Checking Promo Offers Benefits To Local Schools

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PLEASANTON, Calif.-Summer vacation may have just begun, but 1st United Services Credit Union here is already thinking about back to school-or, more specifically, its "Back to Schools Challenge," which gives local institutions the chance to win as much as $10,000.

John Ferver, brand manager for the $785-million, 45,000-member CU, explained that for every new checking account or loan issued between April 1 and June 30, members and non-members can nominate a school of their choice to win the funds. The money itself comes from a fund that increases with each new account or loan.

The credit union contributes $2 for each of the first 1,000 new accounts or loans, said Ferver. Once that number is reached, each new account is a $10 match.

"Our goal would be between $2,000 and $5,000 available for the program, but if we hit a home run and open a lot of accounts, we decided to set the upper threshold at $10,000," said Ferver.

He noted that the credit union typically opens about 1,000 checking accounts or new loan accounts between April and June. As of the last week of April, about $500 had been raised.

"The budget crisis and the economy have really impacted the schools tremendously," said Ferver. "A lot of our members are affiliated with the county or are teachers or have kids in the local schools, and one of the things we hear again and again is that a lot of extra fund-raising is necessary for these schools to be able to provide a quality variety of services. So everybody in the community out here is really feeling these cutbacks on the schools."

How Program Works

Upon signing up for eligible products-either online or at the branch-members can nominate a specific school to receive the funds. 1st United Services is using a number of different metrics to track the campaign's success, including the total number of accounts opened, which schools receive nominations and specific offer codes that go along with the promotion. Ferver explained that while there are no special rates associated with the program, the credit union always gives members information on its other products and attempts to cross-sell when new accounts or loans are opened.

1st United Services ran a similar promotion in 2010, and Ferver said that there was so much positive feedback that doing a similar promotion for 2011 was a no-brainer. "We have a strong history of partnering with schools and in the communities around our branches, and we wanted this to be the centerpiece of the first half of the year," he said.

The challenge won't be complete until the end of June, and the winning schools will receive funding in July, with students heading back to the classroom in the third week of August. So while it's a bit early in the year to be thinking about back to school, the timing actually lines up almost perfectly, said Ferver. He noted that while the challenge does not have a specific financial-education component linked to it, the credit union offers several through its SEGs, at branches and in schools, all of which are "an ongoing effort parallel to this one."

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