Recent times have ushered in significant changes in the way credit unions conduct business. Gone are the days when work could only be done in the office, or meetings and conventions could only occur in person. New technologies have created new best practices, and organizations began implementing and adapting to them years ago.
The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, only accelerated the pace at which change and adaptation has taken place. As in-person meetings and events have been shelved, credit unions have increasingly begun to conduct them virtually. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting and other software platforms have filled this gap, with generally positive results.
But that alone isn’t enough; per bylaws and other regulations, credit unions still have to conduct business and make key decisions regarding governance, strategy and more. They also have to ensure those decisions are made and processed properly, with discussion, vote counting, reporting and record-keeping.
Before the pandemic, credit unions would handle these important decisions during in-person meetings, either through a paper balloting and manual counting process or some secure technology system. But none of those processes or systems integrate with virtual meeting platforms, and those platforms themselves do not have these capabilities. Put simply, old ways of voting and running meetings just don’t work anymore.
A New Way of Making Decisions
As a result of these challenges, credit unions have had to get pretty creative about how to hold meetings and conduct decisions. We’ve seen all sorts of models in play, from snail mail to individual calls and online meetings. None have seemed to work particularly well.
That’s why we created a software-as-a-service platform called DirectVoteLive. With this tool, or others like it, voting groups can conduct their business regardless of whether or not people are physically in the same place.
Upon logging in, administrators can take several easy actions through a comprehensive dashboard:
- Add and monitor upcoming meetings;
- Track or add attendees for particular meetings, and assign weight or extra votes to particular attendees if they wish;
- Add, open and close motion items;
- Specify whether vote results should be public or anonymous;
- Review live results;
- Add their logo and other branding, to help the voting interface look like it’s their own instead of a third-party platform;
- Monitor and profile information, including month-to-date usage;
- Generate recurring meetings if they wish, saving time and effort in cases where motions and attendees are the same;
- Email and/or text reminder notices to attendees at specific dates/times before meetings, as they begin and/or as particular votes are taken;
- Provide platform feedback and solicit help.
Within seconds of a meeting’s conclusion, reports on attendance and vote results are available to view and download. These records are securely kept as long as the account remains active, enabling administrators to access them when needed or convenient for internal needs, audit compliance and more.
The voter/attendee experience is just as simple and stress-free. They can join meetings, view motions and vote in one or two clicks or taps through any device or even a smartphone. Even the least tech-savvy users have found it self-explanatory and easy to use.
The GeoVista Example
GeoVista Credit Union, based in Hinesville, Ga., offers full-service banking for residents of five counties in southeastern Georgia. GeoVista’s rules and regulations require that it must hold one annual meeting each year, so that members can participate in the credit union, offer input and help make key operating and governance decisions. In late 2020, officials determined its 2021 annual meeting (held on February 15) would be held virtually.
Immediately, a search commenced for the best tool to use to hold the meeting and conduct its votes. GeoVista chose DirectVoteLive because it could:
- Offer safe, secure, anonymous voting for all attending members;
- Show the number of attending members in real time, to ensure there was a quorum present;
- Capture how votes were cast, and report outcomes to members after the meeting;
- Run live, alongside the Zoom meeting, so that member and motions could be added or removed as they see fit in real time;
- Operate simply enough so that members with little to no technical knowledge could still easily learn and use it.
GeoVista’s annual meeting went off without a hitch, and all meetings and votes were conducted as planned/scheduled. Within 30 minutes of the meeting, vote results and decisions were reported to GeoVista’s entire member base. Steven Asplund, GeoVista’s vice president of sales and business development, said, “We had 80-year-old members tell us afterward that DirectVoteLive was the easiest thing in the world to use. All they had to do to vote was open a text and press a button. It’s that simple.”
Advantages of SaaS Platforms
When comparing DirectVoteLive and platforms like it to other voting models, there are many advantages:
- Flexibility. Credit union administrators love they can set up meetings and motions whenever they want, and add or adjust as needed on the fly during meetings. Participants love that they can use any device they want from wherever they are to participate in meetings and vote.
- Speed. Credit unions can create their account, set up meetings, add motions and attendees, etc. in mere minutes. All the time that they save along the way can be refocused on other duties, helping to simplify their jobs and better help their organization and its members.
- Security. Users can have confidence in the integrity of their meeting and vote, because of the industry-leading, cutting-edge features DirectVoteLive deploys.
- Efficiency and Savings. Instead of possibly spending large amounts of time and money traveling to meetings or physical locations just so that votes can be taken, those functions now can be accomplished virtually. Any/all resources saved can be redeployed, generating greater value for credit unions and stakeholders. The potential bottom-line improvement could be a real game changer.
- Scale. Software platforms like DirectVoteLive can accommodate all groups, committees, staff or other users from an organization who want or need to participate in meetings.
- Minimal Technology Required. All anyone needs to use the platform is an Internet connection and a computer, tablet or smartphone. It operates alongside any meeting software, no matter which one you use. It also eliminates the need for “clickers” or devices that exist just to enable voting.
After investing the time and resources to adapt and operate in virtual environments, it’s highly unlikely that credit unions will revert to the old ways of doing things when the pandemic lifts. In-person meetings are valuable and often necessary, and they’re bound to bounce back in a big way. But that doesn’t mean that decisions will be made using old methods, or votes will be conducted via paper ballots, or other legacy operational systems will be used again. Instead, a hybrid approach will be used – one that embraces and integrates newer technology into in-person and virtual meetings of all sizes.
This is where DirectVoteLive and similar software platforms have created a strategic bridge to the future. They have ushered in new best practices for meetings and events that deliver efficiencies, reliability, security and simplicity. Credit unions already have come to rely on them for their successful operations, and intend to find ways to keep using them well into the future.
Pete Westerhaus has been an account manager at Survey & Ballot Systems since 2019, and works closely with many associations on their election needs. He holds a Finance B.S.B. from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. In his role, he specializes in Survey & Ballot Systems’ online voting platforms, DirectVoteLive and myDirectVote, as well as general elections, and has a wide array of expertise in election specifics for different organizations across the country and world. Pete enjoys partnering with clients to ensure their election needs are met.
For more information on DirectVoteLive, visit www.surveyandballotsystems.com or call 800-974-8099.