Hit the Road for Growth

One of the things I love most about traveling is how the experience of meeting new people and immersing myself in new cultures expands my perspective. Whether traveling within the U.S. or internationally, I intentionally seek out destinations far from the typical tourist traps as a way to learn and grow. 

As SACCOs, you have the distinction of being true servant leaders. You live the mission of people helping people, and by doing so, make a real difference not only in people’s lives but within local communities and businesses as well. The challenge is in earning the right to build a true partnership with the members and communities you serve. 

The good news is that stepping outside of the four office walls provides a unique opportunity to fulfill your social responsibility while building those relationships. It begins by identifying and creating channels for growth. How can SACCOs share their story and build trust? How do you deepen your existing channels to share your value proposition?
Here are a few ideas:

Lead with education: SACCOs should be the leading financial wellness resource in the community. Be the problem solver and focus efforts on overall wellness. Seek out and make a list of areas where you can impact in a meaningful way that is relatable and memorable. For example, what do the youth and women in your communities need? How can SACCOs help empower them? Shine the spotlight on your members. Remember, it’s about how your SACCO can help them lead better lives by becoming more financially secure. Do this for each area of impact on your list. As an Advisory Board Member of the Berenstain Bears Financial Literacy Program, a CUSO of Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union, I’ve seen first-hand the value of youth education. It’s a win-win because when you educate youth you also build trust with the entire family unit as well as the educators. The reach in addressing wellness in just this one area is deep. The outcome is not only more educated young people, who are our future, but also new members.

Build more touchpoints: Develop a strategy for each area you want to impact: Women, youth, rural areas, companies, community. Create your opportunities. Collaborate with others that support women in a variety of ways. Get involved with community outreach. If you serve a company or organization, how many touchpoints can you generate? It takes time and repetition to build trust. The organizations have to understand why they should care about partnering with you. Are you part of new employee orientation, included in their newsletters or regular employee communication strategy – provide a financial tip they can include, partner on causes that are important to them, the list goes on. When reaching out to area businesses, highlight your financial education services. SACCOs have a compelling story to share about how employee financial wellness efforts can help the businesses served thrive. By helping employees reach their financial goals and dreams, employers will be rewarded with increased productivity and employee engagement. The same is true for the community. This goes beyond social responsibility. For each family SACCOs help successfully manage their finances, a greater impact is made overall, a strengthening of communities and area businesses that are thriving – not just surviving.

Identify the Influencers: Make a list of the influencers within the communities and organizations served. Are they members? When I worked at First Tech Federal Credit Union, I did a study and discovered that when the human resource contact at one of our partner companies was a member, more of their employees became members. In addition, there was also a higher penetration of products and services. Create a strategy to get the influencers in your communities to join. Raving fans equal referral engines. Focus on building a bigger network of people to share the SACCO story.
Becoming more proactive and deliberate about creating effective channels for growth is a win for all. Most importantly, it is a critical step in the journey of people helping people. It’s an honor to add the Kenya stamp to my passport and have the opportunity to collaborate and learn how your servant leadership impacts each of your countries at the 20th SACCO Congress. Keep traveling. It opens a new world of ideas and thinking, which can benefit your members while contributing to SACCO growth.
This article originally appeared in the African Confederation of Cooperative Savings and Credit Associations – 2019 Cooperative Summit Journal.