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#GivingTuesday & Our Ironic Order

Us Americans are an odd bunch. On the last Thursday of November, we gather with friends and family to celebrate what we have. Then, not hours later, we mow down anyone between us and that incredible deal for a vacuum cleaner, because, Black Friday! The next day, we look to our community and encourage support of local entrepreneurs for #SmallBusinessSaturday. Ironically, this event is backed by one of the largest credit card companies, American Express. Then we take a day off. Because everyone needs to rest sometime.

On Cyber Monday, we’re at it again, but too tired to actually get up. So this deal rush is done with our nimble fingers upon phones, tablets, and computers (you still have one of those archaic things?).

By this point, everyone is broke. Or, you will be when that credit card statement arrives. Have you even started your holiday gift searching?

Finally, after this binge of spending has finished, we remember our non-profits. Today is #GivingTuesday. The day where every non-profit you’ve ever been involved with contacts you with a touching story. With just a small donation, you can make a world of difference! Every one is deserving of the contribution. From my alma mater to local charities, I am touched by each of their successes, plans, and goals.

But do we really care about these causes, or is it all a massive, self-induced, guilt trip? Have our days of unrestricted spending taken their toll? Instead of #GivingTuesday, would it be more appropriate to call it #FeelGoodTuesday?

If people cared as much as we hoped, Black Friday would be dedicated to volunteer efforts, not shopping madness. Small Business Saturday would seek to connect local for-profits with community charities. You’re not only enjoying an amazing pastry, you’re helping kids with developmental challenges. Cyber Monday…yeah, you’d be at work shopping online. A recent article claimed 40% of employees admit to spending more than an hour doing just that in December. I guess the other 60% won’t admit it. Since it’s doubtful you can stop it…just don’t neglect your responsibilities!

How do credit unions fit in amongst all this holiday craziness? Your credit union is a fellow non-profit, with the power to connect individuals, for-profits, and other charities. Engage your charitable giving team, your marketing staff, and members to revolutionize how we think of #GivingTuesday (and donations in general)! Instead of focusing on the same day as everyone else (today), connect your efforts to the spirit of the holidays, even before Thanksgiving! A number of people vow to spend nothing on Black Friday; these are the exact individuals who can be the springboard for a new giving initiative!

Besides, wouldn’t it be nice to promote something other than the best rates in town?

To Make A Difference, Be Different

Originally published on CUInsight.com

What appeals to you more?

Get a lower interest rate! How much lower? Nearly 3%!
Remember the milk, we’ll remember your rewards.
Or even
Buy what you need. Support the causes you love most.

Let’s face it. People aren’t good at math. It’s an important challenge the credit union industry is tackling with financial literacy programs. Commendable. However, I would bet most people will still sign up for a credit card with a few percent higher interest rate if it means they can get back a few percent in rewards. “They’ll even out in the end, at worst,” may be a common thought.

And rewards are just the beginning.

You’re a credit union. Community engagement is part of your DNA. Show it!

Just take a look at our friends up north. I spoke with a representative from Vancity Credit Union in Vancouver about their credit card program. Why? Because it is different by a long shot.

Not only do their members receive rewards, depending on the level of card chosen, but the entire program is a staple of the community. But don’t take my word for it! Here’s how the spokesperson for the program described it to me (emphasis mine):

“What we do is take 5% of our profits on Visa card products and put it into the enviroFund Grant Program. Being a credit union, we donate all our profits back to our local communities through our grant programs and member rebates. This 5% is just part of what we do and is another way members can choose to support environmental issues through the credit card they use.

We use the funds to address local environmental issues in our communities. Right now we are in the middle of a 5 year campaign focusing on building a sustainable local food system. In the past (as the enviroFund has been going since 1991) we have addressed other issues such as air quality and transportation, toxics in our environment, water issues, green buildings, wildlife preservation and ecosystem restoration to name a few.”

It’s ok if you feel a bit overwhelmed. “But they’re a really big institution, Joe!” That’s fair, and I raised that point to them. They explained how it is related to a percentage of profits, not the total funds. Therefore, a small institution could run a program with smaller investments, but no less impressive impact.

Take, for example, Christian Community Credit Union.  Their “Gives to Missions” cards support a variety of community efforts using a portion of profits from interchange fees.  From disaster relief to college scholarships, their members have supported a to-date donation total of over $4 million! Oh, and cardholders receive rewards for every purchase, as well.

A recent blog on A Smarter Choice discussed the perks of using a credit union credit card. All of them revolved around the boring rates. It’s true, they are lower, yet wouldn’t it attract more attention if you spoke of building playgrounds in your city and returning rewards to your members?

If we talk about being a smarter choice, shouldn’t we be smarter about how we promote our own programs and services?


Originally published on CUInsight.com

My parents still don’t understand the concept of a hashtag. If you’re reading this article, it’s possible you don’t, either.

That’s ok, since I believe a lot of people are in the dark, yet feel if they asked, people would think them Luddites.

Hashtags, written like #this, have only loose historical comparison (if you think of one, please comment below!).

There are a few ways they are used, and forgive this elder Millennial if I miss some of them!

  • Evolution of language online
    • #ImPuttingWordsTogetherBecauseIRock
  • Community
    • Show support or organize
  • Events
    • Most friends have custom hashtags for their weddings now. #WhatsTheHashtagForStillSingle

Let’s look a bit deeper, because you still may not really understand what they are. I promise by the end you’ll have at least a moderate grasp!

Hashtags Bring People Together

Woman Holding Sign at Protest

On one side, they are catchphrases akin to what you’d see on protest signage or hear repeated at a rally. #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and similar are contemporary examples.

Upon hearing or reading those phrases, you know exactly the issues being discussed. Those using them become virtual participants in a local, regional, or global exchange.

Hashtags Are Links

Link Icon

The other side of hashtags is what technology brings. On numerous social media services, from Instagram or Twitter to Snapchat or Facebook, you can add a “tag” to any post.

In essence, that means you’re writing a phrase or word with the hash character attached (Ex. #myhashtagexample). It has no spaces, even if there are separate words. Here’s the cool part:

When used on compatible services, they become links automatically.

If you or anyone else clicks that link, they are brought to a page showing everyone else’s posts using that same hashtag phrase. Nowadays, these pages refresh real-time, meaning, new entries appear as they are written.

Saving Hashtags and “Trending”

These special pages with everyone’s “tagged” posts (or pictures, videos, links, etc.) can be bookmarked (it’s called a Saved Search) for later access or followed by others with a shared interest.

Ever notice the little hashtag at the bottom corner of TV shows or news segments? I remember for the show 24, the tag was #JackIsBack. Breaking news stories may have #election2020 or similar.

Network Earth

If enough people use the tag in a region or within a timeframe, it can be considered a “Trending Topic”. This means the social media sites will further spread it to others to show the “heartbeat” of society at that very moment.

Hashtags in Credit Unions

Credit Unions use them as well! In fact, I encourage them as part of your social media strategy.

One institution (Affinity FCU, no affiliation) has a hashtag campaign comparing big banks to “Fat Cats”. They write #FatCatFree on every tweet, image, or video shared. This literally unifies them into a single promotion.

I do a bit of hashtagging as well. (Is that a word? It is now.) For my blog, every post relating to a new entry or just something I feel would be of interest to readers is tagged with #cugeek.

If you follow that link or search #cugeek on Twitter, you’ll pull up each related post, past, present, and future, as they arrive. The systems also let you keep track of “topics” (what hashtags are called), so you can always return to a current feed.

Hashtags Are Powerful

Technology can sometimes be overwhelming. Hashtags came into mainstream use so quickly I worry many people didn’t have a chance to understand what they were seeing.

I hope this entry helps make sense of this new phenomenon. They’re a powerful tool you can use to build your brand, community, and the credit union movement as a whole.

Unfortunately, since anyone can use it, they can also be subverted for other purposes. Knowing this, I’m all about finding unique phrases that hold interest only for your group (unlike #OpenYourEyes).

Please comment below with your favorite use of hashtags in your credit union!


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