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Todd Barduson shared his passion for veterans’ issues the first day he stepped into MY Credit Union in Bloomington, Minn. Six years later, this dedication still drives his work as vice president of marketing at the $396 million asset institution.
“Our credit union is uniquely positioned about two miles from the Fort Snelling National Cemetery,” he says.
The cemetery holds a special place in his heart: His younger brother is buried there because their father was a veteran. “I’ve spent a fair amount of time visiting him and other relatives there,” Barduson says.
His concern for veterans resulted in a CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Diamond Award-winning marketing campaign: the inaugural Fall Classic Cornhole Invitational Tournament, which benefits Minnesota veterans.
It’s a prime example of how credit unions incorporate concern for community into their marketing efforts.
MY Credit Union won the Greatest Impact and Most Sentimental Diamond Awards for its cornhole tournament. Greatest Impact highlights the entry that “demonstrates the greatest impact on an audience,” while Most Sentimental “best draws an emotional response from its audience.”
The credit union hit both marks with the tournament, which builds on years of veteran-focused involvement. Early in Barduson’s tenure, he spearheaded an effort called Flags for Fort Snelling, which raised $400,000 to restore the tradition of putting a U.S. flag on every Fort Snelling National Cemetery headstone.
That experience led directly to the cornhole tournament. Barduson was at a local event when a veteran approached him and asked, “Aren’t you the guy that helped Flags for Fort Snelling? I’m a veteran, I have an organization, and I was wondering if you could help me.”
Barduson listened to the veteran’s story of serving in the Gulf War, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, and attempting suicide. “He was looking for help. I said, ‘Sure, I’ll help you. I just don’t know what I can do for you yet.’”
Barduson had seen cornhole on TV and thought a tournament would provide something different than the typical golf outing to raise money for veterans’ causes.
“Cornhole is inviting for everyone,” Barduson says, noting about 120 teams participated in the inaugural tournament in 2022. One credit union employee who uses a wheelchair participated on a team with his mother. He appreciated being included.
“With an event like this, you put out the word and people are willing to help,” Barduson says. “It’s a safe place to have camaraderie. We don’t promote any product, and we don’t have a booth. Just play cornhole and have fun.”
To foster that atmosphere, MY Credit Union purchased 64 sets of cornhole boards, found an open parking lot, and began acquiring sponsors and vendors. It identified a recipient pool of 16 nonprofits, including organizations that provide veterans with service dogs, take them to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, or help injured veterans play hockey.
While the inaugural tournament garnered several national and state marketing awards, its main goal was to make sure the veterans felt welcomed, thanked, and honored, Barduson says.
The positive feedback encouraged MY Credit Union to repeat the tournament. “The more people who know about it and contribute, the better.”