Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: satisfaction

Giving Back Has ROI, Too

Originally published on

Does your credit union give back? That’s a silly question. But does your community support program intricately tie in with member engagement?

A friend of mine used to work for the local chapter of the American Heart Association. After a few years there, she started her own company. It brings non-profits together with companies whose mission aligned with theirs. Essentially, she is a charity to corporate matchmaker.

At first glance, this seems pretty simple. Find company with money (usually through a foundation), bring together with non-profit which needs money. Now pay me a small consultant fee. Not so fast. It turns out, companies started looking at their give back campaigns differently. Instead of just “doing a good thing”, they wanted said good thing to do more. If we’re spending money, the thought process goes, why not have it improve employee satisfaction? Or serve as cause-based marketing to our current and prospective clientele? And charities began to have the same thoughts.

Just as two random single people are not necessarily a good match, the same goes between companies and charities. My friend learns about the core mission and motivations of every client before recommending a pairing. That way, everyone is more engaged, supportive, and excited about the alignment.

Take your credit union. Say you offer a need-based mortgage assistance program. Partnering with a pet rescue charity is fine. Woof. Meow. But imagine if you aligned with a non-profit which helps place struggling and displaced families into low-cost and subsidized housing? Their mission and that of your credit union are the same. You’re a match. And it shows with staff who are excited to volunteer and talk about it to their members (who are then encouraged to help where they can). Heck, some of those members might even be beneficiaries of the charity. Think of the legen-wait for it-dary social media campaign you could set up. So much good can be done for so many, and your credit union can grow in the process. I think it’s safe to say all the families helped by the charity would become members of your credit union. And based on how you treat them like family, they’re not likely to leave. In fact, they’ll probably tell their friends and family about you.

When you get out of the daily grind and remember why you exist, these types of alliances seem so obvious. And it can give your entire team the motivation to serve at their peak abilities. Giving back really does have an ROI.

Since this post is already too long, a future one will dive into some stories of credit unions following this path. Spoiler: Their staff and members love it. So does the bottom line.

A Tale of Caution and Frustration

Are you successful? How do you define it? From your member’s perspective, it could be in the amount of money you help them save. For your team, they may consider community engagement an important qualifier. Either way, success does not come by accident. It’s a deliberate result of focused acts.

Given that understanding, here’s a question: Is your credit union successful because of or in spite of your efforts?

I’ve run into a few companies which fall under the latter classification. By way of monopoly, past performance, or other factor, they ring in improving results each quarter no matter how they operate. “I bet he’s talking about the cable company,” you think, and you would be right. Each of these mega-corporations have set up a situation where they cannot fail. Want to see TV? Buy from them. Want to skip TV and just get online? Buy from them. How about a phone line? Yep, buy from them. And when your customers don’t have a choice, service can suffer with negligible financial impacts.

But credit union members have a choice. Some would say it’s A Smarter Choice. So obviously these risks don’t apply.

Only they can. Consider this: A member will tolerate inconveniences up to (but not exceeding) the level of perceived inconvenience it would take to move their finances out of your institution. In other words, the more services a member has, the more troubles it will take for them to leave.

Read that again. A member using you as their PFI may tolerate more issues than one with a single service. The solution? Empower your staff to relate, understand, and solve the problem as if it were their own.

That’s where the greatest challenges lie. In the aforementioned large company, each person I speak with tries to help, but none are empowered to see it from my position. I’ve been told the rate I have is impossible, though it can be seen on previous bills. Same with service combinations: “I’ve been here 7 years and never seen those put together.” Without saying so outright, I have been called a liar numerous times, despite the evidence being in their own system. For a company specializing in information technology, their own information is pretty spotty.

How do you handle member issues? Can every person on staff make substantive change, resolving problems in a single session, or, if not, able to call back to update the member?

Your members chose a credit union for a reason. Most of the time, everything is fine, and your member is satisfied. Sometimes, though, an issue will arise. How you handle it defines your member’s opinion towards the credit union. Five years of perfect service can be negated with one poorly handled problem.

It’s when things go wrong that it is most important for you to show how different you are. Be successful because of your efforts!

Or, consider becoming an effective monopoly. I hear the cable industry is a good choice.

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