It’s not often that credit unions quadruple attendance at an annual membership meeting, but that’s exactly what Summit Credit Union ($2.0B, Madison, WI) did during the past two years. In 2013, as part of a concerted effort to beef up attendance, Summit invested greater resources into the meeting, transforming it into a festival for the entire family. We spoke with Summit CEO Kim Sponem about the meeting’s growth and why having better attendance matters.
What was attendance like at annual meetings, this year and in the past?
Kim Sponem: Historically we had 200 to 225 people attending the meetings, but a few years ago we decided we wanted to do much better than that. We wanted to attract young families. We planned a different kind of event for 2013. It was kind of a transition year between our old meeting and our new plan. We got 350 people. Then this year was the big kickoff, and we got 1,000 people. The plan is to just continue to grow. So we went from about 200 people two years ago to 1,000 just this past May.
CU QUICK FACTS
Summit Credit Union
data as of 3.31.14
HQ: Madison, WI
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 3.4%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 13.9%
What were member meetings like before 2013?
KS: For years, we did a weekday evening event, indoors with appetizers, drinks, and a speaker. Our older members usually attended these events, but there wasn’t a ton of involvement, not a lot of questions about the financial plan and the annual report.
How is the meeting different now, and how do you expect it to change?
KS: We call it Member Fest, and we hold it every year outdoors at a city park. It’s still designed to work for older members who have historically attended our annual meetings, but in addition it now has a big focus on young families. So we have a big tent, and we’ve got snacks and appetizers for our annual meeting where we discuss credit union business, and then we have a cook-off. We have beer, brats, hotdogs, hamburgers, and salads, all that kind of stuff. It’s very festive. We have a DJ. We have a bouncy house, face painting, balloons, and fake tattoos. Then we have the obstacle races for kids, and the top three in each age group get a medal and their picture taken.
Registration for the kids races is a $10 donation, and members choose where they want that $10 to go. So, for example, this year they could choose Domestic Abuse and Intervention Services, the American Heart Association, or the Boys & Girls Club.
How much did you raise?
KS: We had 200 runners, and we raised close to $2,000.
How do you make time for the credit union business that needs to be taken care of?
KS: You have to have a quorum and go through the financials and the annual report, but this year we did video highlights of our year. We made the annual report come alive in video. We also are posting the video on our website so those who couldn’t attend can see part of our annual meeting electronically.
Why is it important to have a well-attended members meeting?
KS: Because we are looking for more member involvement. This is part of a greater strategy to highlight what being a cooperative means in terms of membership and member giveback. We instituted a patronage dividend this year to highlight the benefits of belonging to a cooperative.
How do you advertise the meeting?
KS: It’s in our newsletter and on our website and Facebook page. We put brochures for Member Fest in all the branches and hand them out in the drive-through, too. Then we sent postcards to people who lived within a reasonable distance of the meeting site, especially those who tend to have young kids.
What are the costs associated with putting on such a large event?
KS: It’s expensive. There’s no doubt about that. But we look at it as a member giveback instead of an ROI. This is our annual meeting, but it’s also our member appreciation day.
Have you found members are more involved with this kind of meeting?
KS: I think so. I don’t know if it’s a function of our size. I’ve been at the credit union for 18 years, and we get more questions today than we ever had in those 18 years. The meetings used to be very cursory. People didn’t ask questions; they just approved the minutes and everything else. I found over the last few years that members are asking a lot more questions, and not just about the credit union. They’ll ask questions about the industry in general, interest rates, those types of questions.
How have employees reacted to putting on Member Fest?
KS: It’s a big investment in terms of staff time, but one benefit is that employees are proud to be a part of our credit union and putting on this event.