The Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action formally recognizes credit unions that demonstrate in an extraordinary way the practical application of credit union philosophy. Philosophy in action is what distinguishes credit unions from other financial service providers. Our philosophy and the way we put it into practice is the heart of the credit union difference.

Credit unions compete with others of all sizes in this competition. The first-place winner at the state level advances to the national competition.

This award is named after Louise Herring, dubbed the “Mother of Credit Unions” by the Ohio General Assembly for her help in chartering nearly 500 credit unions.

Winners of the program are announced during the Chairman's Awards Banquet at the League's annual convention.   The first-place winner is forwarded to CUNA for the national competition.

What is the Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action? How does it work?
Does your credit union do an extraordinary job of acting like a credit union? It's the way credit unions incorporate philosophy into day-to-day operations that sets them apart from other financial service providers. Your credit union can enter the Louise Herring Award Program for Philosophy in Action and get recognition for a job well done.

Eligible activities include programs or policies that demonstrate a credit union's commitment to applying the "people-helping-people" philosophy. Examples are: provisions for the small saver or borrower; programs for youth, seniors or other groups that are often economically disadvantaged; programs that do an extraordinary job of encouraging thrift and provide a source of unbiased money management and consumer information; evidence of an exceptional degree of service.

Keep the following in mind when compiling your entry materials:

  1. How does your project demonstrate credit union philosophy?
  2. Describe how the credit union put its philosophy into action?
  3. How does the project go beyond what is normally expected of a credit union?
  4. How did the project demonstrate the credit union's commitment to educating its members about credit union philosophy?
  5. How does the project demonstrate extraordinary and exemplary efforts to serve the credit union's members on a consistent basis?
  6. How does the project show the credit union's commitment to the credit union operating principles of democratic structure, service to members, and social goals?
  7. Please describe the measurable or defined results the project achieved.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: Who was Louise Herring and why is the award named for her?
A: Louise Herring was an active supporter, organizer and champion of credit unions. She was the Ohio delegate to the 1934 national credit union conference in Estes Park, Colorado, where she signed the original constitution for a national credit union association. Louise Herring believed that credit unions should work in a practical manner to better people's lives. She saw the credit union as more than just a financial institution. In her own words, "The purpose of the credit union is to reform the financial system, so that everyone can have his place in the sun."

Q: What time period do the award entries cover?
A: Leagues determine any qualifying time frames. In general, entries should cover the previous year's activities, but there are no exact deadlines prescribed. A good rule of thumb is that entries submitted by the June 22, 2012, deadline should cover activities taking place between June 2011 and the submission date.

Q: What's the difference between the Louise Herring Award and the Dora Maxwell Award?
A: The Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Recognition Award is given to a credit union or chapter for its social responsibility projects within the community. The award is given for external activities. The Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action is given to a credit union for its practical application of credit union philosophy within the actual operation of the credit union. It is awarded for internal programs and services.

Q: Can a credit union enter both competitions?
A: Yes. Just be sure to clearly define which program the credit union is entering and how the activities submitted meet the program guidelines.

Q: Can a credit union enter the same entry in both competitions?
A: No. Because each program has different objectives and requirements, entries should be tailored to match the defined goals of the particular competition.

Q: Can a credit union submit the same entry to more than one-league for state-level judging?
A: No. A credit union's entry may only be submitted to one league, even if the credit union pays dues in more than one state.

Q. Can a credit union submit more than one entry in either competition?
A. Generally, a credit union should submit only one entry per competition. Each entry can list the number of projects conducted in the timeframe established by the League, but the credit union must select one project that best exemplifies the criteria for each award. The questions on the entry form must be completed detailing the one project that was selected.

Q: Can members of a chapter submit their credit union's activities that were conducted as part of a Chapter?
A: No. Chapter's entries are judged based on their collective activities, i.e., what was accomplished as a group, not on individual efforts.

Q: Can chapters enter the Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action competition?
A: No. The Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action criteria is based on individual credit union performance.

Q: Why must a credit union supply financial information with its entry in the Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action?
A: A credit union must be in solid financial condition in order to provide the highest level of service to its members. Sound financial management ensures a credit union's ability to continue to provide that service, as well. Therefore, the entry must include current and previous year's (2 years total) statements of financial condition and income statements. Entries received without the financial information will be disqualified.

Sample Award Program Activities

Sample Louise Herring Award activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Services for members with unique financial needs, such as savings clubs for children or discounts for senior citizens, or other extraordinary efforts to serve the membership.
  • Counseling for members facing financial difficulties.
  • Educational seminars for members on retirement planning, car buying, budgeting or college financing.
  • Efforts to educate members on the credit union difference.

Secrets of a Winning Entry

Ever wonder what judges are looking for when they select the winners in the national recognition programs? Here's the scoop:

  • Review the entry form carefully and answer all of the questions. The scoring is based on these elements, so the more information you provide in response to the questions, the higher your score.
  • Read the rules, and make sure you're entering the appropriate competition. Remember: Dora Maxwell entries should focus on community involvement, or social responsibility programs external to the credit union. Louise Herring entries should be based on your credit union's internal programs and provide examples of how you put philosophy into action for your members.
  • Make your entry easy to read and easy to follow. Include the name of your credit union on the front cover of the binder. Use a table of contents. Avoid handwritten entries, and use standard fonts: no italic style or small print. Misspellings leave a bad impression, too.
  • Clearly identify your target audience. Who is involved in your project? Who is doing the work? Who are the beneficiaries? How many people did you reach? While giving donations is admirable, the judges also look for strong volunteer involvement.
  • Identify your results. Your results should correspond to your goals and objectives.
  • If you submit a video, keep it short. A well-done five-minute video is more impressive than 40 minutes of your charity golf tournament.
  • Bigger isn't always better. Keep your entry to a manageable size. Keep it fresh: Include current activities only, not programs or events from several years ago.
  • Include samples or descriptions of the promotional materials related to the entry, not for your used-vehicle sale or most successful loan promotion.

Of course, only a limited number of entries can win at the state and national levels. But by heeding this advice, you can improve your chances of receiving recognition for your good works.

Who was Louise Herring?


Louise Herring was the embodiment of credit union philosophy. Dubbed "the Mother of Credit Unions" by the Ohio General Assembly, Louise was involved in starting nearly five hundred credit unions.

Louise maintained a philosophical ideal she was unwilling to compromise. She was an outspoken advocate for women, minorities, the poor and near-poor.

She strongly believed that the role of the credit union was to provide a means to achieve economic justice for all. At the time of her death, she was enthusiastically involved in the Over the Rhine project, a Greater Cincinnati effort to provide opportunities, including low-cost financial services, to a severely depressed area.

2016 Winners

ASSET CATEGORY: $50-250 million
1st Place: Afena FCU
Afena FCU Debt Consolidation Program
In 2015, Afena FCU launched a Debt Consolidation promotion for the first quarter. Afena FCU is located in an economically challenged area. Many jobs have left, and many of community members lived off of credit during the recession. Many members were struggling to make all of their monthly payments on different forms of debt, and the credit union wanted to help by running a debt consolidation program with rates as low as 2.9% APR. The goal was to help as many members as possible save money. The credit union initially aimed for $300,000 in debt consolidation loans during the first year of the program because the volume of loans directly correlates with savings and better financial positions for members. The end result of the program far exceeded expectations as the credit union grew over $1 million in debt consolidation loans. Afena FCU also tracked members' estimated savings based on interest savings and payment history (minimum payments or not), and found that the debt consolidation program also saved members an estimated $1 million in interest. Because the program was such a hit, the credit union continued it into the first quarter of 2016 but an expectation to make fewer loans since a large portion of members had been helped the previous year. However, Afena FCU still helped members with loans totaling over $1 million and significant monthly savings, as well as large savings over the life of the loan.  The debt consolidation program ties in closely with Afena FCU’s mission of educating members, promoting sound financial decisions and encouraging savings by offering members a way to build their credit, save money on interest and make a goal for becoming debt free.
ASSET CATEGORY: $250 million - $1 billion
1st Place: Heritage FCU
HFCU Financial Counseling & Assistance for Layed-off Alcoa Workers
In 1965, what would become Heritage FCU began with Local 104 union members from Alcoa Warrick Operations conducting financial transactions out of the trunk of a car. In January 2016, Alcoa announced that they would permanently close their Warrick Operations aluminum smelter by the end of March. This decision cut more than 600 jobs and became a major economic event impacting individuals, families, and multiple generations. When the Heritage FCU Executive Team heard this news, they knew that they needed to work quickly and reach out to employees affected and offer assistance. They immediately crafted a plan of action to help those that would be affected by the closure. The United Steel Workers Local 104 union was contacted, and arrangements were made to hold a series of financial counseling/education seminars for laid off workers at the USW Local 104 union hall. Heritage FCU created packets that were distributed at the seminars that outlined the guidance that the credit union was offering. These packets included worksheets for financial options and helpful links for assistance. Heritage FCU financial counselors and a CUNA attorney were also available to provide guidance at these seminars. This project served as a reminder to members that Heritage FCU is genuinely interested in their welfare and here to help them reach their financial goals…whether it is during a time of feast or famine.
2nd Place: Financial Center First CU
Back to Basics
According to the Pew Charitable Trust, over 12 million Americans spend more than $7 billion in loan fees from payday lenders each year. C and D borrowers turn to payday lenders because they are rejected by traditional financial institutions using auto decision software based on credit score. Payday lenders keep C and D borrowers in a cycle of perpetual borrowing. Recognizing the disparity between credit union principles and current lending practices, Financial Center First CU introduced the Back to Basics program in an effort to help more members obtain fair loan terms and to help protect members from predatory lenders and to help C and D borrowers get out of an ongoing debt cycle. Through Back to Basics, Financial Center First CU looks beyond credit score and takes a more holistic approach to borrowing. The credit union reviews all loan denials to look for positive behaviors such as good payment and employment history, and analyzes contributing factors to a member’s decline in credit, so that they can say “yes” to more loans. Members in the program aren’t taken advantage of by predatory lenders and often begin improving their credit score. Although Back to Basics has only been in practice a few months, Financial Center First CU has heard many stories of members who were ready to declare bankruptcy because of an inability to pay off high interest debt and the program has rescued them from their less than ideal financial situations. During the discovery process of Back to Basics, members have received education on how to improve their financial standing and rebuild credit. Many members who have qualified for a loan through Back to Basics have also begun attending monthly Wealth Builder seminar series to learn more about managing their finances.

2015 Winners

ASSET SIZE: Less than $50 million
1st Place: Financial Health FCU
Drive Toward Financial Health
ASSET SIZE: $250 million-1 billion
1st Place: Financial Center First FCU
Empower Launch
2nd Place: Heritage FCU
Data Breach Member Education & Awareness Campaign

2014 Winners

ASSET SIZE: Less than $50 million

1st Place: Financial Health FCU
ASSET SIZE: $50-100 million
1st Place: General CU
Loot for Lucas Children's Club
ASSET SIZE: $250 million-1 billion
1st Place: Financial Center FCU
Establishment of Three Plllars
2nd Place: Financial Center Purdue FCU
My Member Perks
Honorable Mention: FORUM CU
Save It Up

2013 Winner

ASSET SIZE: $250 million-1 billion
1st Place: Finance Center FCU
Indiana Latino Expo

2012 Winners

ASSET SIZE: $250 million-1 billion
1st Place: Finance Center FCU
Latino Advisory Committee

ASSET SIZE: $1 billion+
1st Place: Indiana Members CU
IPS #44 Outreach

2011 Winners

1st Place: AAA FCU
Fresh Start

1st Place: FORUM CU
2010 SaveItUp Challenge program

2nd Place: Purdue FCU
Piggy Bank Challenge

Honorable Mention: Finance Center FCU
Annual Membership Appreciate Day

Honorable Mention: Heritage FCU
Seriously Different

1st Place: Indiana Members CU
Project 43 School Uniforms

2010 Winners

Asset Category: $50-250 million
First Place: Indiana State University FCU
When the little things in life provide the opportunity to CU Smile

Second Place: Industrial FCU
Going above and beyond the expected to deliver a WOW experience to every member

Asset Category: $250 million+
First Place: FORUM CU
SaveItUp Challenge 2009 participants saved $25,050 and reduced collective debt by $120,850

Second Place: Purdue Employees FCU
Timely teamwork response to members results in free, easier and more reliable member service

Honorable Mention: Finance Center FCU
It’s” take me out to the old ballgame” when membership retention is a key credit union priority

2009 Winners

Asset Category: $250 million+
First Place: Centra Credit Union
Taking the lead, meeting needs: Centra CU Provides a Helping Hand

Second Place: FORUM Credit Union
Transforming concern to action: FORUM CU says We Can Help

Honorable Mention: Finance Center Federal Credit Union
Helping members earn higher rates: Reward Checking from Finance Center FCU

Honorable Mention: Teachers Credit Union
Making a bear market Bear Essentials Teachers CU

Asset Category: $50-$250 million
First Place: Partners 1st Federal Credit Union
Understanding and Improving your FICO® score: Partners 1st FCU FICO® Training

Second Place: First Trust Credit Union
First Trust FCU, Wage Reduction & Bankruptcy Relief Plan

2008 Winners

First Place: REGIONAL Federal Credit Union
Financial Education: Student Credit Union Branches

Honorable Mention: Fire Police City County Federal Credit Union
Burmese Outreach Program

Honorable Mention: Chiphone Federal Credit Union
Banking in Pajamas: Free Online Bill Payment

Honorable Mention: Indiana State University FCU
Focus Groups

First Place: Purdue Employees Federal Credit Union
Financial Literacy Outreach

Second Place: Interra CU
Financial Fitness Seminar Series

Second Place: Finance Center Federal Credit Union
The BillPayer Contest

2007 Winners

First Place: Regional Federal Credit Union
Setting Goals and Establishing the Groundwork for Good Money Habits

Second Place: AAA Federal Credit Union
Building a Solid Relationship with Young Credit Union Members

Honorable Mention: Chiphone Federal Credit Union
Making Tax Filing Faster and Easier with an E-Filing Program

First Place: Teachers Credit Union
Preparing for a Rainy Day with the Creation of TCU Savers Club

Second Place: Finance Center Federal Credit Union (Financial Center)
Promoting Financial Literacy

2006 Winner

First Place: Finance Center FCU
Member Financial Literacy Training

2005 Winners

There were no entries in the Louise Herring competition in 2005.

2004 Winners

First Place: Purdue EFCU
Deposit Day

Second place: Indiana Members CU
Make a Wish/Family FUN-Raiser

2003 Winners

First Place: Sagamore Community FCU
Response to Bank Attack Advertising

First Place: Purdue EFCU
Life Skills Program

Second Place: Elkhart County Farm Bureau CU
Financial Seminar Series

Honorable Mention: Professional FCU
Carroll R. Phillips Memorial Scholarship Fund