WSECU's 2017 "Up to Some Good" initiative gave back nearly $14,000 to members.
Redstone's 2017 "Acts of Brightness" initiative gave back more than $360,000 to members.
Credit unions engage with their communities in many ways — from financial education fairs to shred days, collection drives to scholarships, and lots in between. But whatever the activity, the end goal is the same: Make people’s lives just a little bit better.
To that end, both WSECU ($2.8B, Olympia, WA) and Redstone Federal Credit Union ($5.0B, Huntsville, AL) introduced community engagement initiatives last year that support non-profits and other charitable causes and give back directly to the people in their communities.
WSECU’s Up To Some Good
CU QUICK FACTS
HQ: Olympia, WA
Data as of 12.31.17
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 8.8%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 10.1%
For the past several years, WSECU has given back 4% of its net income to area non-profits.
As part of this commitment, on Giving Tuesday 2016 — the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving — the credit union introduced a new way to give back. It gave members $100 in cash and asked them to “do something good,” whether that meant donating to a non-profit or paying for a stranger’s dinner.
The Evergreen State credit union heard swiftly from employees, who wanted a chance to do something similar, says WSECU’s vice president of public relations Ann Flannigan.
WSECU celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2017 and introduced its “Up to Some Good” initiative to mark the occasion. The initiative, an extension of the credit union’s Giving Tuesday efforts, gave employees a $60 budget to do something good across the WSECU footprint.
Up To Some Good
As part of a community giveback initiative, WSECU employees documented their charitable activities via posts on the credit union’s intranet. Here are three excerpted posts.
“I donated to a drop-in center for homeless youth. Teenagers have a lot of need for things that are difficult to donate, and the center is so appreciative of cash, which it can use to cover individual needs. Thank you WSECU for supporting me in being ‘Up to Some Good’!”
“My wife and I walked over to Brothers Pizza in the Spokane Valley. We walked past a young couple, the gentlemen in his U.S. military gear, having dinner with their little girl. You could tell this little gal was so proud of her dad. It was important to thank him and his family for his service, so dinner was on us.”
“We have a member that started a non-profit after learning how few options there are for needy families to receive assistance with diapers and wipes. He has told me stories about the desperate things caregivers have done to keep their babies in clean diapers. I used my $60 to donate a case of diapers and a case of wipes to the cause.”
“It’s personalized but also introduces a small measure of accountability,” Flannigan says. “We felt that asking them to put their own dollars out first would make them thoughtful about when and how they used the funds.”
The credit union left the guidelines purposefully vague and gave employees discretion on how they distributed money. However, there were two rules. First, employees had to use their own money and then request a reimbursement from the credit union. Second, employees had to document their giveback via a post on the cooperative’s intranet.
Employees used the funds in many ways — including picking up the tab for a veteran’s meal, filling the shelves at an area foodbank, and surprising Walmart shoppers as they purchased gifts during the holiday season.
According to Flannigan, the bulk of activity took place in November and December of 2017, coinciding with the donation drives and holiday shopping that occurs in these months. All told, approximately 40% of the credit union’s staff participated in the initiative — 240 employees gave nearly $14,000.
But how does WSECU union calculate a return on this investment? By looking at employee engagement and community involvement.
“The number of employees who, on their own time with their own ideas, participated and wrote about what they did leads us to believe we’re onto something here,” Flannigan says.
As for community involvement, Flannigan says a lot of employees participating within the community in small ways makes an impact.
“It’s not often the case that someone will receive money like this or attend one of our events and open an account the next day,” the public relations officer says. “But when you reflect your values as an organization time and again, it pays off for new business in the long term.”
The number of employees who, on their own time with their own ideas, participate and write up what they did leads us to believe we’re onto something here.
Redstone’s Act Of Brightness
In late 2016, the team at Redstone Federal Credit Union wanted to find a way to give back to the community and brighten someone’s day. The team came up with a variety of small, day-to-day acts that fit the bill — buying donuts, gas, and groceries, or paying someone’s bills.
CU QUICK FACTS
HQ: Huntsville, AL
Data as of 12.31.17
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 7.4%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 19.9%
But according to Redstone’s public relations coordinator, Patricia Lloyd, the idea really took off on February 17.
On National Random Act of Kindness Day in 2017, teams of credit union staffers donned florescent yellow T-shirts and bought gas for members of the community, regardless of credit union affiliation.
“We saw this as an opportunity to meet face-to-face with our community — outside of our branches — and say, ‘We care,’” Lloyd says.
Since that day, Redstone has sent the “Brightness Crews” — those team members wearing the yellow T-shirts — into the community every month to perform random acts of kindness at a variety of unannounced locations. Crews have paid utility and cable bills, bought lunch, purchased back-to-school supplies, paid for groceries and gas, and sent ice cream to schools.
“We give employees the locations and addresses about an hour before they leave,” Lloyd says. “Secrecy is important in this initiative because the acts need to be spontaneous to have the greatest impact on recipients.”
All told, more than 300 credit union employees have participated, including executive staff and members of the board. Redstone budgeted $400,000 for this initiative across 2017 and ended up giving back more than $360,000.
According to Lloyd, the credit union gave back to nearly 25,600 individual people and families across a spectrum of touchpoints, including:
$91,865 in groceries for 1,400 people.
$23,300 in gas for 738 people.
$163,600 in utility bills for 850 people.
$57,700 in school supplies for 357 families.
As part of its three-year strategic plan, Redstone plans to give back at least 40% of its net income to members, not including dividends. By continuing this program and evaluating other avenues to give back — including lower fees, cashback product earnings, and promotional offers — Lloyd is confident the credit union will hit its goal.
For now, the credit union sees firsthand every month the impact its Acts of Brightness have. After only a few months, the public response to seeing the Brightness Crews’ yellow T-shirts was strong and positive.
“Hugs, tears, disbelief,” is how Lloyd describes public reaction.
The credit union does not ask recipients to promote the cooperative. It has found value in connecting with its communities and helping people live easier. However, according to Lloyd, Redstone does ask for one thing in return.
“We simply asked the recipient to pass on the kindness in some way.”
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