Online Database Matching Prospects With CUs Growing

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CU Match Up, a searchable database of credit union information designed to pair people with the credit unions they are eligible to join, is growing rapidly despite a non-existent advertising budget, according to its founders.

The California Credit Union League started the CU Match Up program in 1998. Kim Bannan, the league's VP-CU development, said Idaho became the most recent state league to put its credit unions in the database when it joined the program in November. CU Match Up now has 5,095 credit unions in its database-or roughly half of all CUs in the United States-from 21 states and the District of Columbia.

"We are very excited about the program," said Bannan. "It is a cooperative effort that helps the whole credit union movement."

Joy Tafarella, the CCUL's foundation services manager, said the program benefits awareness of CUs as a whole.

'Bet You Can Join'

"Many people tell me they think they can't join a credit union, but I bet them they can. Then I enter their information and search the database," she said. "We get quite a few calls from people, and every call we've gotten we've found them a credit union. There are many more community credit unions than there ever were, so we often can default with one of those."

Added Bannan, "We even use the database when legislators call the league to ask 'Which credit unions are in my area?' "

The California League's CU Match Up Web site is When New Jersey joined the program, CU Affiliates of New Jersey brought along the domain name "joinacu" .com, .net and .org. Typing "www.joinacu" with any of those top level domains into a browser redirects the viewer to the main CU Match Up site.

When a potential credit union member visits the CU Match Up site, he or she can search by state (if their state league belongs to the program) either by clicking on a map of the U.S. or by using pulldown menus available in English or Spanish. The person then types in information about their city and county of residence, name and city of employer, their religious affiliation, plus any ethnic, associational or organizational affiliations.

Within a few seconds, the person is given a list of credit unions he or she might be eligible to join, including detailed contact information. In some cases, the person may be able to request the CU contact him or her via e-mail with membership information.

The site has a toll-free telephone number for people to call if they have problems or questions. Each state refers people back to its respective league.

More Marketing In 2003

Bannan said the site recently has been averaging 4,700 hits per month from people across the country-4,200 in September, 5,300 in October and 5,000 in November. From California alone, the site received 1,000 hits each in September and October, and 1,400 in November.

"We're growing," she said, "even though we haven't done any advertising other than 'meta' text on the website so it appears on search engines. We'll do more marketing this year."

One piece of information unavailable is the number of members whose membership is directly attributable to CU Match Up. Credit unions are not required to report back and the data is not captured. The program is low maintenance, noted Tafarella, because the participating CUs enter and update their own information, such as when they add a SEG or open a branch.

"The league didn't want to be responsible for incorrect data, and we think it is more timely this way," said Tafarella. "We send the credit unions quarterly reminders to update their information."

The league also instructs CUs to use multiple listings to maximize the matches. For example, "LDS" would not directly match "Latter-Day Saints" in the religious affiliation category.

Bannan said the league will input the information on behalf of a small CU that otherwise can't do so.

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