Credit Union Pays It Forward, One Pig At A Time

Air Academy FCU’s biannual events engage employees and give community members something to smile about.

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • Twice a year, Air Academy FCU places piggy banks stuffed with cash around the community in undisclosed locations; anyone can find one.
  • Every single employee participates in hiding the banks, and the credit union encourages those who find the pigs to share their stories on social media.

CU QUICK FACTS

Air Academy FCU
Data as of 12.31.18

HQ: Colorado Springs, CO
ASSETS: $603.3M
MEMBERS: 48,704
BRANCHES: 8
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 0.6%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 5.6%
ROA: 0.88%

In 2017, leaders at Air Academy Federal Credit Union ($603.3M, Colorado Springs, CO) were looking for a way to make a meaningful impact within their cooperative’s community. But they didn’t want to stop there. They wanted to engage their employees in the plan as well.

“It’s easy to write a check,” says Kira Schubert, marketing and communications manager for Air Academy FCU. “It’s more impactful to get every employee involved and see how each of us can make a difference.

So, in October 2017, the credit union launched its Payback Piggy initiative, and, to date, all 150 Air Academy FCU employees have helped the credit union place piggy banks filled with cash — $25 or $50 — in random places throughout the community. 

Since AAFCU’s first event in October of 2017, the organization has given back $30,000 to its community. The cost per event varies based on the number of piggy banks — which cost about $1.50 each — the credit union disperses, but the average is approximately $8,000, $500 for supplies and $7,500 in cash.

Inside every Payback Piggy, the credit union includes a card that explains what a Payback Piggy is and how a finder can share their story with the credit union through social media. 

Click the tabs below to see how Air Academy FCU pays it forward.

Air Academy encourages community members to share their stories on social media after they find one of the branded piggybanks with cash and an explanatory card. See more from the April 24, 2019 event here.
Inside every Payback Piggy, the credit union includes a card that explains what a Payback Piggy. The front of the card reads, “Congratulations You Found An AAFCU® Payback Piggy!”
Inside the card, the credit union asks community members to share their Payback Piggy stories on social media.
The credit union released a YouTube video summarizing the positive impact Payback Piggy events have had on the community and employees.
The credit union promotes Payback Piggy events online and throughout the community. It just doesn’t disclose the locations of the piggy banks, making it a true surprise for the lucky finders.

Although most stories come in through social media, people occasionally email or call the contact center to share their stories if they are not social media users. AAFCU documents all stories and places them in a central location to share with the entire credit union staff.  

“This is the real reward for our employees — hearing how they have impacted people in their community,” Schubert says. 

From teachers purchasing clothing for students in need to Humane Society donations, the stories can be powerful. 

“A particularly heart-wrenching story last year involved a homeless family,” Schubert says. “The family’s car broke down en route to a new job in Fort Collins, and the mother ended up in the hospital from a medical issue. The father found a Payback Piggy at the bus stop on his way to the hospital. It was such a blessing at a difficult time.”

Payback Piggy is truly a community engagement project for the credit union. It measures ROI not by dollars but by intangible benefits such as employee engagement, employee morale, teambuilding, community support, and goodwill.   

A Peek Behind The Piggy

Air Academy hides piggy banks two times a year, once in April and once in October. The timing coincides with International Pay it Forward Day on April 28 and  International Credit Union Day on the third Thursday of October. Employees place two $25 piggy banks in April and one $50 piggy bank in October. 

“That seemed to be a logical time for us,” Schubert says. “We celebrate cooperatives in the fall and paying it forward in the spring.” 

Although individual employees decide the exact locations for the piggy banks, the credit union communicates internally regarding the general areas of placement.

“We place drop points on an online, interactive map ahead of time and share it internally so everyone can see,” Schubert says. “This allows us to form a plan in the weeks leading up to the event and helps us hit more points in the city.”

Lessons Learned From The Pig

Springtime weather in Colorado Springs can be sporadic and unpredictable, but not even inclement conditions can keep Air Academy from distributing the piggy banks. 

“We continue with our efforts despite rain, snow, sleet, and hail,” says Schubert, noting that it has snowed for past events. 

The credit union held this year’s spring event on Wednesday, April 24, during the time it had already allocated for staff training and development, which allowed every employee to participate.

Beyond weather and timing, the credit union has learned a few key lessons along the way. For example, banks don’t have to be widely dispersed to make an impact. In one of the earlier events, some departments made their drops as a team, which meant a few locations had multiple piggy banks. That turned out well for the eventual recipients of the finders’ goodwill. 

“Two teachers found several pigs and pooled their money to buy five winter coats for needy students,” Schubert says.  

Air Academy says it is also advisable to understand and heed all local laws and regulations. The Colorado Springs Parks & Recreation Department would likely concur.

“We learned it is against city ordinance to leave the piggy banks in public parks, so we had to retrieve two,” Schubert says, adding the credit union dropped them somewhere else. 

Finally, give authority figures or others responsible for the public’s safety a heads-up when leaving a piggy bank in an area for which they are responsible. Air Academy employees let security guards know about the initiative during drops, emphasizing the pigs are not dangerous and people can take them. 

Although Air Academy has received positive press coverage from the giveaways, Payback Piggy is more about giving back to the community and engaging employees than taking advantage of free promotion. 

“We hope the community enjoys our goodwill,” Schubert says. 

The positive comments and feedback that community members share via social media and word of mouth show they do appreciate that goodwill. 

“The comments and stories from individuals who find Payback Piggy banks are the real reward for AAFCU,” Schubert says. “This is just one of the many reasons people are proud to be part of the AAFCU team.”

For cooperatives looking for new ways to make a difference in their own communities, Schubert says making community giveback fun is a great way to generate buzz within the walls of the credit unions. From there, members and the larger community will take note, too. 

“In my 15 years here, I’ve never seen another project with the buy-in, excitement, and camaraderie that Payback Piggy generates,” the marketing and communications manager says. 

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April 30, 2019


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