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By Dane Coalson
State Employees' Credit Union (SECU) Raleigh, NC ($15.9 billion) introduced a Million Dollar Sweepstakes in 2007 to encourage member checking account holders to convert from paper statements to e-statements. The Sweepstakes was intended to educate members on the cost to their credit union each month to print and mail paper statements and how members directly benefit when SECU is able to improve efficiency. The Million Dollar Sweepstakes began in January 2007 and ran through December 7, 2007. In order to dissuade members from switching to e-statements to become eligible for the contest, then switching back, the contest was scheduled to last a full year. Over the course of 2007, one hundred members won $5,000 a piece and 20 lucky members won $25,000 each. The first drawing was held in February, and eleven total drawings were held through December 2007, resulting in $1,000,000 in member awards.
The idea of a sweepstakes came from SECU's 1,500+ volunteer branch Advisory Boards, which work directly with each of their 200+ local branches. The Board of Directors asked Advisory Board members to suggest ways in which SECU could increase the usage of e-statements and checking services. Advisory Boards, which serve as local focus groups for the credit union, endorsed a sweepstakes approach as most likely to capture members’ interest and participation. Advisory Board members particularly liked the idea of sharing the cost savings with the membership through the Sweepstakes drawings.
The cost for SECU to produce and mail monthly paper statements generally exceeded $1 per statement in printing, postage, and handling costs. At the launch of the program, there were 683,000 SECU checking accounts. They estimated that the cost of sweepstakes prizes would be recovered if as few as 15% of these SECU members signed up for E-statements. The credit union realized that a finding a way to move more members from paper to electronic statements would generate tremendous savings.
To inform their membership about the Sweepstakes, SECU promoted it through several different channels such as banners, posters, and other promotional material in branches, statement inserts, and their monthly newsletter. The theme for the campaign was It pays to be a member-owner, and explained that members themselves would be generating the savings and reaping the benefits. SECU explained to their members that e-statements are not subject to loss or delay through the mail and receiving statements electronically may reduce the risk of fraud or identity theft, as members can review checking transactions and check copies via the internet on a daily basis. SECU motivated many members by informing them about environmental benefits of e-statements and explaining that the resulting savings would benefit the entire membership.
The initial response to the Sweepstakes campaign was very positive and e-statement enrollments increased dramatically. In the first week span the Sweepstakes ran in January, e-statement requests were double the total requests for December, 2006. The momentum continued and they received a 40 percent increase in the number of members opting out of paper statements in the first month. At the end of the promotion, over 150,000 SECU members were using e-statements; over 95,000 of those members switched to during the promotional period.
Three months after the Sweepstakes ended, SECU continues to see members switch to e-statements. Since 1Q 2007, the number of share draft accounts has increased 6.1 percent to 739,207. Of those, 177,548 members, or 24 percent, now receive e-statements. This is three-fold increase over the 8.1 percent of members with e-statements before the Million Dollar Sweepstakes. Because of this successful program, the credit union will see an ongoing annual savings of approximately $2 million, which will only increase in the future.
Leigh Brady, SECU's Senior Vice President of Education Services, remarks, "e-statements are a wonderful concept – they are provided to members at no cost, generate substantial savings through reduced postage and paper, and offer great environmental benefits as well. However, through the Million Dollar Sweepstakes, SECU had the unique opportunity to give back even more, taking the 'People Helping People' philosophy to another level.
"One million dollars was put in the pockets of 120 lucky individuals, many of whom used the funds to pay down debt, pay for higher education, and put down payments on a home of their own. At SECU, we strive everyday to help members improve their financial wellbeing and the Sweepstakes was a successful way to truly make a difference. The annual savings of almost $2 million will continue to benefit SECU’s membership!"
Jonathan Talley, from Bear Creek, NC won $25,000 in the September Million Dollar Sweepstakes drawing. "Not getting paper statements any more means less clutter and keeps me from having to keep up with them each month. My online statements are always available and easy to access - not to mention it helps the environment. As a member-owner, I like that it saves money for SECU, and in various ways goes back to the members."
"Being chosen as one of the July winners of $25,000 was a complete shock. My wife and I were talking a couple of days earlier wondering how we were going to be able to help my 19 year-old sister with college expenses. When I got the call from SECU's Member Education department and was told I had won, I began to cry. It was truly a blessing. My sister is now enrolled in college as well as my wife who is furthering her education. Thanks to SECU, you brightened their futures!!"
Sources: Leigh Brady, Senior Vice President Education Services, SECU & various SECU press release
March 2, 2009
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