MAX Credit Union ($845M, Montgomery, AL) is deeply ingrained in the 15 Alabama counties it serves. It sponsors a Minor League Baseball team, provides scholarships and community grants through a foundation it founded, sponsors an annual community service award, organizes community-focused forums, participates in business lending and leasing, builds relationships with local politicians, and more.
MAX Credit Union sponsors a Minor League Baseball team?
DGM: Yes, we do, and doing so has been a great way to spread our name in the community. Seven years ago the team’s owners wanted to move to Montgomery and, having already worked with a credit union sponsor for a team in Lansing, MI, approached us about underwriting the fireworks. We agreed immediately. We have stationary and electronic advertising in the stadium, and our name appears very large on the $1 million scoreboard. We have an ATM at the Biscuits’ stadium store. Moreover, the Biscuits do a good job of direct mail marketing and include us in their efforts; they also include us in some of their radio and television advertising.
Does your sponsorship of the Biscuits bring much good will?
DGM: Very much so. The team brand is very wholesome; the stadium and team are family-oriented with good values. Persons coming into the branches thank us for the fireworks and our sponsorship. We offer the Biscuits’ brand on one of our check cards. Our association with the team spreads our name in a nice way. In addition, part of our sponsorship fee goes to downtown development.
Do people know about a portion of the fee going to development?
DGM: The movers and shakers do. Not enough of the regular people do – this is something we should work on.
MAX CU also sponsors an Auburn versus U of Alabama game each year, and when the Southern League All-Star Game was in Montgomery four years ago, we sponsored that, too.
Are you involved with community groups?
DGM: Very much so. We belong to all of the chambers of commerce in the communities we serve. We have a good record of employees on community boards; three are on Boards of chambers of commerce. Our CEO, Greg McClellan, sits on the Board of the Commercial Development Authority in Millbrook just north of here. He is also on the Air University Foundation Board [at Maxwell Air Force Base] and serves on advisory Boards to local universities and professional schools. I am in the Central Alabama Chapter of the U. S. Green Building Council as well as [on the Board of Directors of] the Montgomery Area Non-Traditional Equestrians. Our VP of business development gives financial education seminars in schools and to the military. Our VP of mortgage lending is in the area realtors association, and our VP of business lending is in the commercial realtors association.
In what other ways are you involved in your communities?
DGM: A few years ago we started a golf tournament for scholarships. We ran it for two years and thought we could expand upon it, so we created a foundation we call MAX4Kids. We give 10 $2,000 scholarships a year but also numerous grants. The grants are awarded by a Board composed of six employees and three non-voting members of the communities who advise on various community groups. And the grants are commendable. The foundation supports a home for children of incarcerated mothers, a school curriculum that teaches character, a children’s hospital, a neighborhood revitalization effort, a group that builds bicycles and tricycles for handicapped children, and more.
We also give an annual MAX Community Achievement Award, which goes to an individual or organization. It’s another way of showing we care about our communities. We’ve made the award to Troy University for its redevelopment efforts in Montgomery, a pastor who has worked against urban violence, a National Guard unit, and the Alabama Wildlife Federation.
Do your regular employees get involved?
DGM: Our regular employees are very active. We encourage their activism, but really they do this themselves. They raise money for the foundation using bake and rummage sales and with buckets at teller windows. They are active in marches and walks. A fundraiser we worked on last year was a golf tournament featuring hall of fame LPGA golfer Pat Bradley who ran a clinic the day before the tournament to encourage girls to play golf. Another fundraiser auctions Auburn or Alabama football tickets.
How do regular people find out about your efforts on these lines?
DGM: Well, the movers and shakers know. We hope the word gets out to the rest through our newsletters and website and by word of mouth. Our credit union sponsors a daily midday radio sports talk show called the MAX Round Table. It’s a great mouthpiece for us; we slip in what the credit union does and information about MAX4Kids.
Are there other things you do with movers and shakers?
DGM: Each year we sponsor a major economic forum for about 500 movers and shakers. We bring in economists from Auburn as well as around the country and have them look at global, national, and regional economic issues. Last year we also held a forum for architects and engineers on solar energy that featured an Auburn professor who is an expert on the subject. We hooked him up with Montgomery’s mayor, who now plans to convert city hall to solar power.
Speaking of energy, we also created EcoMAX, an educational effort for sustainability in our region. It dispenses information about home energy efficiency, healthier lifestyles, and the like.
Another thing we do with respect to movers and shakers is work to develop good relationships with mayors and state lawmakers. We think this has done well for us. We helped form a coalition of the six largest Alabama credit unions, which hired a lobbyist who has helped to shape legislation favorable to us and work against laws unfavorable to us. We also host forums for elected officials and decision-makers.
Are there operations other than your normal products and services that promote your involvement in the community?
DGM: There is. We started an equipment leasing CUSO, and businesses in the community have been receptive. MAX LeasingUSA finances the leases for medical, computer, lighting, phone, earth-moving equipment, and more to lawyers, doctors, universities, and community businesses large and small. We are a community charter and we are dedicated to the communities we serve.