CU Direct’s Generosity Garners National Attention

CU Direct got more than it bargained for with a recent charitable initiative.

March 1, 2015

CU4Kids - March 2015
CU Direct and America First FCU of Ogden, Utah, each present $20,000 checks to Primary Children’s Hospital, a co-winner of CU Direct’s “20 for 20” give-back campaign. (Photo by Brian Carlson)

CU Direct got more than it bargained for with a recent charitable initiative—and that success paid massive dividends for Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals, Credit Unions for Kids, and the credit union movement in general.

The credit union service organization, which specializes in lending, automotive, and strategic solutions, launched a “20 for 20” give-back campaign to celebrate its 20th anniversary. CU Direct planned to donate $20,000 to the CMN Hospital that received the most votes in a 20-day online contest.

But the campaign caught fire, exposing millions of consumers to the credit union difference through a wave of publicity, and generating a $100,000 windfall for six CMN Hospitals.

“It was amazing to watch the support of communities across the nation,” says CU Direct President/CEO Tony Boutelle, a Credit Unions for Kids supporter for more than two decades.

Aft er just a few days, the contest exceeded its goal of 20,000 votes. Aft er a week, voters had cast more than 100,000 ballots. The heavy participation prompted CU Direct to also pledge $5,000 each to four runners-up.

Hurley Children’s Hospital in Flint, Mich., and Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City tied for first place, and CU Direct gave each $20,000. Both organizations received matching donations, with $6.2 billion asset America First Federal Credit Union in Ogden, Utah, providing the match for Primary Children’s Hospital.

In all, the “20 for 20” campaign generated almost 400,000 votes and more than two million visits to the contest website.

“Not only was this a significant win for the kids, it was a significant win for CU Direct and credit unions in general,” says CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle. “This amount of exposure—highlighting the great works the credit union movement performs each and every day for its communities—is a significant step toward ‘creating awareness,’ one of our movement’s key initiatives.”

“Tony Boutelle embodies the credit union spirit,” says John Lauck, president/CEO of CMN Hospitals. “He’s a genuinely caring and generous person, and he brings that same philosophy and outlook to CU Direct.”

The campaign generated a massive amount of recurring local media attention, with television network affiliates across the country urging viewers to vote for their local CMN Hospital.

The Flint ABC affiliate’s coverage included a live segment where Cheryl Sclater, CEO of ELGA Credit Union, Burton, Mich., shared the news of Hurley Children’s Hospital’s victory live on air with an unsuspecting Mattie Pearson, nurse manager of Hurley’s pediatrics and pediatric intensive care unit. During the emotional exchange, they thanked Boutelle, CU Direct, and the credit union community for their support.

Similarly, Salt Lake City’s ABC affiliate encouraged watchers to vote online for Primary Children’s Hospital multiple times during the contest. A three-minute spot featured a video clip and phone interview with Boutelle and highlighted Credit Unions for Kids.

Together, CU Direct, credit unions, and other credit union partners such as CO-OP Financial Services have raised more than $130 million for CMN Hospitals through the Credit Unions for Kids brand since 1996.


Winners and CU presenters of $20,000 prizes:

  • Primary Children’s Hospital, Salt Lake City America First FCU, Ogden, Utah
  • Hurley Children’s Hospital, Flint, Mich. ELGA CU, Burton, Mich.; Dort FCU, Flint, Mich.

Runners-up and CU presenters of $5,000 prizes:

  • Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis Indiana Members CU, Indianapolis
  • OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Portland, Ore. Fibre FCU, Longview, Wash.; Unitus Community CU, Portland, Ore.
  • McLane Children’s Scott & White, Temple, Texas Scott & White ECU, Temple, Texas
  • Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford, Conn. Hartford (Conn.) Health Care CU

CU4Kids - March 2015
Hurley Children’s Hospital staff revel in the opportunity to raise money through the CU Direct contest, hooting and hollering during a local television station’s visit to their CMN Hospital in Flint, Mich.

CU4Kids - March 2015
Bryanna Tapley, vice president of operations for Flint (Mich.) Area Schools Employees CU, praises members of Michigan’s CUs for their commitment to voting for Hurley Children’s Hospital in the contest.

CU4Kids - March 2015
Primary Children’s Hospital plans to use its $40,000 donation to fund uninsured programs such as music therapy—which aims to lift the spirits of young patients through activities such as a volunteer playing a guitar and singing to them—according to Sharon Goodrich, who directs the hospital’s foundation.

CU4Kids - March 2015
Cheryl Sclater (middle), CEO of ELGA CU, Burton, Mich., embraces Mattie Pearson of Hurley Children’s Hospital after delivering news of the hospital’s contest victory during a live interview on WJRT, the ABC affiliate in Flint, Mich.