Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Cause Oriented Credit Union


Ben Rogers from The Filene Research Institute posted a comment on this post asking what XYZ credit union could do to be more cause oriented. It got me thinking, what does it take to be cause oriented?

Consider your cause the way you would your brand. In fact, as a credit union, our cause should be a major part of our brand image. The best way to draw people in is to show how you are different from a bank; rate and fee changes aren't going to do that.

The first step in being cause oriented is to figure out who it is you serve. Do you serve a certain business/industry or do you serve a geographic location? You might not think it makes that big a difference, but different demographics require tailored products, services, and community involvement efforts.

marketresearch22 Once you know who exactly you are serving it comes down to knowing what they want to see. After all, we are serving them, not the other way around. Talk to people, ask questions, find out how they are "wired". Do they want to see you offering small business support, beautifying the area, offering loans to people who can't get them at a bank, or taking care of a homeless problem in their community.

Once you have that information, change is required. What use is collecting all this information if you just say you support your field of membership without actually shifting your position to serve those people. It isn't just a numbers game (although in the financial industry it always comes down to that) it is a creative process to create products, programs, and events tailored to your members and potential members.

Be a catalyst for change and people will join you because they support what you believe in. An advocate for a cause will have a much more meaningful, involved and *cough*"profitable"*cough* relationship with your institution than somebody who joined to get a free gift. That isn't to say there isn't a place for free stuff, but it shouldn't be the only reason people come through your credit union's door.

Don't be afraid to be different, that's kind of the point here. If you do something different in a way people can see, it will draw more eyes to your cause and, in turn, to your credit union. There will always be a place for touting high deposit rates or low auto loan rates, but that isn't going to make people say, "ohhh so that's what the credit union movement is, that's awesome! I want to be a part of that!" When people start talking that way, you know you've done your job as a cause oriented institution.


Tony said...

You are exactly right here.

This will be a significant indicator as to how young members will view their involvement with the credit union.

Most of the things that a credit union can do is simply a matter of organization. For example, the credit union could organize a walk for breast cancer awareness. They could go out and get donations from businesses (especially ones that the credit union already does business with). They could include the local schools and athletic stores etc. They could use the donations to have shirts printed and submit a press release to get some news exposure. There is little expenditure here with huge potential benefits.

Community involvement and social awareness can be a very good investment. Involving your young employees would also be a smart move. They could bring in some friends and family to really spread the word. And the best thing is, they would all be qualified potential members.

Plus, it really can position the credit union as a catalyst for social improvement in the community. This is important to the socially aware GEN-Y audience.

Andy said...

Thanks Tony,

We're really trying to get the Walk to Stop Hunger out there in this way. The last few years we've put a few posters up in the lobby and done some interviews on the local radio stations, but other than that we've sat back and waited. Even so, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of high school kids who showed up to walk last year.

This year I'll be traveling around to schools and other community locations to drum up some support for the cause. A BBQ with a band afterward certainly won't hurt either. Its a single event that can create a big wave of supportive members, especially in the gen y age bracket.

It feels awesome to go for a 5k walk and then be able to hang out with some friends and listen to some good tunes while also knowing you're doing great things for your community. Theres no reason it has to feel like work and thats the trick to getting people involved. Throw some fun in the mix and all of a sudden you've got a great community event instead of a chore.

wazaroff said...

Amen! Well said, Andy!

Andy said...

Thanks for the comment Wazaroff! I've been following and I'm really impressed with the direction you took Vancity in with the project.

wazaroff said...

Likewise, I'm really impressed with your blog. I truly hope we end up at the same conference at some point this year to meet face to face and share some ideas. Thanks for your thoughts.

Jeffry Pilcher said...

Geez-la-wheeze my friend, what a great post! You have artfully articulated the essence of brand differentiation - whether a "cause" focus is attached or not.

Truly insightful and eloquent. Please keep it coming.

Andy said...

Thanks for the kind words Jeffry. I'm looking forward to many posts to come.