'Go Local' Give-Back Garners CU New Members

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MADISON, Wis.-Heartland CU here wrapped up its "Go Local" campaign by awarding $10,000 to a non-profit organization selected by members of the community the credit union serves.

Between August and December 2010, members of the community nominated a number of local non-profits that could receive a grand total of $75,000 from Heartland Credit Union, which was seeking to give back to the community through donations and sponsorships, including a grand-prize of $10,000. A panel of judges culled the community's selections down to a dozen, from which local consumers then voted on their favorite-more than 40,000 votes were cast between January and April of 2011.

While the Madison Dental Initiative-a free dental clinic serving the region's homeless population-was chosen by the community as the organization most deserving of the $10,000, the credit union was also a big winner, according to VP of Marketing Robin Marohn.

Marohn explained that prior to launching Go Local, membership had been stagnant for the last 12 to 18 months, but Heritage had seen its first two months of positive growth toward the tail end of the promotion. Heartland CU currently has 16,600 members and $168 million in assets. In addition, many of those new members were in the 30- to 45-year-old age group, continuing a trend at the CU as membership there gets younger.

Most of the new members signed up for the Go Local checking account. Account-holders earn dividends, "but the member can donate those dividends to a local charity," said Marohn. "People that were opening up new memberships were opening up checking accounts because they liked the idea of benefitting local businesses."

One of the goals for the promotion was to drive Web traffic and create greater brand awareness, said Marohn. When Go Local launched, the CU's e-branch was seeing about 1,800 hits per day; by the time the promotion ended that number had risen to about 3,900.

"We've not maintained that rate, but we're between 20% and 25% improvement in our monthly numbers since the promotion," said Marohn. Moreover, using Google Analytics, Heritage Credit Union was able to determine that of those consumers who visited the "Go Local" microsite, about 15% visited other parts of Heartland's website to investigate the CU and the services it offers.

Marohn noted that "the new business that comes on board isn't going to cover the costs associated with this program," which eats up as much as 40% of the CU's marketing budget. But "rather than do pure advertising, we chose to do public relations and cause marketing," said Marohn. "It's an investment; we're thinking we're going to see consistent returns down the road."

Heartland has committed to running the program again for each of the next three years, and "given the overall response we've gotten this first round," officials are confident that it will pay off.

"The existing members love it, because they like seeing their credit union do this kind of thing," said Marohn. "And the people that are coming to us are coming to us because they like it too."

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