Your Members Need Financial Education and Money Management Resources

 

Inflation rates, gas prices, homes – everything is going up. And that puts more stress on your credit union members. It’s especially difficult for your members that fall near or below the poverty line.

And while no amount of financial education can fix unprecedented circumstances of life, your credit union is one of the only places that can offer people the financial education and money management resources they need when they need them.

Since the holidays are approaching, we thought now would be a great time to offer some tips to help your CU offer resources that can make a difference.

Your Members Are Facing Tough Times

Your members are carrying heavy financial burdens that they take on very early in life. 45 million Americans hold federal student loan debt, and after the events of 2020, financial security as a whole has felt much less attainable for so many of your credit union members.

Because of this and other factors we mentioned above, it’s clear that now is the right time to make sure you are offering quality financial education options and money management resources to your member base. Here are some of the best ways to do that.

Know Your Audience

In general, American adults have a poor understanding of how their finances work. As a credit union, it’s your job to foster relationships with your members to build trust and share helpful knowledge about banking best practices.

The first step in that journey is to know your audience. Use the data from your members and take a look at how they’re using their money. Is it personal loans? Mortgages? Whatever the case, your members are looking to you to offer solutions and education.

To get to know your audience, you can run surveys online or get feedback in person. Ask your members what topics confuse them the most. A class on investing in stocks is a great resource, but only if your member base is financially stable enough o do that kind of investing. Most often, it’s the day-to-day and future planning items that people want to know about: they want to know how to pay their bills and still save money, and they want to know how much money they need to retire comfortably.

In lower-income areas, some of these resources for financial education and money management may include classes on how to apply for government-sponsored housing and food assistance. Knowing your audience is a crucial step in planning an effective financial literacy program at your credit union.

Lean on What’s Out There

You don’t have time to reinvent the wheel – if you are hoping to offer basic money management classes at your credit union, do some research first. Check out the experts in the field – do they have free resources? Can you host or purchase these resources or classes and offer them to your members? Are these experts available to host in-person or virtual interactive classes?

There’s no need for you or your employees to spend time trying to create a money management class or helpful guides from scratch – there are thousands of templates and resources from top universities that you can include in your list of resources on your website.

Divide these resources into tiers – your website visitors can choose from the list based on their expertise level.

You can also create resources based on some Google search data. For example, when the interest rates on mortgages started going up, there was an uptick in searches for mortgage calculators and other resources that explained how to determine how much a low- or middle-class member should be spending on a new home.

There were also more searches for comparison data between renting and owning homes in many areas. Your credit union can also partner with other service providers to help create a more transparent and educational experience for those looking to increase their money management knowledge to make big financial moves in the future.

IMS Integration – Digital Solutions That Make a Difference for Your Members

A huge part of the struggle to close financial education gaps comes from a lack of accessibility. And at IMSI Integration, we believe that banking services should always be more accessible, not less. That’s why we offer tailored software and technology that can reach your members and help them reach their financial goals through your credit union’s services.

With tools like web loan applications, online account opening, and Skip a Pay, we are bringing your credit union’s most powerful products to your members in a more efficient and impactful way.


Financial Inclusion & Its Role in Your CU Growth

 

Our sister site, IMS, recently featured a blog article discussing ways you can foster financial inclusion within your credit union.

Financial inclusion is part of a larger conversation taking place right now about how individuals and businesses are creating solutions and campaigns that foster diversity, equity, and inclusion for everyone who interacts with their brands.

CUs Are Perfect for Fostering Financial Inclusion

The history of credit unions is one that centers these institutions as a perfect partner in the financial inclusion conversation. Credit unions often serve areas that other banks and financial institutions don’t focus on. This includes marginalized and underserved communities in both urban and rural areas of the country.

As member-owned, not-for-profit businesses, credit unions have the luxury of already being positioned to create solutions that serve communities with specific cultures and religious affiliations, and even areas with specific financial needs.

CUs already work to promote local businesses and local charities. The conversation doesn’t have to be about catering to massive audiences and trying to implement a bunch of one-size-fits-all programs that can help everyone in small ways.

You can create spaces that highlight the cultures and perspectives that most represent and foster the diversity of the communities you’re already serving or are hoping to serve in the future.

Stabilizing Financial Tools

Many areas with diverse populations (both in culture as well as financial situation) will also benefit from the stabilizing financial tools that come from the implementation of financial inclusion practices.

These can be things like helping set up accounts so that those who are receiving government assistance like unemployment are able to access those funds quickly and record them accurately for tax and other financial planning purposes. It can also include things like calculator tools for car or mortgage payments, online self service forms, eStatements, online account opening, and Skip a Pay.

These stabilizing financial tools can help orient members who are still learning how to manage their finances, encourage others to enroll in programs that can help them pay down debt or increase their savings, and so much more.

It Starts with Your Staff

Your credit union’s financial inclusion initiatives should start at the employee level. If your staff members are stressed out about their financial situation, studies have shown that they are actually not as productive at work as employees who work in a place that has achieved most or all of their financial inclusion goals.

Close Gaps in Member Desires vs. CU Offerings

Many of the initiatives that are touted as perfect for fostering financial inclusion are often things that your credit union already offers. But the focus here should be on targeting what your underserved communities, like the unbanked and underbanked, would need from those offerings.

For example, your credit union may already have a successful rewards program that works for current members. However, if offering a different set of rewards or a range of choices in what those rewards can be used for, you can target the underserved segments of your communities.

This is a common business practice across all industries. It’s why we have such a big range of vehicles (from luxury sports cars to reliable and affordable sedans and minivans), restaurants, and other consumer-focused businesses.

Your members who are living paycheck-to-paycheck won’t likely be interested in saving for retirement or creating tons of lines of credit to open a business, but the opportunity to capitalize on your services shouldn’t be reserved solely for those in ideal financial situations.

Catering to the unbanked and underbanked means you have to evaluate why and where your current programs don’t meet these potential members’ needs.

Technology Fosters Financial Inclusion

One of the best tools for fostering financial inclusion is technology. Implementing user-friendly and other helpful digital programs, products, and services goes a long way toward closing gaps between your average members and your outliers.

When you are choosing and implementing these digital tools, it’s important to think about how your members can use them. Are there ways to personalize the process or tool? Customization is a great way to use a single tool in a myriad of ways in order to better serve those who are underrepresented in your member ranks.

Financial Inclusion Means Digital Inclusion

Navigating trending credit union topics have long-lasting implications for your CU. And that’s why you need cutting-edge solutions that have been tailored to credit union needs.

IMSI has created credit union-specific products and services that speak to your customers’ needs, no matter their background, financial situation, or culture. With tools like Make a Statement, Online Courtesy Pay+, Online Self-Service Forms, and Trial Balance+ readily available on your CU website, you can meet every potential member where they’re at.

Reach out to us today and request a consultation.


Community Outreach during National Small Business Week

 

2021’s National Small Business Week is coming up. From May 3 to May 9, communities come together to highlight the importance of entrepreneurs and small business owners across the US. And this is also a great time for your credit union to perform some targeted community outreach.

Let’s discuss some tips and ideas for celebrating small businesses with your credit union resources.

Why Celebrate National Small Business Week?

Credit unions are (or should be) seen as more than just banks – they are financial institutions with close ties to the communities they serve.

Recently, it’s been reported that credit unions are losing out on opportunities to serve small businesses, due to the rise of fintech like Square and Stripe and larger institutions’ increasingly focused efforts to capture the small business owner’s attention.

But credit unions are uniquely positioned to help small businesses, which means you should be using that positioning to your CU’s advantage!

Celebrating National Small Business Week is a great way to build relationships with local entrepreneurs.

Sponsor an Awards Competition or Spotlight

Small businesses need many things, but one of the biggest things they need is quality “air time”. They need people and businesses in the area to talk about their brand, products, and services to help spread the word and drum up more business. And that’s never been more crucial than right now.  

Millions of small businesses closed temporarily or permanently due to the COVID pandemic, and entrepreneurs need someone to start talking about them again. Credit unions are a great partner in this effort.

There are many ways your credit union can highlight local businesses, and during National Small Business Week, one great way to do this is to host a spotlight or awards competition for local businesses. Businesses can sign up to participate or be nominated by a social media comment or event share, and then you can use a preferred platform to spotlight each business and its purpose. After the spotlight, you can also create polls or contests to let your community members participate in choosing the winners. You can use the Small Business Association’s list of awards as a starting point or you can make up your own!

Create a Tradeshow or Event

This one is a bit more time-consuming, but your credit union can also sponsor or host an event where you allow small businesses to set up a booth for a small fee.

Not only does this generate business for you and the participating businesses, but it’s also an engaging way to promote your credit union’s brand as community-centered. Attendees will associate your credit union with fun “shop local” initiatives, thus increasing the visibility of your brand.

Host a Panel or Discussion Group

Small business owners often feel like their concerns aren’t heard in the same way that big businesses are. To combat this, you can host a roundtable, discussion group, or dinner event for local entrepreneurs.

This gives small business owners a chance to network with you and other area businesses and share their struggles, triumphs, and insights with like-minded individuals. It also shows these businesses that you and your credit union are open to building meaningful relationships that will benefit your business and theirs.

Upgrade Your Software to Compete with the FinTechs

Big businesses aren’t the only ones that can upgrade their software and score more customers. IMS Integration is dedicated to helping you bridge the gap so you can compete with the big guys while still staying focused on serving the little guys in your community.

IMS Integration is here with a full range of credit union software solutions to take your problem-solving effectiveness to the next level.

Request a consultation today for more information about our credit union solutions.


5 Benefits of Credit Union Community Outreach

 

Community outreach is never more important than when disaster strikes. As COVID-19 spreads through neighborhoods across the globe, people are looking closely at how area companies, both large and small, are helping during the pandemic.

82% of US consumers (86% of millennials and Gen Y) both consider and value corporate social responsibility when choosing what brands and businesses to buy from. Community outreach is an essential part of a credit union’s success, and while helping those in need and supporting your locality is first and foremost the right thing to do, there are also tangible benefits.

Strengthen Brand Image

If a credit union shows loyalty to its community, the community’s loyalty will extend to the credit union and create positive brand recognition.

Credit unions are in a position to show the communities they serve that they care about more than just safeguarding members’ money and assets. Donating time and resources to worthy community projects, charities, and events give your business a stake in those good deeds. It also demonstrates that your credit union wants to be a part of the community, not just located within one. 

Hiring Locally Helps 

Large internet talent and networking sites may appeal to your hiring department because the quantity of applications is greatly increased, but hiring from the surrounding area can also shine a light on your business. Consider taking ads out in local newspapers (print and online) to increase visibility for your brand name.

Increase Collaboration within Your Workforce

Being a community-forward business also creates effortless opportunities for your employees to collaborate on creative and important projects outside the office. Community events are often a lot of fun with a bit of work sprinkled in, and giving your teams some time to do fun and charitable work increases collaboration and builds relationships from within.

This focus on meaningful outreach often leads to an increase in employee morale.

Increase Visibility

Brand image increases with any outreach initiatives, but credit unions can increase visibility by choosing those contributions in a strategic way. Creating meaningful connections by supporting the causes that matter to members (and prospects) can align your business and charity offerings so they work in tandem to draw in new clientele.

Tip: take time to analyze what types of outreach and events are close to the heart of the community. Is there a children’s hospital nearby? Having a toy drive during the holidays can be extremely beneficial. Was the big member employer in town forced to drastically downsize in the midst of this pandemic? Offering food services or donating to local relief organizations may be the best way to go.

These actions can have the added benefit of attracting talent who want to volunteer at your business’s charitable events. 

Engage Internal Stakeholders

As a companion to the statistic above, employees don’t just want their purchases to go to good causes, they want their workplace to be community-driven and willing to give back. Employees perform better and are more willing to stick with a company that prioritizes community outreach and service.

Let IMS Integration take care of your software solutions so you can focus on more important things, like having a positive impact on your local community. Contact us to discuss your credit union’s software upgrade options.


3 Ways to Level Up Digital Services

 

To protect the health of credit union members and workers, lobby areas and branches are now closed due to COVID-19. This means more of your members are relying on mobile and digital services for their banking needs. These services allow credit unions to remain competitive, especially as members are relying on you for financial assistance. Simply put, credit unions who are digitized are still able to provide services to members.

We can look at what happened in Ukraine as a recent example. A lack of digital services forced credit unions across the country to shut down for weeks. Poor IT infrastructure and an inability to provide online financial services caused many members to look elsewhere to conduct financial transactions, and put many at risk by turning to payday lenders. The loss of revenue during the shutdown led to capital and liquidity issues for many credit unions.

However, we know that credit unions excel at being trustworthy and friendly institutions. With the right digital approach and investments in technology, credit unions can rapidly respond to changes and stay in business. Here’s how:

Planning

Your first response to this crisis may be to buy more products to scale up services. But, the current situation we’re in forces us to think in the long term. What do members need and how does digitization support the overall business? Assembling an array of software solutions may cause more problems if not properly thought through or doesn’t have buy-in from your team. Address the core issues and find solutions that work for your organization, including selecting the right partners to execute the plan.

Digital engagement

Going to a branch office to open a new account is now out of the question. So what does a digital relationship look like without branch engagement? It’s time to establish a process that educates members, keeps them in the loop on new products and maintains the same friendly service members can expect in-person at a branch.

Leveraging email, social media and your website are a great way to provide financial literacy and build a lasting relationship. For some, the convenience of online banking is the only way to go, while this may be a new experience for others. The most important thing is to provide accessible channels that give members a sense of security, trust and support at this time.

Economic support and security

Unemployment numbers are rising, people need leniency paying bills and members are losing their savings and retirement funds. People just don’t have the income they need and will take years to recover. Aside from government support, many will turn to their financial institutions for help. 

Between the federal government’s Economic Impact Payments, small business loans and payment assistance plans, members are looking to access payments and recovery through grants and loan. Being able to take advantage of mobile applications to check account balances, apply online for financial assistance and receive electronic funds is key during this time. Many are realizing they didn’t have the savings needed in a crisis. Credit unions should be the guiding light to help members attain financial security. 

It’s time to rethink the products you offer, how to deliver services and your role in the community. Not only are you on the front lines in the community for financial solutions, but you’re also shaping what customer service looks like for the future. Navigating through this time is going to be tough, but with strong leadership and forward thinking, your credit union will be stronger. We’re here to help.


Credit Unions and Community Outreach

Credit Unions are known for being a part of the communities in which they do business. A major benefit of using credit union is the sincere desire of both its members and employees to see the credit union succeed and flourish in the community.

CUs have the fortunate position of getting to know both the businesses and consumers within a community, so it’s a natural fit that credit unions would take part in community outreach initiatives to provide support to community organizations while boosting awareness of the credit union itself.

Credit Unions are featured in articles across the web, showcasing innovative approaches, awards, and out-of-the-box thinking to make their credit union a standout in the Community Outreach and Philanthropy areas! Below are just a few of the noteworthy efforts put forth by credit unions across the country, but maybe they will inspire yours!

American Eagle FCU | East Hartford, CT
@AEFCU

Employees from the credit union partnered with local coffee shops across 11 communities, to surprise members of the community with free breakfast. Who doesn’t love free breakfast?

Bethpage FCU | Long Island, NY
@LoveBethpage

For more than 15 years, Bethpage FCU employees have volunteered their time for the IRS VITA program, preparing more than 20M in returns for low-income Long Islanders. “Those who can help, should”.

Involve Employees

When considering steps to promote a successful event, it is important to have the employees on board. Allowing employees to provide input not only shows that you are invested in the success of the event but the suggestions of the employees, too. Creating a buzz early on will help to build excitement, as well as allow those involved in the planning process to coordinate efforts.

Encouraging employee volunteerism is a great way to support a wide variety of causes in the community. Whether employees choose to participate individually or as a group, extending a part of your CU out into the community puts a face with the organization.

Be Present in the Community

Getting out into the community is vital to engaging with those people you may not otherwise come in contact with. Whether it’s providing a free breakfast or assisting in filing income taxes, showing a genuine interest in your community will prove beneficial in the long term.

Partner With Local Businesses

Combining efforts with local business owners will not only build a rapport professionally but also an element of trust and common interest. Additionally, the volunteer pool can grow significantly with the backing of local businesses, and the combination of efforts will increase visibility.

Working with and for the members of the community – and the causes that are important to them – builds a strong foundation that can continue to grow over time. Community outreach efforts are a great way to become a part of the fabric of your community, so start planning, if you haven’t already.

IMSI works specifically with credit unions, providing Keystone and customized solutions, tailored just for your credit union. Why not contact us today, and see how we can work together!

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