A voice for teens
The purpose behind establishing the Teen Advisory Council in 2007 at Mid-Minnesota Federal was to “give teens a voice,” says Sarah Speer, marketing and business development specialist at the $218 million asset credit union. “We need to know what our teen members are thinking and what products and services they need.”
The Teen Advisory Council has five members: four young members and one parent. “They do the work of 20 people,” Speer says. “They’re excited about what they’re doing, and they have great ideas.”
At the first meeting, the council members brainstormed a list of topics they felt were important to teens, and they set priorities. They’ve been working down the list ever since. For each council meeting—held about three times a year—Speer brings in a presenter to address a topic the council requested.
“Then they figure out what to do with that information,” Speer explains. “How will we get it out to teens? Will it be a workshop or an article in the teen newsletter?” Council members are in charge of writing newsletter articles.
As for workshops, council members had the idea of holding these somewhere other than the credit union to grab teens’ interest. For instance, a workshop on job-hunting skills took place at a water park. Another workshop on buying a used car was held at a bowling alley. Participants got free passes to use the recreational facilities after the meeting. “We had sell-out crowds at both workshops,” Speer reports.
Mid-Minnesota Federal also has six branch advisory councils—one for each of the branch offices spread out across six rural counties. The four- to five-member councils meet quarterly with credit union management to get updates on the credit union and to discuss what’s happening in the community. One major outcome of the councils’ work has been a greater emphasis on publicizing the credit union’s financial education offerings. “That has become a strong goal here because of feedback from the advisory councils,” Speer says.
No matter what type of advisory council a credit union wants to initiate, the key is to “find people who are genuinely passionate about the credit union difference,” Speer advises. “You don’t want to have to twist arms.”