Minnesota CU To Pick Up Home Heating Tab

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For six lucky people in the Greater Twin Cities community, winter is going to be warm and worry-free thanks to a new promotion of US Federal Credit Union.

The Free Heat Sweepstakes, launched to promote awareness about the credit union and increase lobby traffic at its branches, will give $500 toward natural gas bills to each of the winning entrants.

Diana Booth, marketing assistant at USFCU, said the staff at all branches has asked to be on alert for contest participants. "We will ask if they are familiar with our credit union and credit unions in general," she said. "It won't be a hard sales pitch."

She said anyone interested in more information will receive a new credit union sales packet that outlines the CU's products and services. USFCU has $576 million in assets and 73,000 members.

While USFCU is 80 years old-the oldest credit union in the state, in fact-its community charter is still fairly new, said Megan Primeau, senior marketing specialist.

"We converted to a community charter a mere 16 months ago so we are still very much in our infancy when it comes to community presence and awareness initiatives," she said. "For 79 years prior, we were unable to service these communities in this fashion. That has all changed."

Primeau's sweepstakes idea was triggered by increasing gas prices and news that this winter's heating expenses are expected to be at an all time high.

"Everyone was doing free gas promotions, so we wanted to offer something a bit more unique," she said. "And goodness knows, Minnesotans are thinking of their impending heating bills a lot these days."

To qualify, entrants need only to fill out a form - available in community newspapers throughout the Twin Cities metro area - and drop it off at any USFCU branch.

The print promotion shows an obviously frustrated woman pulling at her hair and asks, "Steamed by high heating bills?" It answers with an offer of a "toasty feeling" with some financial help. It includes a simple entry form and the CU's logo, location and contact information.

Membership is not required to participate, Booth said. Winners will be selected the first week of December.

Primeau said the entries have been uniquely coded to gauge the effectiveness of the various publications in which the advertisement is running.

"We're able to identify where entries are coming from which tells us, in part, how effective some of our media channels might be."

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