THE BLOG
04/12/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Move Your Money: Make the Switch and Invest in America

There is a rising tide of anger from the American public. This frustration is at times directed at government officials at all levels and it is also steered toward Wall Street and big banks. Some of the anger is fair and some of it may be exaggerated. But all would agree that the emotions are strong. Wall Street excess. Bailouts. More big bonuses. And Main Street seems to always get left out.

But there is also a growing tide of sentiment that resonates the theme of self-empowerment. "I can vote with my feet." "I can switch to a local credit union." And millions nationwide are doing just that. In addition to the great rates, low fees and high service levels provided by neighborhood credit unions, they are also showing the power of cooperative innovation.

The Save to Win program is one example of credit unions collaborating to assist members across the state of Michigan with a fun, entertaining way to save money. For each $25 a member deposits into their Save to Win certificate, they get an entry in the raffle. In 2009, participating credit unions awarded more than $39,000 in monthly prizes to over 500 winners in addition to a year-end grand prize of $100,000 to an 86 year-old woman from remote Lake, Michigan. Over 11,000 consumers saved close to $9 million in a very short time span of less than 1 year.

Forty-four percent of Save to Win participants report household income of less than $40,000, while sixteen percent report income under $20,000. Not surprisingly, the program is attracting those who spend money on the lottery. 59 percent regularly play the lotto and over half were not previously regular savers.

Save to Win is clearly a "win, win" for everyone. The idea, which has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post, was the brainchild of Harvard Business School Professor Peter Tufano. The pilot program was led by the Doorways to Dreams Fund (D2D) in partnership with the Filene Research Institute thanks to generous support from the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) and the Walmart Foundation.

Along with D2D, the Filene Research Institute selected Michigan and MCUL-affiliate CUcorp to manage Save to Win because of a unique state law that allows for credit unions to organize savings promotion raffles to encourage people to save more. More saving and more responsible borrowing is what our nation needs right now.

The Invest in America (www.lovemycreditunion.org) program is another example. Over 230,000 vehicle sales for GM and Chrysler during 2009 because 2,100 credit unions were, and are promoting "Buy American" exclusive discounts for credit union members as a means of strengthening our domestic auto industry. That means JOBS for America and especially for a state like Michigan that has lost over 1 million jobs and 76 percent of its auto manufacturing jobs in the past decade.

In Michigan, Governor Jennifer Granholm mentioned in her February State of the State speech, a new Small Business Financing Alliance where credit unions will provide $43 million in capital for small business loans in cooperation with the State. Credit union small business lending is up 22 percent during the past 12 months and new vehicle loans are up 36 percent, while bank loans are down. This Credit Union Difference is being manifest all over the U.S. from Alaska to Florida.

These innovative cooperative programs provide yet another reason why consumers should consider moving their money and other financial services to a local credit union. Dan Mica, President of the Credit Union National Association has provided his thoughts and views from the national perspective in his HuffPost blog, and I join him in applauding the Move Your Money initiative.

Tea Party Movement step aside. When it comes to personal finance, people are angry but they can take matters into their own hands by voting with their feet and by switching to a credit union. To find a credit union near you, go to www.lovemycreditunion.org.

As these cooperative initiatives show, credit unions are proud to say that we invest in people, we invest in our community, and we invest in America.