Credit unions are democratically controlled. Credit unions are run by a board of directors elected by and from the membership.  Some boards are purely volunteer in that they do not receive any type of compensation while others may be compensated for their service.  Advantis recently started compensating its board of directors in 2018.  Individuals who serve on boards are very busy individuals who often times have their own businesses and competing demands.  These individuals help guide the credit union on major policy issues as well as have some legal duties and specific liabilities for corporate-level decisions they participate in.  Each credit union is different in that they must follow general federal, state, local, and trade association regulations and guidelines; yet each maintains a separate set of what are called bylaws.  Bylaws are essentially the working agreements within the cooperative. Each member has one vote in electing board members. At banks, only the investors (shareholders) have voting privileges. Customers don't have voting rights, unless they are also a shareholder, and have no authority in the overall governance of their bank unless they happen to be part of the board.

Credit unions are not-for-profit. This doesn't mean that they do not or should not make a profit. After expenses are paid and reserves are set aside, surplus earnings are returned to members in the forms of higher dividends, lower loan rates and free or low-cost services. In banks, only the investors get a share of the profits.

Credit unions are part of a worldwide support network. This includes credit unions, a national trade association (CUNA), and a worldwide credit union organization (WOCCU). They often times share ideas, information, and resources amongst one another in the spirit of the cause and collaboration. Most banks belong to state and national organizations. However, banks usually are reluctant to share ideas, information and resources with each other.