Credit unions are often challenged with getting members to come to notoriously dry annual meetings, and many have cut back on spending for these events because of low turnouts.
Spire Federal Credit Union ($603.6M, Falcon Heights, MN) took a different approach it says has paid off with attendance that has more than tripled.
Spire wanted to create a buzz with its annual meetings, give back to its members, and reach a younger demographic; about 85% of members who attended were older than 70. So, it reinvented its traditional gathering by creating the free annual meeting/member appreciation day. Now, attendees get a $25 cash incentive for coming and enjoy a celebrity speaker as they learn how the credit union is faring financially.
“Consciously choosing to grow our annual meeting, rather than just maintaining the status quo, differentiates Spire,” says Dan Stoltz, president and CEO of Spire. “The cash and the speaker are a way to give back, an important part of the credit union philosophy.”
The annual meeting/member appreciation day was Stoltz's idea. Before the new strategy the credit union had been investing its time and energy into putting together an annual meeting for only a few people within a small demographic.
“We’re trying to make the meeting more useful and get our message out to more people,” says Casey Carlson, vice president of marketing at Spire.
As a result, the credit union went from averaging about 200 guests at its annual meetings to ushering in 700 people in 2011 and 1,200 people at the February 2012 event. An estimated 38% of members at this year’s meeting were younger than 50, and nearly 20% of the attendees were younger than 29. Spire’s goal for including younger members was to familiarize them with the credit union so they become lasting members.
New celebrity-type guest speakers include Chad Crittenden, a contestant on the reality show “Survivor” and cancer survivor, who spoke on perseverance and keeping a positive attitude at the 2011 annual meeting/member appreciation day. This year’s keynote was Jim Morris, former pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, whose life inspired the Disney movie “The Rookie.”
“We’re looking for something inspirational,” Carlson says. “We want to give value to our members. … We wanted to make the experience one [participants] were impressed with.”
Handing every registered attendee an envelope with $25 cash as they leave the meeting is another way Spire tries to make an impression after the hour-long meeting, Stoltz adds. To give attendees, including nonmembers, a chance to connect with Spire staff and foster camaraderie at the meetings, Spire staff sticks around after the speaker presentation to meet members and nonmembers and answer questions.
“We believe in transparency,” Stoltz says. “Showing our members/owners the details of Spire’s performance over the previous year illustrates that.”
We believe in transparency. Showing our members/owners the details of Shire's performance of the previous year illustrates that.
Carlson says the event's benefits have outweighed its challenges, and the results have exceeded his expectations. The event has garnered local press coverage and given employees a sense of pride, teamwork, and accomplishment. Plus the word-of-mouth marketing helped increase membership numbers the past two years.
Vendors also attend Spire’s annual meeting so members can see the breadth and depth of what the credit union industry and its partners offer.
Over the past two years the credit union has kept its meeting expenses at about the same levels. Before the credit union spent money on a catered dinner for the attendees. Now, it’s reallocating that money into engaging speakers and the $30,000 in cash incentives divvied out to attendees. Its participation goal for 2013 is 2,000 people.
“This event has created an excitement within the membership,” Stoltz says. “The annual meeting has turned many members into active promoters for the credit union.”