Summit CU Awards $90K, Gains ROI
A Wisconsin family battling medical bills and a 27-year old sales manager hoping to be debt-free in three years are among four teams vying to win $10,000 as part of Summit Credit Union’s latest round of Project Money.
With advice from Summit's financial advisers, the contestants are competing to reduce debt and increase savings by the end of December. The four teams are blogging about the experience on a dedicated website and posting social media news.
“Summit’s Project Money was developed as a way to change the financial lives of our four contestants, while inspiring thousands of others to follow along and make changes in their own lives,” said Kim Sponem, president/CEO of the $2 billion cooperative based in Madison, Wis. “This high-impact public learning opportunity provides real life tips for people and is at the heart of what we do every day.”
The winner gets the grand prize and the other three teams receive $2,500 each, the credit union said.
Since the contest’s inception in 2009, Summit has awarded about $90,000, the credit union said.
“Summit has received a lot of feedback from members and the community about the program, the positivity it spreads and how it has helped people,” said Joanne Belanger, VP of public relations and digital marketing for Summit. “Many of our applicants in a given year were inspired by the stories of previous participants.”
Last year’s round of Project Money generated more than 37,190 blog post views, she said.
For the 2012 contest, the runners-up also received a $500 bonus due to the high quality of their blog posts, she said.
The contest has enabled participants to significantly reduce debt and increase savings, Belanger said.
“One of the main opportunities members have during the process is to understand that they can free up income by refinancing loans from other institutions,” Belanger said. “We are often able to help the participant by refinancing the debt with Summit at a lower rate or better terms, which brings loans to the credit union.”
The visibility of Project Money has lured new members and more loans, she said.
“We have gained by solidifying our brand as a resource to a richer life, increasing loan volume and deposits, enhancing community education, creating conversations and community sharing through social media and enabling the cooperative to be viewed as a coach and guide,” Belanger explained.
Due to the success of Project Money, Summit created a spin-off earlier this year with Project Teen Money. As part of the contest, three students from the two high schools created three 30 to 90 second videos focused on three different themes: Save, spend and give.
Each participating student received a $500 scholarship, the credit union said.
In addition, one local student received a $2,500 scholarship based on his video creativity and accuracy of financial information presented. The winning student video was selected based on committee votes and online peer votes, the credit union said.
“We believe that the money spent on the program is certainly a good investment for us,” she added. “It not only brings in additional business for our credit union, but is also a very tangible way of showing - not just telling - the community what we believe in and that we can help them do the same thing.”