Lessons Learned Deliver ROI In Giving Away $100 Bills To Locals

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LIVONIA, Mich.-Last year Co-op Services CU learned an important lesson about randomly giving away $100 bills to local residents — now, CSCU is better be prepared to talk to the press.

Co-op Services CU conducted Project 100 in 2009 (Credit Union Journal, Oct. 12, 2009), giving away $100 bills to 100 people in 100 days. The effort generated over one-million media impressions, which is why Co-op is running the campaign again, and it's on track to do even better in 2010.

"It's been remarkable," said Lisa Fawcett, marketing manager for Co-op. "We have been through the first week and we have been covered by the Detroit News, two local TV channels, a morning radio show, UPI, NPR, and another story is scheduled for next week. People already know about us from last time, and we're happy to see they're glad we're back."

Gregory Wohler, president of Edge Creative Group in Ferndale, Mich., which developed Project 100, said the key lesson learned from last year's effort at Co-op is that the CU must be prepared to take advantage of all the media opportunities. "You have to have an appropriate press response at the ready and staff at the credit union must be prepared to jump when the media requests come in. The press, as we know, is on a schedule."

Wohler said the credit union should also be prepared to explain the program's details as it hands over the cash to local residents. "When you go out into the community and give away $100 bills, you think people will fall all over themselves for the money. But that is not always the case, since some think it's a scam. We have refined the approach and now have a training package we give to the credit union to prep staff before they hit the streets."

Edge has franchised Project 100, and the program includes a press response kit, giveaways including t-shirts, marketing materials, a website, and training to prepare staff to interact with the public. Cost is about $50,000, according to Wohler. E&A CU in Port Huron, Mich., is currently running Project 100, and Edge is in talks with four other CUs across the country.

The Project 100 website-which includes recommendations for ways to give back within the local community-is integral the program's ability to extend its reach into the community, Wohler insisted. When credit union employees hand an individual $100, they ask the person to give back to the community in some manner, and then visit the website and report what they did. "The website is big in terms of spreading the Project 100 message," Wohler said. "To drive more traffic to the site, this year credit unions will invite people around town to go to the website and nominate someone who could use $100. When 100 days are up, we'll randomly draw some of those names."

The $220-million E&A CU has been running Project 100 for more than 60 days. Jenny Bulgrien, manger of marketing, said it has been the most effective community awareness program it has conducted. "It is really working and getting our credit union a lot of free press and name recognition in the community."

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