In February 2021, an unprecedented ice storm in Texas destroyed the landscape, disrupted business, and left hundreds of communities without power. To lift people’s spirits and spread some positivity, Abilene Teachers Federal Credit Union ($578.0M, Abilene, TX) rolled out a social media contest dubbed “325 Day” in honor of Abilene’s area code.
On March 25, the credit union asked people to reply to its Facebook posts with their own posts describing what they like best about living in the 325. Kathy Mayer, marketing director for Abilene Teachers, and her assistant spearheaded the contest for the credit union, contacting local merchants, purchasing gift cards, and organizing gift baskets. The marketing director says she saw a credit union in El Paso celebrate its area code with a 915 day years ago. The concept stuck.
“I can’t say this idea is original,” Mayer says.
However, what started as a social media campaign to lift up community spirit has evolved into a full-blown civic celebration to encourage residents to get out and support the community they love.
Kathy Mayer, Marketing Director, Abilene Teachers Federal Credit Union
An Expanding Civic Initiative
The local chamber of commerce joined the planning for 2022, pushing 325 Day to a larger scale.
“This year, we’ve got lots of local vendors involved,” Mayer says.
The celebration, which falls on a Friday, will include live music. Restaurants and boutiques in the downtown area in which the celebration is concentrated are offering specials, one of the three local universities is hosting a baseball game that afternoon, and a new high school will host its pandemic-delayed grand opening that day.
Although the credit union initiated the idea in 2021, it doesn’t insist on retaining control and is pleased the chamber and others have taken such an interest in the idea.
“As long as the chamber credits us with having and nurturing the idea, we’re pleased to help it expand with the rest of the community,” Mayer says.
Small Budget. Big Impact.
Abilene Teachers was simply looking for a way to spread positivity during a negative time, but its brand has gained significant street cred from 325 Day.
On March 25, 2021, Abilene Teachers asked people to reply to its Facebook posts with their own posts describing what they like best about living in the 325. The initiative has turned into a citywide civic celebration. Watch the video.
“Abilene Teachers Federal Credit Union is now the most recognizable financial institution’s name in the city,” Mayer says.
That’s a decent return on an initiative with no direct costs outside of the gift cards and gift baskets.
Abilene Teachers has sponsored similar drawings in the past to support local businesses, primarily restaurants, asking consumers what their favorite menu item was and randomly picking the winner. But after a while, the credit union ran out of local establishments to recognize and people’s interest waned. Efforts like this, however, gave the credit union experience running contests and made launching 325 Day easier.
This year, Abilene Teachers new ITMs will be available at its busiest branch, and it plans to give away hourly prizes of $32.50 and a daily grand prize of $325 to randomly selected members who make a transaction there on 325 Day.
As far as lessons learned, the credit union expects the initiative to continue to evolve. It plans to work closely with the chamber to encourage participating businesses to register online so there is a single repository for all 325 Day-related events and offerings.
Mayer advises other credit unions to consider similar “local days” to showcase civic pride.
“I’m surprised more haven’t done this,” she says. “It’s easy to do.”
Beyond 1 Day
Like many cooperatives, Abilene Teachers has traditionally held a training day every fall on either Columbus Day or Veterans Days. As online options and electronic signatures became the norm for annual requirements such as BSA training, this day turned into a motivational speaker event. Three years ago, the credit union asked employees to volunteer four hours with a local non-profit during either holiday. In return, Abilene Teachers pays a full eight hours. Employees get to enjoy a half day with pay; the credit union does something tangible that helps the community.
CU QUICK FACTS
Abilene Teachers FCU
HQ: Abilene, TX
Data as of 12.31.21
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 11.5%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: -1.9%
For this annual day of service, Abilene Teachers’ marketing and human resources teams work together to contact local non-profits throughout the summer and compile a list of four-hour projects. Employees can choose where they volunteer and whether they work on Columbus Day or Veterans Day.
“A lot of our workforce is younger and isn’t familiar with local non-profits or volunteer options,” Mayer says. “It’s a great way for them to learn about community needs and connect with others.”
Partners include the Noah Project for victims of domestic abuse and sex trafficking, the Abilene Zoo, the local Boy Scouts camp, the American Red Cross, a local ministry for homeless families, an animal rescue, and more non-profits across Abilene.
Some of these remain annual projects; others have inspired ongoing volunteer activities.
“On a monthly basis, we assist with sorting clothing, school supplies, and other donations for homeless families,” Mayer says. The credit union assigns several departments on a rotating basis to supply a volunteer during business hours, when the organization needs the help. For example, in March the administrative staff, the call center, and mortgage lending will each send one volunteer so the whole department isn’t out and member service isn’t compromised.
As schools reopen for in-person volunteers, the credit union hopes to expand these ongoing volunteer opportunities to include reading buddies and mentors.
“The genesis of our credit union was in the schools,” Mayer says. “So, we’d love to be more involved there throughout the year.”
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