From big banks to community credit unions, financial institutions of all sizes can learn lessons from community engagement programs that are being implemented across the country. A great example of this is connecting with the local community through local grants and marketing giveaways. Renee Shipko, Community Engagement Liaison at Truliant Federal Credit Union, discusses recent opportunities Truliant FCU has leveraged to connect with their local markets.
In a few sentences, could you tell us a bit more about Truliant Federal Credit Union?
Truliant was chartered in 1952 to serve the employees of Western Electric and was known as Radio Shops Credit Union, serving about 2,000 members and holding approximately $100,000 in assets. In the 1990s, we opened our field of member-ownership to various groups and companies, which prompted our name change to Truliant in 1999 to better reflect our growing and diversified membership. Truliant Federal Credit Union was chartered in 1952 to serve the employees of Western Electric and was known as Radio Shops Credit Union, serving approximately 2,000 members and holding approximately $100,000 in assets. In the 1990s, we opened our Field of Member-Ownership to various groups and companies, which prompted our name change to Truliant in August 1999 to better reflect our growing and diversified field of membership.
Today, we serve more than 180,000 member-owners with assets nearing $1.6 billion and we extend our valuable services to more than 1,100 organizations located throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
Our strength is in our commitment to always have our member’s best interest at heart by providing the ease and convenience of innovative, automated services combined with the friendly, personal attention they expect and deserve. As a result, we offer a full array of financial services, including low-rate consumer loans, high-yield savings programs, commercial deposit and loan programs and many additional services.
As Truliant Federal Credit Union expands, how have you worked to maintain close relationships with local communities? Does each location have different initiatives in place? Any of the same?
We’re committed to improving lives in our member-owner communities. We sponsor a variety of events and programs, like our Community Mini Grants initiative which is just one way we enhance financial literacy, support creativity through the arts and cultural programming, and build strong communities through business development.
Another way we reach out to local communities is through innovative marketing campaigns. We just wrapped up a campaign, dubbed MyWhy, in which we gave away four $25,000 prizes to deserving individuals for projects that would improve their lives. For two of our winners, the MyWhy funds will provide project seed funding.
Our MyWhy contest asked those who are eligible for Truliant membership about the life improving ways they would spend $25,000. Our MyWhy panel selected Chandra McCloud as one of our Charlotte winners. McCloud is a longtime dance educator at Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte. She said that many of her dance students struggle to afford summer dance classes, buy dance attire and go on the dance-related field trips that will take them to the next level. She plans to use the $25,000 as seed money for a scholarship fund to help her students.
Another of our winners, Kaylan Frazier, has been drawing up plans for a mobile juice bar business. The cost of entry into any urban market is going to be high. For the food truck business, Frazier, who is a college student at the American College of Healthcare Sciences, has a different take on the standard fare. She wants to offer nutritious, healthy smoothies. Our MyWhy panel decided this was a worthy project and she’ll have $25,000 to invest in her business.
What is an example of a recent initiative in place to increase engagement between Truliant Federal Credit Union and the local community?
The Community Mini Grant program is a great example of an initiative to increase engagement between Truliant Federal Credit Union and our local communities. Prior to 2014, the Mini Grant program functioned much like other grant programs in that non-profit organizations were encouraged to apply for a grant up to $1,000 and funding decisions were made internally by selected staff members.
Last year, Truliant transformed our Community Mini Grant program to allow our local communities to have a voice in the process. The application period for the Community Mini Grant program is open now through July 17, 2015, at which time the applicant pool will be narrowed by an internal review process. In August, finalists for the Mini Grant program will be featured on our Truliant.org website and in social media as we encourage our local communities to rally behind their favorite project and cast their vote.
This year our Community Mini Grant categories include financial education, basic needs (shelter, food, etc.), arts and culture and youth programs, and we are already attracting a variety of applications this year. Grant funding will be decided based on a formula including the total number of votes a project receives and other factors.
What feedback has Truliant Federal Credit Union received from this initiative? Have members shown interest in it?
In fall 2014, Truliant tested the crowdsourcing element with the Community Mini Grant program. We had more than 100 nonprofit organizations apply initially for the grants and we were able to narrow those down to 40 organizations and their projects were featured on our Facebook page. From there, we received more than 3,600 total votes through Facebook during this campaign. We had an overwhelming response from the nonprofits, who were excited to energize their fan base and increase exposure for their organization, and from voters, who were excited to cast their votes for their favorite nonprofits.
What can other financial institutions learn from this?
Engaging with our local communities is paramount to building relationships and establishing trust, and at Truliant, we’ve worked hard to increase our community engagement efforts in the last year. Community involvement also means more than just writing a check – it truly means providing opportunities for your members or customers to interact with your brand and really get to know you and your mission.
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