Want to connect and reach out to young members? Then it is time to do research, observe and discover what young members in your area actually want and need.
"I think really understanding what Gen Y needs and what a typical day is like is key," said James Flores, president/CEO of youth marketing firm Subcat Marketing. "Today's kids, teens and young adults are very different than how we were, and the more credit unions can do to understand that the better position they'll be in."
He said that means actually talking to local members of Gen Y, Millenials and others and finding out everything from what do they think about credit unions and banking products and services offered to how they prefer to consume information.
"If you have a Gen Yer on staff talk to them, if you have high school branches that is a fantastic place to get their thoughts, views and input as a start in the right direction," said Flores. "If you form a youth advisory board, tread carefully to ensure you're getting a real- world experience viewpoint. If for example you present a tween Web site you've developed and simply ask them to critique it, they may alter their behavior and not tell you that they wouldn't use it that way in real life. The younger they are the more they are influenced by people in the group, and they become who they think you want them to be."
Flores added that the inherent challenge in how to engage this particular demographic is not only understanding what's going on, but how they interact is constantly changing, so don't just jump into something based on the latest alleged Gen Y hot trends?do the research in the areas served by the credit union.
Don't fall into Gen Y generalization traps. For example a recent Filene Research Institute study, "Delivering Financial Education to Graduating College Students," finds that nothing sparks interest in financial literacy like college graduation. Credit unions that can provide the right information at the right time to graduates can help improve not just delivery but outcomes.
The report was authored by Robert F. Hoel, a Filene fellow and a professor at Colorado State University, and W. Ronald Smith, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and chairman of the Wisconsin Education Association Credit Union.
"People want to be told what to do," said Hoel. "Knowing that you need to make good decisions isn't enough. But getting real numbers, specific advice, and one-on-one time with an expert, that's what makes a difference."
The report showcases a financial independence seminar developed and tested at the University of Wisconsin-Madison over the past five years as an inexpensive approach credit unions can duplicate. Graduating students from all majors are invited to participate in a one-day program that includes two lectures and several breakout sessions. Most student participants also sign up for a half-hour of one-on-one counseling sometime during the four weeks following the main session.
According to Hoel and Smith, students participating in the program overwhelmingly report that the seminar helped them take actions that will improve their financial wellbeing. When surveyed three months after the seminar, 98% said the seminar helped them make real-world financial decisions. Within those three months, 79% took at least one major step to improve their financial well-being, and 55% took more than one.?The seminar also helped deliver long-lasting results. About 94% of graduates who took the seminar three years earlier report that it helped them make real-world financial decisions.
College alumni associations are the best on-campus sponsors of these programs said Hoel and Smith. Credit union professionals can be co-sponsors and lead some of the breakout sessions and serve as counselors for one-on-one?sessions.
Will deHoo, FoolProof founder and president, added that credit unions should rethink financial literacy programs and go beyond just teaching the mechanics of money. He said at a time when consumers are doubting banks, credit unions have a unique opportunity to carve real consumer advocacy into their mission.
"Young people in particular need to be taught to think critically.?Knowing how to balance your account is important. But it is more important to know how to pick the good financial institution from the bad one," said deHoo. "Being told to pay your credit card bill on time is important. But it's much more important to learn how to try to find a good credit card among the many bad ones and to learn that you should never use a credit card to finance debt?something not many programs say, since they are underwritten by banks."
He said credit union programs should revolve around a basic consumer advocacy pyramid that starts with learning to question everyone and every company that is trying to sell something, learning the skills to use any financial tool wisely, slowing down before jumping in and saving consistently.
Flores said with the laser focus on Gen Y, many credit unions are also missing out on the opportunity to fill a huge need for a vital youth connection?parents.
"Any survey that we've done, parents say they want to raise kids that are smart about money, but they aren't sure how to go about it," said Flores. "There's an opportunity for credit unions to connect with parents and help them start those conversations with their children. It's a way you can interact with that family, their life events and be part of their solutions to nurture and keep that relationship from an early age, so when those kids head off for college keeping their credit union account is a no-brainer.