All U.S. Credit Unions have defined fields of membership (FOMs). Some may have very large and expansive ones, while others may have much smaller FOMs. Much to the chagrin of the bankers, many large credit unions have created easy-to-open “back doors” to membership. A great many smaller credit unions, though, have not expanded their defined FOM.
Such small credit unions (such as Queen of Peace Arlington - QPAFCU) face challenges today, ranging from low loan demand to the compliance burden to increased competitiion, often from larger credit unions that have expanded to community charters and easy “back doors” to membership. Yet, for various reasons, many such small credit unions fail to take advantage of the membership options available to them, even without making a single change to their Charter or FOM.
Some such small credit unions, often with a history of serving a single employer FOM or a single group, such as a Church, even seem to look for ways of excluding people from credit union membership and services. Words often betray or influence attitudes, I believe, in this matter. A few years ago, I even found myself describing the FOM of QPACU as “limited to …”. While technically accurate and in the credit union’s charter and bylaws, I concluded that it was not very “welcoming”. As best I can, now we try to describe and explain the FOM of QPAFCU as “OPEN TO …”
I GOOGLED “credit union” and “limited to” and got hits on many credit unions that describe their FOM that way. Although the defined FOM of QPAFCU has not changed in the nearly 50 years since it was chartered, many of the federal rules have changed in how the FOM is interpreted. Federally chartered credit unions now have “once a member, always a member” actually in the Federal Credit Union Act, as has including household members. “Immediate Family” members, wherever they live are included, as well as the expansion of both household and immediate family to any current credit union member.
I believe many small credit unions, with a change in words and attitudes from “limited to” to “OPEN TO” could use this to grow the credit union in a very positive way.