When courting prospective credit union members, actions speak louder than words. And sometimes you must listen before you act.
In fact, explaining the credit union difference oft en isn’t enough, says Bryce Roth, director of cooperative outreach at $582 million asset CitizensFirst Credit Union in Oshkosh, Wis. Roth also serves as president of Chatter Yak!, a credit union service organization that helps credit unions market to young people.
“Saying we’re ‘for people, not profit’ doesn’t mean much to them,” Roth says. “You can say that to them, but why not show it?”
Meanwhile, turning off the promotional pitch and simply lending an ear have ignited a strong outreach effort to the Hispanic community at $2.3 billion asset Travis Credit Union, Vacaville, Calif.
“The most important lesson we’ve learned so far,” says Sherry Cordonnier, director of corporate relations at Travis, “is that for us to attract this vastly underserved population of members, it’s imperative we listen to them.”
Many credit unions across the country have launched successful initiatives to reach out to two historically unserved or underserved population segments: Hispanics and millennials, generally defined as people born between the early 1980s and 2000.
Such efforts pushed credit union membership over the 102 million mark in late 2014, according to CUNA estimates, and allow these inclusive credit unions to bolster their long-term viability for decades.
Wooing the ‘Next Gen’
Many young people today have little trust in financial institutions—understandably, Roth points out. “They’ve witnessed banks getting bailouts,” he says, “while people around them have lost jobs. They’re smart enough to understand there’s a lot of negative behavior going on.”
Through Next Gen Outreach, CitizensFirst’s financial literacy program, more than 100 members ages 15 to 25 learn how and why credit unions differ from other financial institutions. They see living proof.
In the program’s financial literacy component, young adults meet regularly to discuss the financial topics they’ve selected. “They learn something,” says Roth, “and enjoy social time and food together. It’s really informal.”
Next Gen also gets young people out into the community. For instance, cash-mob events have prompted millennials to eat or shop at locally-owned businesses. One targeted restaurant experienced a 25% increase in that day’s revenues.
Another event, at a local theater, presented a CEO panel of four business owners, born and raised locally, who talked about their career paths. Next Gen members had the opportunity to ask questions: How did you get where you are? What should I do now so I can sit on that stage someday?
“We have a servant leadership approach here at CitizensFirst,” Roth says. “So we try to present tidbits of that to these young people, to help them understand how they can lead by serving others.”
Next Gen participants can apply for a spot on the three-member CitizensFirst youth board of advisers, which presents product and service ideas to the board of directors. Also, a Next Gen “champion” blogs on the group’s website and social media about topics important to peers, intensifying the connection between youth and CitizensFirst.
“Today’s young people want personal interaction,” Roth says. “Once you establish that and become a trusted adviser, not just a brick-and-mortar credit union, really good things can happen.”
NEXT Launchpad at Leaders CU