What Matters To Members? Ask Them!

To connect with the community, 3Rivers FCU launched the “What Matters” brand campaign and used survey data to talk about financial services from the member's perspective.


Financial wellness fills a large role within credit unions, bringing together financial planning, education, and savings and lending products. But it’s not always easy to determine which of these components matters most to members and how to best serve their needs.

That’s why the marketing team at 3Rivers Federal Credit Union ($1.87B, Fort Wayne, IN) launched its What Matters campaign in 2020 to take the pulse of the community, help articulate the brand, and realign the way the credit union talks about its services with members.

Aly Hess, marketing operations manager at 3Rivers, leads the cooperative’s financial wellness charge. She is well-versed in financial wellness topics and has studied programs at other credit unions and banks. Still, Hess says she’s not the best person to decide what topics are most important to members.


3Rivers FCU
Data as of 09.30.21

HQ: Fort Wayne, IN
MEMBERS: 106,146
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 11.0%
ROA: 2.07%

“I had an idea to turn things on their head,” Hess says. “I got the idea of letting our community and our members tell us what we should be pushing through our marketing. Let’s let them have a voice.”

For the What Matters campaign, the 3Rivers marketing team created an online survey using Survey Gizmo with an extensive list of more than 20 questions about members’ financial priorities, location, age and whether they wanted to be contacted for follow-up. The campaign officially launched with a television commercial on Thanksgiving. In addition, the credit union used emails, social media, and billboards to urge members to take the survey and “tell us what matters.”

“The survey is still open, and we’ve had more than 1,000 respondents,” says Simone LeClear, the creative manager of 3Rivers who teamed up with Hess on the campaign. “We received a lot of useful data for the campaign.”

Community Mission

The concept of reaching out to the broader community in Indiana aligns with 3Rivers’ expanding mission. The credit union was originally founded in 1935 as International Harvester Employees Federal Credit Union, but when the local International Harvester truck factory closed in the 1980s, the cooperative rebranded as 3Rivers Federal Credit Union. 3Rivers received a community charter in 1999, and two years ago it moved to a multiple common bond charter that allows 3Rivers to serve members outside of its original seven-county region around Fort Wayne.

In the summer of 2020, 3Rivers expanded further with the acquisition of West End Bank. It added 24,000 members, bringing the total to more than 102,000 members today.

Melissa Shaw, vice president of marketing at 3Rivers, says the What Matters campaign was a natural fit for spreading the credit union message to a mass audience.

“It wasn’t about banking or products,” she says. “It really got to the heart of what matters to people —community, family, those sorts of things.”

For television, 3Rivers’ website, social media, and billboards, the campaign featured images that showed members of the community holding signs with words describing what matters to them such as pets, college, retirement, living without debt, independence, and grandchildren.

From Data To Marketing Message

After launching the survey, 3Rivers used a variety of channels to get the word out, with emails and pop-up ads online generating the most answers. Within a few weeks, the team identified five major categories: retirement (48.7%), paying down existing debt (43.3%), creating an emergency fund (25.7%), breaking the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck (21.7%), and saving for large future expenses (13.4%).

After only a few weeks of its What Matters campaign, 3Rivers identified five major categories under which most responses fell.

The top survey response — retirement — was a bit of a surprise to the team. Instead of saving for retirement, most respondents focused on finances after retirement.

“There were write-in responses in which people talked about retirement,” Hess says. “A lot of people were saying, ‘Hey, I'm here, but I wish I had known a little bit more about what to do once I got here.’ So that's definitely helped us craft our education posts.”

Not surprisingly, with the survey happening in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the responses also concerned emergency funds and eliminating debt.

“For those write-in responses, it was cool to see what folks shared about their goals, whether it was mortgages or student loans,” Hess says. “For student loans, we heard from students as well as a few grandparents. We were able to pass them over to our student lending team — it really teed it up for a nice conversation.”

The survey data helped 3Rivers organize its marketing messages around major life events and financial priorities such as retirement, funding college, emergency funds, managing debt, major expenses, and future planning.

3Rivers’ What Matters campaign helped the cooperative organize its marketing messages around major life events and financial priorities.

A Forever Campaign

Although the campaign’s goal had nothing to do with generating cross-sales, it did create the opportunity to make follow-up calls to members who asked to be contacted. The team wasn’t able to track how many of those conversations led to new business, and Shaw says members could make decisions after a follow-up through a variety of touchpoints from branch lobbies to online interactions.

Since the launch, 3Rivers has carried the What Matters theme through key events such as the annual Taste of the Arts festival and fundraiser in Fort Wayne, which drew more than 20,000 people in August. As a sponsor, 3Rivers had five booths on-site and held a scavenger hunt with punch cards that participants could use to enter a drawing. The credit union asked visitors to respond to questions such as “What are you saving for?” and “What would you do with $1 million?”

The What Matters campaign featured images that showed members of the community holding signs with words describing what matters to them.

3Rivers’ foundation, which has given more than $1 million to nonprofits in its first seven years, also helps to reinforce the credit union’s focus on financial literacy. Other key programs include employee giving, blood drives, on-site mammography services, free seminars on student financial planning for school, and college scholarships.

According to Shaw, What Matters has been so successful that the credit union is treating it as a “forever campaign.” The team is focusing on various themes from the survey in its marketing and education programs and will adjust it as new data comes in.

The strategy going forward is to create smaller, targeted campaigns around services that matter to members such as retirement and debt refinancing.

3Rivers officially launched its What Matters campaign with a television commercial on Thanksgiving. The credit union also used emails, social media, and billboards. Click on image above or here to watch the video.

“In the past, we were always thinking: Do we needed to come up with a new product for this?” Hess says. “We realized through this survey that we have all of the products and solutions we need. It's just a matter of piecemealing them together for the members. It helped our team see how important these conversations are.”

Shaw adds that marketing teams come up with creative campaigns and ways to spend money on promotion and advertising, but measuring the impact is challenging.

“We do all these things, but is it really getting down to that individual level?” Shaw asks. “Seeing some of the ways this campaign has trickled throughout the organization was really, really cool.”