Kentucky Credit Union Annual Meeting Becomes Big Hit `Financial Fair'
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Management at the $80 million Service One Credit Union decided a year ago its annual meeting might be a good venue to bolster financial education and build up its image and hopefully draw in crowds. To do that the CU had to have something tangible to offer in free services. Sure enough, the day-long "Financial Fair" dubbed "A Fair to Remember" turned into a huge hit bringing in 500 individuals for free seminars and vendor displays touting everything from credit cards and insurance to investment advice and cookbooks. The free services included document shredding and coin counting. And there were also raffles, a "Crack the Safe" contest with a $1,000 prize and a popular Internet caf plus games for kids. "We were particularly pleased that the Financial Fair got frequent mentions on local radio and TV stations as public service announcements," said Leila Matthews, vice president of marketing. "We had live interviews from the stations all week and we figured on that we got $20,000 of free advertising." The estimated total marketing expenses for the Fair held March 17 in a Bowling Green conference center ran to about $7,500, said Matthews. There were 10 vendor booths with CUNA Mutual and the Kentucky Credit Union League among participants along with the Kentucky offices of the Small Business Administration. Also hawking services were investment houses and an attorney group with the League promoting political action and selling cookbooks. Topics for the free seminars included identity theft, long term home health care for the elderly, credit scoring and tips for first time homebuyers. "The idea for holding the Fair really started with an undergraduate college student working for us on a class project who suggested there might be creative ways to promote financial education to the public," said Matthews citing continued concern over rising delinquencies and loan write-offs Brainstorming began among the staff and before long the idea of holding the all-day Fair was launched, she said. The actual annual meting began at the end of the day preceded by a reception. Service One stipulated that reservations were required. In promoting the Fair, Service One sent out a mailer to members telling of the "Crack the Safe" contest. The mailer included a combination to the safe inviting each member to visit the fair to try their combination. The Fair was also promoted on the Service One Web site, via e-mail, through in-branch ads and direct mail. Service One's marketing staff spent time informing SEGs about the event including its primary chartering organization, Western Kentucky University, in hopes of appealing to faculty, staff and students, said Matthews. A free credit report was provided to all attendees at the "Understanding Your Credit Bureau Score" seminar and attendees at the "First-Time Home Buying" session received a voucher for $150 off closing costs. Matthews said Service One staff shredded more than 1,000 pieces of paper and rolled nearly $3,500 in coins. The Internet caf provided the opportunity for attendees to log onto the CU Web site, check e-mail and ask questions about Internet security, said Duane Dedman, vice president of information systems for the CU. "Many of the people we talked to have huge misconceptions about the Web and how to protect themselves," said Dedman and on that "I know we really helped a lot of people that day." All in all, said Valerie C. Brown, president/CEO of the 15,000-member CU, "we were thrilled that our members and the community responded to this event through their attendance." Service One has long made financial education a high priority and the Financial Fair helped to meet that goal, she said. "We wanted to get our members excited about belonging to a credit union and believed that offering free seminars and free information in an open-house atmosphere would appeal to many people," said Matthews. -firstname.lastname@example.org