Return on Impact

Institutional success starts with doing right by the member.


When emergencies happen, many people have a support system of individuals they can call on for help, including friends, family, and coworkers. Financial institutions, unfortunately, are not likely to be high on the list. Texoma Community Credit Union ($90M, Wichita Falls, TX) aims to change that with its internal WOW Fund. 

TCCU experienced a banner year in 2010 with approximately 8% loan growth, positive member growth, and low delinquency levels that trumped its peers, so the cooperative wanted a way to give back to its members and communities that had driven its success.

Texoma Community Credit Union Loan Growth

Click on graph to view larger size. |  Data as of 1Q 2011  Source: Callahan & Associates' Peer-to-Peer


The idea is simple. Any employee, member-facing or otherwise, can use a voucher for up to $30 to provide funds, gifts, food, or other goods to a member in need. The best part is, the credit union covers the cost. 

“It started as the brainchild of our COO, Kevin Scott,” says Rachel Wheat-Lepchitz, marketing director for TCCU.  “He presented it to me and we considered how we could grow the idea and make it something our organization could benefit from.”

The credit union takes $1,300 out of its monthly marketing budget to pay for what is has labeled "WOW" events. In January 2011, it started using its partnerships with area vendors to deliver the gifts and goods employees distribute via the vouchers.

“We know newspaper readership is down. Radio listenership is down. So we said 'let's take some of this funding and put it toward word-of-mouth advertising,'” Wheat-Lepchitz says. “We decided to call it WOW because that’s what we want our members to feel when they come into our building. We want to put a personal feel on finances.” 

Staff members spend the WOW funds at their discretion; the only firm rules are funds can’t go to employee friends or family members and there can’t be repeat WOW events for the same member. 

“We wanted it to be easy and didn’t want people to feel patronized that their idea might not be up to par,” explains Wheat-Lepchitz. “Staff members have the freedom to make their own decisions with the funds.”

Tellers, the collections department, and other front-line staff most commonly submit WOW ideas, as they have more member contact, but anyone can throw in ideas. WOW events encourage employees to get to know members and find out what’s happening in their lives. They also give employees the resources to take action. Such empowerment increases morale. 

The program’s flexibility allows the credit union to go beyond the typical $30 limit when tragedy strikes, such as when TCCU has provided flowers for a funeral or helped clothe a homeless family. 

“With the recent Texas wildfires, our fire departments were stretched thin,” Wheat-Lepchitz says. To show its appreciation for these first responders, the credit union sent baked goods to every fire station and administrator’s office in Wichita Falls. During a fire in Possum Kingdom National Park, the credit union sent $200 worth of catered food to sustain the firefighters as they battled the blaze. “We try to limit the program to our membership, but there are cases when we want to show our support for these community heroes.” 

What WOW events might lack in quantifiable dollar return, they more than makes up for in member impact, Wheat-Lepchitz says. Showing it cares helps drive down the credit union's delinquency and pull in new member relationships.

“People remember us as the credit union who was there for them when they needed it,” Wheat-Lepchitz says.

Texoma Community Credit Union

Click on graph to view larger size. |  Data as of 1Q 2011  Source: Callahan & Associates' Peer-to-Peer

Members can’t donate their own funds to WOW events, but the credit union provides other venues for employees to contribute to community needs, including volunteer events and clothing drives. For now, WOW is about the credit union going the extra mile. 

Throughout 2011, the credit union will use WOW and other programs as new ways to reach out to female members and other demographics. On Mother’s Day, TCCU gave out 600 roses to mothers who visited its branches.

“We even put them in the drive through tubes,” Wheat-Lepchitz says.

TCCU's commitment doesn’t end at the front door. The credit union is ramping up efforts on its payday lending alternative program, which has helped members "pay down thousands of dollars worth of debt.” The credit union is also creating a new program targeted at alleviating textbook costs for struggling students. 

“When members say ‘You’ll never guess what the credit union did for me today,’ that’s what we’re going for,” Wheat-Lepchitz says. No matter how tall the TCCU tree may grow in the years ahead, it’s sticking close to its membership roots.