Giving the Gift of Savings – to Ourselves and Others

America Saves Week begins Sunday, February 22, and the event comes this year as consumers all across the country rededicate themselves to the principle of saving to buy later instead of charging to buy now. With this in mind, here are two credit union savings programs that crossed my desk this week that I thought I would share with you.

The Rainy Day Savings Account – Truliant FCU

Truliant’s Rainy Day Savings Account is based on the idea that pennies add up over time. On a daily basis, the credit union sweeps the change in member checking accounts to this special savings account. For new savers,  this product will teach both the power of compounding and persistence when it comes to saving money – and hopefully open the door to a new awareness of how people can take charge of their lives by paying themselves first.

The Match Savings Program – The World Council of Credit Unions

WOCCU’s recently-announced Match Savings Program allows credit union people worldwide to promote savings among impoverished  people living in rural Mexico. People who need to pay for basic things such as shoes and school gear for kids — or even a trip to the dentist — open savings accounts. As these new savers contribute to their credit union  accounts, they are matched by your contributions to the program.

All contributions are tax deductible, but the real value lies in helping people empower themselves. Times are tough and extra money is hard to find these days, but I hope you’ll give thought to supporting this wonderful program.

There’s also a Social Networking component to the Match Savings Program, so even if you can’t contribute directly to the program – you can still contribute.

The economic crisis has reminded everyone of the basic value of pay-as-you-go. Kudos to both Truliant and WOCCU for their work, and to all credit unions that are continuing to promote thrift to their membership.

Short Takes and Atta-folks for a Thursday!

The dog days of August are upon us, and that of course brings vacation and a general slackitude in many companies. However, a few credit unions have been quite busy under that summer sun …

Members Credit Union continues to shine with its What Are You Saving for?  account and blog. WAYSF is a prize-based savings account and blog. WAYSF also includes videos of some of the monthly savings winners (including the little girl above). WAYSF is getting a lot of attention among the members of Members, and is also featured in this month’s edition of Fast Company! 

Not content to rest on the laurels of the national spotlight, Members is also back with it’s Football Pick ‘Em contest. If you aren’t familiar with the contest, check out the web site and video above, starring the credit union’s newest employee – “Mattaline.” Brilliant!

Truliant Federal Credit Union is also making a nice splash, as it rolled out its newest product, a Fuel Efficient Auto Loan product. This loan features a half-a-point discount on the loan rate for new & used vehicles that get at least 29 miles-per-gallon on the highway.

The Truliant product is a nice addition – some credit unions have added loan discounts for pricier hybrid vehicles, but these discounts did not always make enough of a difference for members who were thinking of getting a hybrid — especially now that the tax credits on them have run their course. This loan product allows members a little more flexibility to trade out of their gas guzzlers, and rewards them for making a purchasing decision that helps to moderate fuel consumption.

And let’s face it, that flexibility may help Truliant & its CUABS CUSO grab a few more sales at a time when vehicle sales are tanking.

North State Telco Credit Union is a single-sponsor credit union that is working hard in the summer sun to make life better in High Point and surrounding communities. The credit union has been collecting items for the High Point Battered Women’s Shelter for the past few weeks.  The credit union’s members have donated calling cards, dishes, umbrellas, furniture, pots & pans and many other useful items.

The collected items are used by the shelter’s clients as they make the transition back in to the community. Thus far, the credit union has made two deliveries to the non-profit, with a third heading out the door this week! Kudos to the credit union and the employees of North State Telco for coming together to meet the needs of families in the High Point community!

Even as this collection fades out like the summer, the credit union is also getting two other projects off the ground. North State is selling cookbooks to fund its new scholarship fund, and collecting old cell phones to donate to Victory Junction Gang Camp. Read more about all these North State Telco initiatives by clicking here.   

These are but three examples of credit unions in NC that are working hard to improve the lives of members and non-menbers alike in the communities in which they operate. Nice work!

Truliant FCU Shines in Media Outreach in Credit Crisis

This is a bit of an update to the July 16th post about the credit crisis, and the insurance protection credit union members enjoy through NCUSIF. Credit unions across the state and nation have been busy sharing  important information with members during these uncertain times.

Truliant FCU has really done a masterful job of getting this information in front of the media through timely press releases. Last week, the credit union sent out a press release showing their mortgage closings shot up in the first six months of the year, even as the real estate market in Forsyth County and the Piedmont Triad struggled.   

A key quote from this press release:

“Our mortgage department stays extremely busy,” said Marc Schaefer, President/CEO of Truliant Federal Credit Union. “We take the necessary steps and time to analyze each member’s needs to ensure they understand all of their options and the costs associated with each. By placing this information within the context of all their financial needs we help them purchase a home that they can both enjoy and afford. As a credit union, we are member-owned and pride ourselves on doing what is best for our members.”

This quote really pushes out some clear points of differentiation for Truliant and just about every other credit union in America!

Of course, the IndyMac bank failure a couple of weeks ago also generated a lot of concern, and Truliant is taking the exceptionally wonderful step of scheduling seminars to help members understand and maximize share insurance protections. This info was also sent out to the media.

This information may or may not end up in newspapers or other forms of media – a lot of times, good news gets ignored at the expense of the sensational. And that’s too bad.

But at a clear inflection point in the economy and the financial services sector, these press releases do help Truliant differentiate itself in the eyes of reporters and editors. And in a movement that outsiders don’t understand very well, and the media sometimes forgets about, that can’t help but be positive. Keep it up!

Truliant FCU Ad Spots Win Telly Awards

Congratulations are in order to Truliant FCU and its Chapel Hill-based advertising agency, Jennings. The credit union, which worked with Jennings to produce two television ads designed to differentiate the credit union, won two Telly Awards!

The Telly Awards, which began in 1978, honor the very best local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions, and work created for the Web. The Truliant spots competed against more than 13,500 TV spots submitted from across the world.

Congratulations to the teams at Truliant and Jennings for these well-deserved awards! In a world of advertising filled with airbrushed models and soon-forgotten messages, these funky ads & the microsite that accompanies them stand out in the crowd.

Truliant FCU Ads Score Points by Pointing out Differences

True confession time from the FWIW (for what it’s worth) department – most of the bank and credit union television ads I’ve seen over the years stink. Replete with airbrushed models, canned music and formulaic jargon, the end message I get is: “We’re unique – just like everyone else.”

It was refreshing then to get a look at Truliant Federal Credit Union’s new flight of fun television ads, which are currently appearing in the Charlotte and Piedmont Triad markets. These ads use real members of the credit union with real stories about how Truliant is different.

Truliant’s Marketing/Communications Supervisor, Ryan Shell, noted that the members in the ads were pulled from success stories that the Truliant staff received. He said all of them were enthusiastic about volunteering their time to participate in the commercials.

The central message is also key here, because it relates the value of membership – but from the member’s perspective, not the credit union’s. We can get on the “member-owner-cooperative-not-for-profit-people-helping-people” soapbox every day of the week and twice on Sunday – but the truth of the matter is: it’s what credit union members understand on a personal level about those differences that matter.

In other words, it’s all just pretty rhetoric until someone discovers that these words actually mean something that is very relevant to their lives.   

On that topic of relevance – I can relate to the people I see in these ads. When I lived in Reno several years ago, I always laughed at the casino commercials that came on TV. Everybody looked like they were straight out of central casting: J-Lo and Ryan Phillippe knockoffs throwing the dice and pulling the slots. Then when you actually went to the casinos, you’d see a bunch of chain-smoking grandmas trying to score the big payoff.

While the folks in the Truliant spots don’t look like chain-smoking grandmas, they do look like people I see and interact with every day. That’s refreshing, and a wise choice.    

These TV spots are part of a broader campaign that includes print & billboard ads, as well as a micro-site called trudifferences.org. (Complete details are summarized in the press release here.)   

If I could make one suggestion, it would be that Truliant use this as a springboard to start a two-way conversation by hosting a blog tied to the campaign. I mean, they’re already asking people about their member experience on a regular basis. Why not throw it open to a wider (and less filtered) discussion?
At any rate, check out the ads and feel free to share your opinion.   

Spend, Save or Pay Bills? Here Come the Government Checks!

Truliant Federal Credit Union conducts an informal survey each year to see how members plan to spend their tax refund checks. Of course, the economic stimulus payments are also part of the mix this year (the first checks are hitting accounts today), so Truliant added a question about how members plan to use this extra money. You’ll find the results here – interesting stuff … and it reveals a change in consumer behavior due to the deteriorating economy.

My check is due in next week, and I’ve dedicated about 25% of the anticipated total to buying a hammock (in fact, I bought it Friday night and got hours of enjoyment this weekend). The rest is going to pay credit card bills. Debt retirement may not be what the government intended, but that’s what I’m planning to do just the same.

So what are you planning to do with this added money, and is the economy having an impact on your decision?