Posts Tagged Community involvement

Do More to Grow Membership

Posted by on Monday, 3 January, 2011

Growing membership is critical to all credit unions; after all membership growth keeps credit unions in business. While traditional ad campaigns help credit unions build name recognition and establish their brand, sponsorship and participation in community events and charitable activities can go a long way towards membership growth.

One credit union that has caught our team’s attention in recent months is Summit Credit Union. Their innovative approach to Do More by delivering “Random acts of kindness in their communities through do-good “summits,” has inspired all of us.

Check out videos from two of their recent events: 

Pretty awesome, huh?  Recently, I had the pleasure of asking Rebecca Gerothanas, the Senior VP of Marketing at Summit, a number of questions about Do More.  

How did the Do More campaign originate?

RG – We are always looking for non-traditional, innovative ways to engage with members and the community. About 18 months ago one of our team members saw a video by a group called Improv Everywhere. It prompted a few of us to wonder: what if we did something like that but our purpose was to do good for the community, to get members and employees involved? We spent some time talking about what that would look like and that is how our Do More campaign came to life.

How did you solicit employee involvement?

RG – The idea and the development originally formed within the marketing department, however we wanted the whole credit union to be involved (not just marketing).  We asked employees who were interested in being involved to fill out a short, fun survey in the spirit of “doing good for others”. We got a few dozen responses, and from there we randomly chose eight employees to join the team. Sometimes the whole team is involved in planning and executing events and sometimes just a few.

How do you come up with ideas?

RG –We hold brainstorming sessions. People on the team share ideas that they think:

  • Are unique and different;
  • Have a “feel good” twist;
  • Will get people talking; and
  • Help the community understand Summit’s brand.

Although events are planned on our end, we want them to feel spontaneous to our audience. We want to surprise and excite people!

How do you measure success?

RG – We ask ourselves: How engaged are people at the events? What is the general feeling? What kinds of connections were made?  Is there member and marketplace buzz and chatter? Are we seeing our actions translate to member growth? Website traffic? Traffic on our Facebook page? Is the local press covering stories on our events? Recently the Wisconsin State Journal did a profile of non-traditional marketing tactics and we were featured in that. We hope to have more scientific data in the future, but for now we are considering the buzz factor.

What has the feedback from members/the community been so far?

RG – We have received thank you notes and cards in the mail, comments on the phone and in person. Our members tell us that they see what we are doing and they like being a part of it.

Do you have any advice for other credit unions seeking to make a difference in their community?

RG – These things don’t have to cost a lot of money. We are very cognizant of the expense and we try to do things that don’t cost a lot of money (less than $500 a month). Another critical element is that we are engaging people in a REAL and genuine way. We aren’t just telling them what we can do; we are showing them what we can do. We are using social media to help people experience the credit union difference, and encouraging them to want to be a part of that difference.

What Can Credit Unions Learn From BP?

Posted by on Wednesday, 28 July, 2010

Now that my two-year-old says “oil spill” as soon as she sees the news, it’s safe to say that the oil spill in the Gulf has had an effect on almost everyone.  As the news continues to cover the damaging effects, BP and other organizations attempt to overcome challenge after challenge to stop the spill.  So, what can your credit union learn from BP?  Public relations? Disaster preparedness? Maybe. I’d say a lesson in risk management.

Long before the first drop of oil leaked into the Gulf, BP was aware of a potential issue.  However, the likelihood this issue would become a big reality outweighed taking measures to prevent it.  What didn’t weigh into BP’s scenario planning was the catastrophe that could result if the very unlikely occurred.  Defining the risk one step further as costing the organization more than $100 million per day and causing degradation of wildlife, local businesses and public opinion could have changed the perspectives of some to fix the issue even if the chance of a spill was extremely low.

In your credit union, do you have a potential “oil spill” where chances are slim that anything could expose the problem, but if something did, the damage could be catastrophic for your credit union, your members or even your community?  Take a lesson from BP, and address those issues.  Even BP’s peer organizations have learned a lesson as Exxon Mobil, Conoco Philips, Chevron and Shell are committing $1 billion to a rapid response plan for Gulf oil spills.  All of these organizations have disaster recovery plans.  They take additional precautions because they now know the magnitude of damage an unlikely occurrence can have, and can no longer ignore the small chance of it happening.  Lesson learned: BP and credit unions can avoid “oil spills” react more effectively with sound disaster recovery and rapid response plans, but can prevent with some truthful what-if scenario planning.

BP is an organization that credit unions can learn valuable lessons from.  What else do you think credit unions can learn?

Is the Credit Union Difference Reaching Consumers?

Posted by on Wednesday, 21 July, 2010

I’m grateful for the amount of positive coverage credit unions have received as consumers search for alternative banking solutions.  It’s raised public awareness about credit unions as safe financial institutions with excellent benefits for members.

In my opinion, however, the coverage falls short in delivering the full story on why credit unions are a better option for consumers. I worry that the credit union difference—our voluntary community involvement, commitment to financial education,  service to the under-served, and so on—is becoming lost in the shuffle.

The articles I’ve read tout credit unions’ better interest rates and lower fees. Yes, these are important selling points, but they’re not the only ones that motivate people to move their money or remain loyal. We can’t lose sight of our philosophical differences—either communicating them or operating by them—even though credit unions are enjoying large scale, positive exposure.

Going beyond rates and fees is what truly separates credit unions from other financial institutions.  Sure, lower fees and better interest rates are important. They motivate a certain population. It seems to me, however, that the most loyal members are those who also identify with—and are impacted by—our credit union philosophy.

So here’s my call to action….

We need to pull at the heart strings, not just the purse strings. And we can’t rely on others to do this.

Communicate how your credit union is helping the community through press releases and letters to the editor of your local paper. Reach out to your members by participating in the community and let them know about your efforts. Share member stories and promote your financial education resources like Seminars in a Box. Make a concerted effort to enhance the member ownership experience.

These characteristics are just as important to share with the world. While positive coverage focuses on credit unions as safe alternative banking solutions with great rates and lower fees, it’s our duty to trumpet the credit union difference.

Live From The 1: Using the Power of Social Networking to Build Your Credit Union

Posted by on Tuesday, 13 July, 2010

Everyone knows about social media, and talks about being hands-on and interactive. But what does this mean and how do you do it? Some people (& credit unions…) sensing a huge business potential throw money at new online opportunities. But speaker Tara Hunt says, “Money isn’t the capital of choice in online communities, it’s social capital, known as ‘whuffie,’ that drives these new engines.”

Tara, the author of The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business, says that in the social media space, market capital flows from having high social capital. Without high levels of “whuffie” (I can say that word all day BTW), you lose your connections to online communities, and any recommendations you make will be seen as spam.

The first part of her presentation echoed Brent Dixon’s yesterday. Viral social media content is mostly emotional, positive…awe-inspiring. People are sharing personal information and feelings like never before via social media (even their location – gasp!). The social web is growing and changing the way we interact with each other.

One particularly interesting finding she mentioned is that social networking affects the brain like falling in love – if a company or brand raises our oxytocin levels, we are more likely to connect with them.

Some great examples and videos Tara showed the group:

Tara’s final words – “This stuff is important. All you need is love. May the force be with you.”

What I Learned About Social Media at Marketing Management School

Posted by on Wednesday, 7 July, 2010

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending CUNA’s Marketing Management School in Orlando, Florida. Although my tenure (ten years!) at CUNA has provided me with opportunities to travel and work at various onsite events this was my first experience working with credit union marketers. It was an absolute delight!

Meghann Dawson, my colleague and fellow CUNAverse blogger, spent the last year working with Anne Legg (CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Chair), and Randy Schultz (of Weber Marketing) to revamp the existing school.

The result was a stellar 3D program, with “dimensions” for marketers of every level.  Dimension 1 was led by Randy Schultz; Dimension 2 was led by Mark Arnold, CCUE (of Neighborhood Credit Union) and Dimension 3 was led by Jeff Rendel (of Rising Above Enterprises). This trio was responsible for leading and facilitating the educational offerings. Throughout the week Meghann and I heard from students in each dimension that their facilitator was “the best of the three.” Clearly, Randy, Mark and Jeff brought their “A game” to Orlando, as did all of the other speakers.

I personally learned A LOT at Marketing Management School… I could write several posts on the experience…but, I’ve boiled it down to this:

If you want to be a strong leader, you need to embrace Web 2.0/Social Media. What do I mean by this? You need to start educating yourself on Web 2.0. This means reading blogs (this one is a great start!), subscribing to RSS feeds, investigating wikis, and watching videos on sharing sites like YouTube, to name a few.  Social Media  is not a passing fad. Strong leaders recognize the true power of the Internet and the importance of being technologically savvy.  Embracing Web 2.0 might mean asking for help. Enlist the help of your part-time student teller. Hire a marketing intern from your local high school or college.  If nothing else, check out other credit unions who are embracing Web 2.0 well. Do whatever it takes to get educated because education truly IS power.

Last week my 11 year old niece taught my mom more about her iPhone in 3 days, than my mom had learned in 3 months. Why? Because kids play! They aren’t afraid to push buttons until they figure things out.  Become a kid again. Play! Have fun! Open yourself up to learning. It’s the only way to survive in today’s fast-paced, ever-connected world.

If your credit union is not involved in social media efforts, it’s time to get on board. In each classroom, this message was resounding. Web 1.0 was about obtaining information, Web 2.0 is about people. More importantly, people connecting with other people. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

43% of the online community is now using social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter. (If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, this piece is a good starting point). If you want your credit union to thrive, you must have an online presence.

As Senior Vice President of Marketing for Neighborhood Credit Union, Mark Arnold shared his top  Five Reasons for Using Social Media to Reach Members:

  1. To drive sales.
  2. To improve member service.
  3. To build your credit union’s brand.
  4. To create name awareness.
  5. To potentially save money.

As Mark pointed out so succinctly, social networking is about collaborating, interacting and transparency. Social networking is about honesty, authenticity, conversations and dialogue. Isn’t that what credit unions are all about too?

I returned from Marketing Management School refreshed, rejuvenated and reinspired by all of the wonderful things that are going on in Credit Union Land. I thank all of you who joined us on the journey!

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” —B. B. King

The Golden Circle Concept for Credit Unions – Start with Purpose

Posted by on Thursday, 17 June, 2010

I love convergences. About a month ago I found myself at the Wisconsin Credit Union League Annual Meeting where some friends at Filene were giving a general session on opportunities for credit unions. In Young Adult Adviser Brent Dixon’s section, he talked about the Golden Circle concept and its relevance for credit unions. It was a simple yet profound idea.


Driving back to Madison from the League meeting, I was listening to random TED talks and one of them happened to be on – you guessed it – the Golden Circle concept. The talk is from Simon Sinek and titled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” I recommend checking it out sometime and sharing with your co-workers.

> Click Here to Watch/Hear the Full TED Talk

The gist is this: people connect with leaders and brands who they think share their beliefs – the cause (or the “why?”) in the center of the circle above. Too often, credit unions and organizations in general start with the outside of the circle in their messaging.

“We provide financial products & services (what?) via branches in the Madison area or online (how?) because we are a non-profit cooperative financial institution (why?)”

Sound familiar? Now turn it around:

“We believe that you should own your money and your financial institution, not shareholders. We believe in people helping people and our financial products/services reflect that. We do this because we are a non-profit cooperative financial institution.”

When I talked with Brent about this recently, he had this to add:

If you market based on the “what” you are a commodity. As soon as the terms of that commodity changes  (and we know they will change) – lower deposit rates, dropping free services to stay afloat, cutting back on branch hours – the market will leave too.

But if you market based on “why” – they will stay, because they believe in your purpose, and, because this goes beyond altruism, they will stay because they know that no matter what, you will fight to keep their best interest at the heart of your decisions.

Communicating and acting on purpose drives gut decisions that change behaviors.

Powerful stuff, yet we start the “what” all too often – professionally and personally.

>What Are They Saying About You?

Posted by on Wednesday, 29 August, 2007

>Here is a great flash piece (hover over the topics) on optimizing Social Media. Some good tips there, especially the importance of monitoring all aspects of your brand and content.

An extension of that is monitoring what else is out there on your CU – I set Google alerts that email me anytime something new comes up on the internet with search words I set – for example, I can set one up for “YES Summit” and I’ll get an email anytime something new comes up that Google catches. Very useful for Marketing/PR folks out there to monitor online press coverage. I almost always get results that I wouldn’t find on my own.

Yelp is another example of monitoring your presence on the internet. Your members can write a review of your credit union service…good or bad. User reviews used to be limited to and a few other sites – now they are everywhere. More sites like this are here.

On a separate but related note, I’d encourage secret shopping. As part of Credit Union Development Education (DE) training, participants visit payday lenders, credit unions and banks undercover as potential customers. The observations and discussion afterwards is always enlightening.

>Reaching Young Adults before they are Young Adults

Posted by on Wednesday, 22 November, 2006

>I saw this article on high school branches in the local paper on Sunday, and it made me thing about what a great idea this is for credit unions to not only reach teenagers but an innovative way to reach the 18-to-30 market…before they reach 18.

The idea is to teach them financial literacy – buying cars, saving for retirement, banking, college funding, etc. As a former high school teacher myself, I can tell you that most schools don’t have the resources to teach financial education at all. And some are mandated to teach the subject! High school students have a hard time focusing on learning when they feel as if it’s not relevant to their lives. But almost every student is salivating to reach driving age and to get a car. College-bound students want to know how to get there and everyone wants to manage their money effectively. This a great opportunity for credit unions.

How do you open a high school branch? This article is a good place to start. But this 56-page how-to manual from the Michigan Credit Union League is better.

Opening up a high school branch would be the ideal situation, but what else can you do? One free and easy route is to partner with local schools and teach NEFE. Other resources are here.

Survey after survey shows that credit union members are more loyal than bank members. Thus, being there during a time when young adults are finding themselves is beneficial for both the “future member” and the credit union.