Unitus Community Credit Union Wins Commitment to Board Excellence Honors

When Unitus Community Credit Union issued a call for board candidates in the 2014-2015 election cycle, 57 people answered. Even after reading up on the financial acumen, commitment and time required of the volunteer board, 20 members went through with the application process.

“Our Board encourages active board recruitment all year and we also treat nominations as a campaign in the fall,” said Patricia Smith, President/CEO. “We use a variety of ways to get the message out that we are recruiting for new board members. The Board also supports open board seats so that a member does not always face running against an incumbent.” Smith also cited the credit union’s rich community involvement and admired local brand as reasons for successful member engagement.                             

Unitus Community Credit Union received the Credit Union Commitment to Board Excellence award Saturday at the Northwest Credit Union Association’s annual Directors’ Conference. The Portland-based, $962 million asset, 87,000 member credit union established a Governance Committee in 2006, and has constantly evolved the process. Examples include:

  • Creation of a Director Emeritus program in 2008, ensuring continuity, mentoring and succession planning;
  • Charters to ensure clarity in scope and performance for all committees established in 2009;
  • Term limits established in 2010. Existing board members were not grandfathered in; and
  • Continuing education requirements and training workshops so board members understand Unitus’ shared values, aspirational culture and team dynamics.

“Their governance model is one for other credit unions to follow,” according to one of the NWCUA awards committee judges.

When asked what the single greatest improvement made as the Governance Model evolved, Smith readily points to the Nominating Committee process.

“We actively recruit new board members who we believe will bring good governance skill sets to our Board through a variety of touch points,” she noted. “The Nominating Committee then selects its candidates from this pool after reviewing their applications, active use of credit union services, and conducting in-person interviews. The Committee uses a set of questions to rank each candidate’s answers during the interview process. Our Nominating Committee does a great job of selecting future leaders for our organization.”

Indeed, Unitus’ diverse board consists of executives whose “day jobs” include running large commercial real estate operations, teaching financial classes at the university level, and financial management. A few other volunteers have retired from their careers but remain active in their communities, serving on a multitude of nonprofit boards.

Editor’s note: Next week’s Anthem will feature the other Directors’ Awards winners. Dr. James Sork from iQ Credit Union was honored as Advocate of the Year, Lynn Calhoun from Rogue Credit Union received Distinguished Impact honors and Verity Credit Union’s Dan Strandy won the Director of the Year award.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

Posted in Awards.