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#100MM campaign starts conversations between members, CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (7/18/14)--As more faces are being added to the americascreditunions.org gallery of 100 million memberships, credit unions and their members are chatting via social media about their relationships.
 
In a social media conversation, staff at TTCU, Tulsa, Okla., thank Heidi, a member of the $1.4 billion-asset credit union, for submitting her story and selfie to www.americascreditunions.org, which is cataloguing 100 million credit union memberships. (TTCU Photo and CUNA Photo)
The "100 Million Credit Union Memberships" project is inspiring credit union members to share how long they have been a member of their credit union and what makes their credit union special.
 
While many people cited decades of membership, a unique answer came from a member of $2.2 billion-asset Coastal FCU. Larry Apple tweeted that the passbook number on his original membership card is 59--a number that likely came from the first couple months of operations, the Raleigh, N.C., credit union responded in a Twitter conversation.
 
The #100MM hashtag is shorthand for the upcoming milestone of 100 million memberships at U.S. credit unions, captured by the www.americascreditunions.org website from the Credit Union National Association and the state credit union leagues. Leagues have been encouraging participation with newsletter articles and dedicated pages on their websites.
 
Members can share submitted selfies with the hashtag #100MM on Google+, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
 
To upload a video or photo, just visit the 100 million memberships website, complete the form, upload the image or video from your computer (or via social media) and submit.

CU System briefs (07/18/2014)

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  • MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (7/18/14)-- Mid-Atlantic Corporate FCU, Middletown, Pa., is holding fast to a resolution for 2014 to raise money and awareness for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN Hospitals), their patients and their families . This year, Mid-Atlantic Corporate planted a community garden with the intent of selling the produce to employees and donating all the funds to Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. The garden will be tended by the corporate's employees. Mid-Atlantic Corporate FCU also has joined CMN Hospitals for the annual egg hunt at Hershey Stadium, Children's Miracle Network Telethon and Chocolate Miracle 5K Race. Nine of Mid-Atlantic Corporate's employees participated in this year's Egg Stuffing Party, in which they helped The Hershey Co. stuff Easter eggs for its annual egg hunt to benefit CMN Hospitals at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. On June 21, Mid-Atlantic Corporate employees collected shoe tags from runners at the Chocolate Miracle 5K Race finish line to record their race times. The proceeds from this event went to Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. All told, Mid-Atlantic Corporate has raised $12,492.81 for CMN Hospitals in the first half of 2014 ...
  • RICHLAND, Wash., and ROME, N.Y. (7/18/14)--Two credit unions recently lent assistance to local organizations that were in financial need. Richland, Wash.-based Gesa CU, with $1.3 billion in assets, pledged matching funds of up to $15,000 to keep two local crisis centers open, the Northwest Credit Union Association reported ( Anthem July 15). The local community also donated more than $38,000. With the credit union's matching gift, more than $53,000 has now been raised. The campaign is for the continued operation of the Safe Harbor Crisis Center and My Friend's Place Teen Shelter in Kennewick. In New York state, Rome Teachers FCU donated $5,000 to help the Rome Rescue Mission meet a budget shortfall of $28,000 . John Vero, board president of the $33 million-asset credit union, told the Utica Observer-Dispatch that the decision was an easy one (July 15). "We know they feed thousands of people and provided approximately 40,000 meals for people throughout this year, and they provide education and job support for their clients, the majority of which are single women," he said ...
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CU marketer offers advice on leveraging social media

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (7/18/14)--Even if credit unions have embraced the fact that marketing to new members must include a social media strategy, for many the question remains how to develop the most effective and engaging campaign.

Social media has armed consumers with a voice and with more power than they've ever had, Melissa Herrington, Garland County Educators FCU, Hot Springs, Ark., with $3.5 million in assets, recently told Cornerstone Credit Union League magazine Perspectives ( Leaguer July 17).

Now, modern marketers have the task of deciphering how to leverage that development into growing their brands and influencing consumer behavior, she said.

"While there are many factors to consider when building a social media strategy, if credit union marketers view social media through a philosophical lens, that is, if they choose strategies that play to their strengths in an effort to be authentic to their membership base and to the ideals of the movement, (consumers) will be more apt to 'like' and 'share' in their marketing efforts," Herrington said.

To engage an audience through social media, Herrington suggests the following ideas:
  • Publish content specific to select employee groups that's informative, entertaining and educational. "Remember, it's not about you, it's about how your products and services can make your members' lives easier and help them become owners of their financial futures," Herrington said.
     
  • Recruit loyal members to be ambassadors for the credit union and ask them for input on social media content development. If they're invested in a meaningful and authentic way, Herrington says, they will be more likely to take ownership of the process and spread the word about the credit union.
     
  • Share the message that credit unions are different from other businesses, and explain how.
"The modern marketing strategy is to create content for specific groups of people so that when they see it, it not only resonates, but motivates them to take action," Herrington said.

Minn. foundation fits fast feet to fin. lit.

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (7/18/14)--The Minnesota Credit Union Foundation (MCUF) is taking steps to improve financial literacy in the state of Minnesota. As part of that effort, the foundation recently asked supporters to take steps as well: five kilometers-worth of them.

The Minnesota Credit Union Foundation's Financial Literacy 5K helps raise awareness for financial education. The inaugural race was July 12 at Lake Normandale in Bloomington, Minn. (Minnesota Credit Union Foundation Photo)
Nearly 300 people participated in MCUF's inaugural Financial Literacy 5K, held in Lake Normandale in Bloomington, Minn. The event, which featured a walk/run for adults and a half-mile run for kids, included awards for first-place male and female finishers, and for the top three male and female finishers in six age categories.

Credit unions, schools and organizations who registered five or more participants were eligible to win the team award, which will be announced this month.

"Hosting this 5K event raises awareness of the need for consumers to have greater knowledge and understanding of money management," said Pat Brekken, MCUF chair. "The strong turnout today highlights the key role that credit unions play in improving the lives of the members and communities they serve."

Added Kristina Wright, MCUF executive director: "Our efforts as a foundation are small compared to the time and energy that our state's credit unions dedicate on an ongoing basis to providing personal finance education to members, students and members of the community."

Virtual cash becomes reality with Grow Financial's money machine

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TAMPA, Fla. (7/18/14)--Standing inside a gusty money machine booth trying to snatch dollar bills out of thin air can be pretty difficult. Even more so when the money isn't real.

Grow Financial FCU's Virtual Money Machine brings an interactive aspect to a cash-grab at its new location in local mall after moving from the Tampa, Fla.-based credit union's main branch. (Grow Financial FCU Photo)
Grow Financial FCU's Virtual Money Machine, which captures the fun of the real version of the money-grab game in a digitally simulated form, was recently relocated from the Tampa-based, $2 billion-asset credit union's main branch to a local mall, where even more people, including nonmembers, can try it out.

"By placing this large-scale kiosk/ATM in a mall, it not only serves a functional purpose, but also acts as a great marketing platform," said Steve Birnhak, CEO of Inwindow Outdoor, the New York-based company that developed the machine.

The virtual money kiosk, which doubles as an ATM, is driven by an "augmented reality, motion reactive video mirror" that features six touch-sensitive, high-definition screens.

Both members and nonmembers can play the virtual money-grab game. Participants can win $25 toward a checking account, $100 toward an automobile loan and $300 for a mortgage loan.

"Grow Financial wanted to incorporate technology in a way that would be both exciting and engaging, which is not something you typically encounter with financial services companies," Birnhak said. "The virtual money machine is a terrific example of a company reaching its audience in an entertaining way that can result in new customers before they walk in the door."

N.Y. CUs collaborate on robbery prevention

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (7/18/14)--Several New York state credit unions recently collaborated to turn one of the most traumatic experiences of working at a financial institution--robbery--into an example of friendship and support.
 
In the aftermath of two robberies last year, Bob Mace, president/CEO of Finger Lakes Health Care FCU, Elmira, with $24 million in assets, decided to make structural changes to make his branch safer, the Credit Union Association of New York reported ( The Point July 17). In total, new bulletproof glass, camera systems and steel-enforced doors cost the credit union more than $40,000--a significant, but necessary cost, according to Mace. "We had to ensure the safety of employees and our members," he said.
 
Mace also had the support of his local credit union colleagues. "After our robberies, I immediately heard from our fellow credit unions inquiring about our well-being and offering to help in any way," he said.
 
Unbeknownst to Mace and the staff at Finger Lakes Health Care FCU, several other area credit unions--ServU FCU, Painted Post, with $246 million in assets; First Heritage FCU, Painted Post, with $297 million in assets, and Corning FCU, with $1 billion in assets--had begun collecting donations to help offset the costs Finger Lakes Health Care FCU incurred in upgrading its facility. In a matter of weeks, the three credit unions were able to raise $10,500, which was then donated during a surprise visit to Finger Lakes Health Care FCU's Elmira office.
 
"One positive aspect of our two recent robberies is that you surely find comfort in the kindnesses of others," said Mace. "In our case it's been the remarkable involvement and camaraderie of our fellow credit unions."
 
Kenneth Peworchik, Finger Lakes Health Care FCU board chairman, added,"Makes me proud to be associated with the credit unions of our area."

Choosing CU membership helped immigrant achieve his dreams

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MADISON, Wis. (7/18/14)--Daman Davila, a staff writer reporting for Wise Bread , a community of bloggers that helps consumers "live large on a small budget," offered "9 Good Reasons to Choose a Credit Union Instead of a Bank" in a recent post.
 
Davila shared his personal experience. "I am huge believer in credit unions," he wrote. "When I first arrived to the U.S., I only had my savings and my dreams of completing an MBA degree. As an immigrant I didn't have a credit history or a U.S. bank account. This meant that many big names in banking were hesitant to give me a chance. This made qualifying for a credit card or becoming eligible for a car loan very challenging. Thanks to a local credit union, I was not only able to achieve these milestones, but also build my credit history and become financially independent."

Here are the reasons Davila cited to choose a credit union instead of a bank:
  • Credit unions have owners. As owners of their financial institutions, credit union members have a say in how the organization is run. Credit unions--and all cooperatives--are governed by a one-member, one-vote rule. Also, when a credit union makes a profit, it is used to provide better opportunities to the community that it serves.
  • Accounts have fewer and lower fees. "Unlike big banks, credit unions aim to minimize account fees," Davila wrote. "For example, credit unions are well known for not charging monthly maintenance fees, which are about $12 to $14 at big-name banks."
  • Clerks talk with you. Credit unions are known for providing personal service, Davila wrote. "For example, in my first year I miscalculated an incoming paycheck and wrote a check that was $10 over my balance," he explained. "Instead of charging me an overdraft fee, a rep from my credit union gave me a call. He asked me if I could make a deposit to cover the $10 difference. Also, my credit union gave me a one-time overdraft fee waiver because they understood that it was a rookie mistake."
  • Lower financing costs and higher payouts. Data from the National Credit Union Administration consistently shows that credit unions outperform banks. For example, in March, credit unions had a national average rate of 4.75% for home equity loans, while banks had a 5.33% average rate. A $2,500 money market investment would have paid an average 0.16% at credit unions and an average 0.12% at banks. A $10,000 5-year certificate of deposit yielded a national average of 1.32% at credit unions, 1.14% at banks.
  • Access to financing for low-income individuals. Credit unions do not only offer cheaper financing options, but also provide low-income or financially distressed individuals a chance to qualify for financing.
  • Friendly credit card terms. Credit unions are well-known for providing some of the most attractive credit cards, no annual fees,  no introductory rates and low annual percentage rates. "My very first credit card was through my credit union and I still keep it until this day," Davila wrote. "I have not been able to find a credit card that matches the great terms that my credit union offers."
  • Car loans. As of March 2014, a 48-month new-car loan stood at a national average of 2.69% at credit unions, and of 4.94% at banks. For 48-month used-car loans, the average rate was 2.87% for credit unions, 5.48% for banks.
  • Private lines of credit for college students. Some credit unions partner with private student-loan providers to offer lines of credit to supplement college education costs.
  • Christmas and club savings accounts. Savings club accounts help members set aside money on a monthly basis, and then withdraw it at a certain time for big expenses. Some banks offer savings clubs, but consumers are more likely to find them at credit unions, because the accounts aren't designed to generate profits ( News Now March 6).