Education through Partnership. Joining into the Lives of Our Members

“There’s not enough time in the day”, a statement uttered by everyone at some time. Or how about, “I’ll get around to it when I find time”. Problem is, these statements lead to unintended consequences. Too often, we see individuals, of all ages, come through our doors seeking help and advice in the aftermath of financial turmoil. They, like I, have procrastinated. Only after spending their last pennies at Mickey D’s do they realize there is an issue (I am personally a fan of quarter pounder with cheese). So, when did trial and error take the place of financial literacy?

Simplifying the learning process is always the goal, but “how to?” is the real hurdle. That moment of clarity came when Commonwealth Credit Union partnered with the University of Louisville as their preferred Credit Union. The partnership opened new doors into the lives of our youth. Along with the partnership came trust, which allowed us to shake this awkward sidekick named solicitation.

Our contract with the University produced several advantages, including a future on-campus branch. Although this allowed us to become established, we still were not known. We couldn’t wait for a brick and mortar branch so we decided to establish an immediate presence with a “Boots on the Ground” campaign. In the first year, while the branch was under construction, we went around on foot and introduced ourselves to every building, department, association, alumni group, facility and coffee hut on this side of the Mississippi, A.K.A. campus. This is where the glare became the light. As we ventured out, we discovered the mobile office was becoming our mobile classroom. The education component that drives us as credit union believers was setting us apart from our competition. Through our mobility we were taking the personal service of our credit union to new heights. 

Being hands-on was the driving force behind the word of mouth advertising that was playing a pivotal role in developing volume. We saw a dramatic increase in memberships in our quarterly numbers. During the second quarter of our partnership we saw memberships triple in size over the first quarter.  From freshman to faculty, we broke down barriers by offering financial literacy programs to the core of the University’s population. We were walking billboards throughout the University. Offering up our “Lunch and Learn” program where we provide lunch and financial education for free. We promoted our “Stop and Save” program; which allows us to break down one’s liabilities while educating the member on how to consolidate debt and rebuild credit scores.

Grabbing the attention of the student body required a creative angle. We delivered cookies and coffee during finals week. We teamed up with First Year Initiatives to welcome students back from Christmas and summer breaks and we are currently hitting the weight room after work in preparation for helping the freshman class of 2020 move into their dorms during Welcome Week. Our biggest impact on the student body came this past spring when we partnered with the University’s Library to host “Money Week”. Students who attended our financial literacy courses were entered into a drawing for 1 of 3 scholarship grants donated by Commonwealth CU.

Our aim has always been to educate our members. By doing so, we earn their trust, which leads to their advocacy. When we meet their needs, on their terms, our members become our cheerleaders and join our “Boots on the Ground” campaign through their own testimonials. Partnering with Universities gives us that advantage by placing us in the paths of our potential members early in life. Having the ability to reach them before they make the same mistakes that we made will be critical in developing a millennial presence in our industry. According to 2012 Fox Business Article, 83% of teens do not know how to manage money, which is one of the most important skills one can possess in life.

Operation “Boots on the Ground” is utilizing the University’s campus as our backyard to engage the next wave of youth to come through our economy. What we do now will create a ripple effect that will influence multiple generations. Strategically joining the lives of the millennial foundation is crucial to forming lifelong financial partnerships. From the time they step onto campus until the time they step into retirement, we want to walk through life with our members because “Boots on the Ground” is the start of a lifelong journey.

Raffo Wimsett