How 1 CU Took A Little Cash, Went A Long Way

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JOLIET, Ill.-Employees of NuMark CU have been spreading cash-and the credit union word-among small businesses here.

NuMark's Community Give Back Program handed each of the CU's 68 employees $50 to spend at a local business in any manner they chose. Some spent the cash all at once, while others used the money multiple times. But when employees made a purchase, they gave the business owner a card that explained they were from NuMark and that the money was provided by the credit union.

"We explained that this is a special program designed to help support locally owned businesses, who like the credit union, are invested in the community," said Marketing Director Kari Endres. "The owners were really touched by this, and so many said they did not realize a bank would do something like this."

Endres it was no surprise that local businesses didn't know NuMark was a credit union, or the difference between a CU and a bank. She said the give back, which ran for a month, was also aimed at spreading the word about credit unions, especially during a time when banks are getting so much bad publicity. "This really demonstrated the difference between a bank and a credit union. Businesses see that we are here to help them, and that we are part of the community."

Employees were given a list of 55 businesses that were chosen by the credit union, all within a few miles of each of one of the CU's three locations. NuMark developed the strategy after joining a local small business affiliation called Will Buy Locally. "That prompted discussions about how many of the small businesses are struggling and we asked ourselves what we could do to help them grow," Endres said.

Not Completely Altruistic
The move is not completely altruistic, acknowledged Endres, as she believes the effort will bring NuMark small business accounts down the road. "We offer business services and business loans, and we are nearby. I think the give back will make some owners think of the credit union first when they have a need."

It already did with the owner of a local pottery store, where Endres spent her $50. "She is only three miles from our main office and she said she had not been aware of us," noted Endres. "Now she's going to stop by and check us out."

Besides having an extra $50 to spend-a morale booster-employees gained a much better understanding of the types of local business and the people who run them, which will help staff as they do their jobs, Endres believes. "It also showed our employees, first-hand, how credit unions are different and how we make a difference in our communities."

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