Local Collaboration for State-Wide Awareness: ILCUnite

National campaigns have helped give the Credit Union movement a unifying voice and a message to engage and empower members. However, research has shown that many members still cannot accurately describe the Credit Union difference and PSCU recently stated that 71% of millennials do not know what a credit union is. The local collaboration for state-wide awareness program takes the idea of national campaigns like Unite for Good, and connects credit unions at the state and local level with a microsite and events to better educate and engage members and potential members. 

Unlike the banking industry, we can differentiate ourselves on our cooperative business model and the collaboration that exists between credit unions. Choosing a strategy to outwardly show our communities how we work together as a movement through joint efforts gives credit unions additional public awareness opportunities and shows how we operate by the cooperative principles. Utilizing social media, the program reaches members and potential members of all ages, particularly younger generations that credit unions need to connect with and educate in order to remain sustainable. 

The state-wide awareness project, called ILCUnite for Illinois credit unions, accomplishes its goal by leveraging our strengths as collaborators with each other to generate and share our stories with our community. With support from the League to host and set up the ILCUnite microsite on their website, a majority of the content is generated from participating credit unions, making it easy to maintain. With social media as a major component, ILCUnite can be implemented with little cost to the credit unions and can be accessible to a wide range of asset sizes. Taking advantage of in-person opportunities like chapter meetings and state conferences, the League and participants can encourage engagement from other credit unions, making the program sustainable over time. 

A mock-up site was created for the Illinois League’s Small Asset Size Conference to test the concept and the design. The microsite was broken into 3 subpages. The first was a homepage with a community events calendar, hashtag feed for #ILCUnite, and a collaboration forum for live and online events, campaigns and fundraisers. The second page was dedicated to information about national campaigns and how to participate. The third page had information on social media best practices, including how to choose and get started with a platform, creating a plan and writing a policy. 

Feedback from attendees showed strong interest and support for the program. A major concern for having a presence on social media was generating content. Having a community site hosted by the League with content to share that showcased how credit unions are making a difference in Illinois was a popular concept. One insight we gained from the conference attendees’ feedback is that we need to start by assessing the level of engagement that Illinois credit unions have on social media. Because many from the small asset group do not have a presence on social media, there is a need for additional support, planning and policy guidance. To address this, the time and personnel requirements for content posting, the Illinois League is working with a group of small asset credit unions to see how they can provide social media assistance so more credit unions are in a position to participate in the ILCUnite program. 

With our initial feedback, I am finishing the development of the ILCUnite site’s content for the League to make live on their website. As we gain traction with Illinois credit unions through in-person program promotion, we will gauge our success based on the number of credit unions who participate, collaboration projects, and the increase in new memberships. I hope to have at least 50% of Illinois credit unions with a social media presence using the joint hashtag #ILCUnite weekly by the end of 2015, participating in at least one collaboration project per quarter, and seeing an increase in membership over their previous year’s numbers, adjusted for additional promotions.

If the local collaboration for state-wide awareness project is successful with ILCUnite, we will also see additional community engagement through social media throughout Illinois. Members will begin to look at their credit union as part of a larger movement and understand that we are collaborative with each other under our common philosophy of people helping people.

Jennifer Laud