Financial Literacy and Credit Unions: An Opportunity to Serve and to Grow

Recent economic events have given sudden prominence to the importance of financial literacy. Your credit union is positioned to provide authoritative financial literacy training to your community.


Voice of Authority
Recent economic events have given sudden prominence to the importance of financial literacy. Twenty-one states have adopted financial education requirements in recent years, with many more lining up.1 Your credit union is positioned to provide authoritative financial literacy training to your community. In an era when many feel betrayed by large financial conglomerates, you speak with a voice of authority. Edward A. Filene, the father of the American credit union movement, said "credit unions are educational institutions."2 Who better to teach our youth about wise money management than you? Your credit union didn't take unnecessary risks during the good times and, as a result, you're well positioned to weather the storm. The window of opportunity, however, won't remain open forever. If you don't act, someone else will – perhaps someone less-qualified than you to teach financial responsibility.

Growing Your Youth Membership
If your credit union is like most, your membership base is aging and you worry about how to respond. A robust financial education initiative presents an opportunity to introduce your brand to young people in your community, educating them about the credit union movement, and teaching them to be responsible managers of their own money.

An effective financial literacy program should highlight your role as a locally-based, non-profit institution. It will strengthen your brand among the youth demographic and grow your Generation Y membership base.

Best Practices for Your Education Initiative

  1. Work with local schools
    Teen clubs and similar programs are decent for existing members, but they do little to attract teens who aren't already affiliated with your credit union. Your campaign will work best by leveraging the network of educators that's already in your area - the schools. Teachers desperately seek out meaningful programs that engage young people and dispel the belief that financial literacy is boring. Highlighting your credit union's role as a locally-based nonprofit will also build relationships of trust with teachers and school administrators.

  2. Don't start from scratch – Seek a partner
    There's no reason to reinvent the wheel by developing an initiative from the ground up. You'll have the greatest impact by adopting a program that has already been tested with students and approved by educators. Not only is it faster and less expensive, but it also grants legitimacy to your efforts.

    If the program you select is already used in area schools, great! Piggyback on its success. Even if it isn't, however, introducing a proven system to schools is easier than promoting a homegrown alternative. Junior Achievement (JA), for example, has a presence in schools across the country. Credit unions have experienced success partnering with JA to use their extensive curriculum and existing relationships with teachers.

    Other questions to consider:
    Can the partner offer a co-branded experience? This helps students recognize your contribution to their education throughout the program, rather than just at the beginning or end.

    • Is the partnership exclusive in your area, or is the organization free to pursue relationships with your
    • What materials and training does the partner provide to prepare your employees and volunteers to work with local educators?
    • How much marketing support will you receive? What will the organization do to promote the partnership in your area?
    • Is the partner involved with state and national financial education coalitions? What steps are they taking independently to promote financial literacy around the nation?

  3. Build a marketing campaign around your program
    Strengthen your brand by letting the world know about your new program! Don't limit yourself to publicizing the initiative only to educators. Consider adding a new section to your website, including fliers with statement mailings, and making a local media buy. Your initiative will almost certainly be of interest to area newspapers and television stations. Send a press release to area business editors.

    There is a "halo effect" surrounding education programs, which you can use to strengthen your brand and attract new members throughout the community. If you aren't comfortable organizing an advertising and PR campaign of this scope, consider retaining the services of a marketing firm specializing in working with credit unions.

  4. Ensure that the program is flexible
    However you build your education program, make sure it gives teachers the flexibility to use it how they see
    fit. You can't dictate their plans. Whether they want to build an entire semester around your offering or simply devote a few classes to it, your initiative should scale to accommodate their needs. Your program is far more likely to be used in the classroom if it can fill the individual needs of each teacher.

  5. Ensure that it's hands-on
    Programs that provide students with a hands-on experience have better learning outcomes than those that do not.3 Web-based tools are extremely popular with students and make grading a cinch for teachers. Those that are most effective have a major interactive element. Students should be actively engaging with the application, not simply reading from a page or watching a multimedia presentation. The very best programs give students the option to "live what they learn," grading them on the ways in which they apply the lessons to their own lives.

    Marketing 101 teaches that your audience is more likely to remember your brand if they encounter it multiple times.  Programs that involve students over a number of days or weeks not only help them recall what they learned, but also increase familiarity with your credit union. This is something to consider before expending resources on websites, booklets, or other materials that will only be seen once by a student.

    Not every program that is popular with the marketing department stands up to educator or student scrutiny. You can spend vast sums on cutting-edge campaigns. However, if there's not real substance to back them up, they'll hurt your image with the very demographic you seek.4 Generation Y "eschews traditional [credit union] marketing."5 If you teach them something useful, however, they will react favorably to your brand and your outreach efforts.

    For students who successfully complete the program, you may wish to offer a reward of some sort -be it a savings bond, an iPod, or some other prize. You may never have a better opportunity to win the loyalty of a new member.  CP Federal Credit Union in Michigan ended their literacy initiative by naming a "Millionaire for a Day," treating the winning student to a limousine ride and dividends earned on a $1,000,000 deposit for one day. Whether your plan is fancy or simple, it gives your representatives the opportunity to personally engage with youth and builds further goodwill in the minds of students and their families.

    1. Source: Jump$tart Coalition for Financial Literacy
    "Financial Literacy in Schools: The Credit Union Commitment," CUNA
    "Passive vs Active Learning," Herr, Norman PhD., California State University Northridge
    "Credit Unions and Social Media: Engaging Young Adults," Filene Research Institute
    "What Gen Y Wants," Filene Research Institute

About Banzai

Banzai is a web-based financial literacy education tool used by teachers in more than 600 schools across 46 states. It's available to teachers and students at no cost at Students may use Banzai to track their own finances or, alternatively, they may use Banzai's Life Scenarios to learn about the expenses and financial dilemmas that come with adulthood.

Banzai also works closely with credit unions to build their brands and increase youth membership by offering co-branded financial literacy solutions. It includes the CU in Class™ program which deepens relationships with schools by encouraging teachers to invite credit unions to participate in the classroom. Working together as partners, Banzai and Third Degree Advertising offer complete financial education solutions to credit unions throughout North America.

About Morgan Vandagriff
Morgan Vandagriff is the co-founder of Banzai and a graduate from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a degree in economics. He developed Banzai's original concept as a student, but perfected it over the next seven years as a method for helping others learn financial responsibility.

Banzai Contact: Kendall J. Buchanan 435-503-1462

Third Degree Contact: Roy W. Page, Chief Executive Officer 405-235-3020 ext. 101



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