Originally published in CUInsight.

After analysis, your credit union executive team decided “more members” is a top-priority goal. Cool. Where are your credit union’s greatest opportunities for member growth?

  1. Expanding SEGs and community charter
  2. Improving outreach to eligible potential members

You can either attract people from the existing pool, or make that pool bigger. That’s it. (I mean, sure, you can acquire a bank or merge with another credit union, too. But then isn’t that just making your pool bigger?) The most important question to ask here is: Why?

Why do you want more members? Are your current ones not taking advantage of your services? Does your board want to “spread the credit union love” to a greater community? You need answers to these questions before taking any next steps.

It might just be that your strongest member growth opportunities come from within. You can grow revenues, enhance services, and provide a compelling work environment for your staff…by connecting with existing members.

Plus, the cool part of building member engagement is that, if you build the strategy in from the start, new members come as a bonus! I mean, people talk (and post on social media)…let’s make sure those words are of praise and joy!

Start With Existing Members

Two People with Coffees on Wooden Table
Get to know your members and what they really want or need.

In 2015, I suggested asking your members what they want. 

In 2022, Miriam Ackerman, Co-Founder of NetGiver, challenged institutions to think from their members’ perspective, not just their own KPIs of growth. “Does your member need another loan?” She encourages credit unions to connect with members along their financial journeys.

Your new homeowners may not need a mortgage for a long while, however, if you maintain that relationship, serving their current needs (and helping them achieve goals), they’ll come to you for that HELOC in 5 years…no question.

It’s All About The Feels

Credit unions need to understand that not every communication is a sale (or pitch). Sometimes, in the words of Ms. Ackerman, credit unions should just “share their happies”. Tell your stories, celebrating those daily moments where the mission shone through:

  • How an MSR went out of their way to make a good experience great
  • The scholarships presented to some of your youngest members
  • A family going through a tough time, where the credit union helped when others wouldn’t

These will “sell” better than any credit card campaign. Want to grow member’s share of wallet? Give them a reason to feel emotionally connected to your credit union. Then, make your services relevant and simple. As I wrote in 2017, “giving back really does have an ROI.”

Engage…Your Members Personally

Heart on Paper with Crayons
Would members draw this for you?

Taking your member growth efforts into warp speed means getting personal. Now that your members truly understand why the credit union exists, it’s time to advance some journeys. Your staff love to help members. Let’s give them thousands of opportunities.

And as credit union branding and marketing expert Jackie Brown explains, staff empowered to solve member problems are more engaged as well.

Instead of looking at each season as spots to promote auto lending, credit cards, or mortgages, take a year to “get to know” your members, and vice versa. Literally. Set up a campaign to personally discuss their financial situations: Email, snail mail, SMS, whatever works.

Remember, your members most likely don’t even know what your credit union does.

Pair each member with an employee. Share their name and direct contact info. Use an easy scheduler such as Calendly to set up 15-minute discussions. Make it clear there will be NO SELLING during these conversations…to both members and your staff.

We all know most people have unclaimed opportunities to save money, usually through lower rates on lines of credit. Sure, there are great tech solutions for this, and you should use them. But start with the personal connection. You might discover there’s more than just a refi.

And to get members into those chats? Run a weekly or monthly raffle for AirPods, and, promote that you’ll donate $20 to a local charity for every member who has a financial discussion. Thoughtful social media engagement can also build your following.

Use your data to make additional awards that highlight “the credit union difference”. Scholarships are awesome; just make sure the eligibility meets thoughtful DEI efforts (ie. “Most volunteer hours” may be unachievable for a student in a financially challenged household).

Provide what the fintechs cannot: A humanized banking experience. Then, because you partnered to have the tech members expect, they can get the best of both worlds.

Chime is cool, but it can’t do that.

Referral? But of course!

Birds at Bird Bath
No matter your “water cooler”, everyone talks.

Members also get an additional entry into that raffle for every referral who becomes a member (and meets some basic activity). There’s a reason Rafflecopter exists…businesses understand the value of rewarding a share.

If you have a referral platform, here’s the chance to grow its usage. Direct conversations can also pose to members, “if you thought this was helpful, we can also help your family and friends as well! You earn referral bonuses and they get improved financial security!”

Whatever you do, make it simple and integrate into the places members are. I see your posts on LinkedIn…your members don’t. Ensure your social media team is comfortable with Instagram, SnapChat, and TikTok. Make sharing content the goal: Find your “Loyal Larry’s”!

Engaged Members = Improved Community

When your credit union shares its influence, good things follow. Your success is everyone’s success. If 1,000 of your members take advantage of the financial review, a local organization receives $20,000! Which is one more great story to share, a topic I first broached in 2015.

So, to answer the questions in the title: A member might bring in some revenue on a single service (most often indirect loans, which I don’t see fitting into your mission). An engaged member has multiple services, comes back for more, and brings their family and friends along.

Which would you prefer?

Image credits: Brian Merrill, StockSnap, Karolina Grabowska, Andrew Martin from Pixabay