit union or cooperative member. Cooperatives and credit unions are founded on community service, a principle that has distinguished them for more than 150 years.

This year’s theme also recognizes other types of cooperative businesses and serves to highlight their contributions to poverty alleviation, job creation and social integration. The United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, an event that’s being celebrated by credit unions and other cooperatives worldwide.

Credit Unions: A History of Community Ownership and Support

The credit union idea evolved from the cooperative activities of early 19th century Europe. The first of these cooperatives was an 1844 marketing cooperative organized by a group of workers in Rochdale, England.

That same year in Germany, Victor Aime Huber began developing and publicizing some of the early European cooperative theories. The idea of credit societies was a part of this effort.

Credit Societies: The Birth of Credit Unions

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 organizing a cooperatively owned mill and bakery, Schulze-Delitzsch founded the first “people’s bank” in 1852 to provide credit to entrepreneurs in the city.

The Idea Goes Global

Over the years, credit unions spread to communities around the world. In the early 1900s Alphonse and Dorimene Desjardins started a credit union (caisse populaire) in Lévis, Quebec. Shortly thereafter, Alphonse, along with Americans Edward A. Filene and Roy F. Bergengren, helped establish credit unions in the United States.

Where and How We Celebrate Today

Members around the world celebrate this special day in a number of ways. Some sponsor open houses, picnics, fairs, festivals and parades; others hold athletic competitions and essay or art contests for young members.

As your credit union joins in this unique and exciting celebration, remember that you are joined by more than 196 million members in 100 countries who also recognise and celebrate the credit union difference!

This year’s theme was submitted by Sinéad Butler from the marketing services department of the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU). “Members Matter Most” was one of more than a dozen themes submitted by representatives from Abacus Australian Mutuals, Credit Union Central of Canada, Credit Union National Association (USA) and World Council.