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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Imagine it, children begging their parents to see Power Puff Girls, Shrek and -insert your credit union’s kids club mascot here. “Just do it” is the message for credit unions still debating if they should have a youth program. According to a recent CUNA & Affiliates 2001 Youth and Seniors Marketing Survey Report an estimated 50 million potential credit union members are under the age of 18. While 40% of credit unions make targeted efforts to attract new members under the age of 25, only 25% of credit unions offer formal youth programs, which are designed specifically to build stronger financial relationships with younger consumers. “As future borrowers and savers, they represent the future success-if not existence-of your credit union,” said the survey. “It’s a no-brainer. The bottom line is that ignoring this age group could prove costly in the long run.” The survey reports that primary targets for youth programs are between the ages of five and 14. Last year credit unions spent an average of $4,002 to operate youth programs. The cost includes printed materials such as brochures, newsletters; advertising; premiums/prizes like birthday recognition money or stuffed toys; and estimated staff time to promote the program, hold seminars and special events. As expected, money allocated for programs increase with asset size ranging from a low of $1,029 for credit unions with assets less than $20 million to a high of $10,501 for credit unions with assets of $100 million or more. About 93% of credit unions surveyed believe that a good youth program will build loyalty and that it is important to invest both the time and money. Factors for success include creating a simple program at first, setting goals, objectives, and benchmarks and most importantly assigning someone who really likes children to oversee the program. Here is a glimpse at what some credit unions are doing to attract younger members: * The $12 billion Navy Federal Credit Union has launched its new Kids Club Program with a cute sea otter named Sammie. By joining the Kids Club, each new member receives a Kids Club Package complete with membership card; coloring and activity book; savings register; stickers; bookmark and other promotional items. Navy FCU has also made Sammie part of its online Family Zone so kids can continue the fun while learning about money and how to make it grow. The club also offers special saving incentives for new members who add a total of $50 to their share savings account- a cuddly “Sammie the Sea Otter” stuffed animal. Plans are underway to introduce Sammy’s friends such as his sister Sally, Bernie the Polar Bear, Paula the Pelican, Tillie the Sea Turtle, Walter the Walrus and Freddie the Fiddler Crab. Geared to children eight and younger, the Kids Club is being introduced to Navy FCU branches in phases. To date there are over 400 members enrolled in the new Kids Club. * Parma, Ohio-based PSE Credit Union has unveiled its new kids club mascot Pennie the PSE Puppy. Besides visiting elementary schools and participating in community events Pennie will also be part of the local Fourth of July parade. With a program that has been around since 1993, the credit union wanted a mascot that kids could immediately identify with. The cuddly, furry mascot with big eyes was an instant hit with kids and membership has been increasing by 100 since her arrival. Members receive a savings kit complete with register, 10 card stickers and a blank stamp sheet. Members have their sheet stamped with Pennie’s paw print for each deposit and completed sheets can then be turned in for prizes ranging from stuffed animals to T-shirts. Plans are underway to expand the kid’s corner with a little doghouse to include tables, chairs and/or books at other branches. * For Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union in Brainerd, the Dimes to Dollars Youth Club members anxiously await their next installment of News Bites. The popular 12 and under newsletter can barely be kept in the brochure stands. Constantly raising the design-bar – a past issue was printed entirely in 3-D with re/blue glasses attached- this spring’s edition brought the club cartoon characters of Mid-Minnie Mouse, Missy Mouse, Mid-Meanie Mouse, and Fred Mouse to life. A toyshop owner Mark Gauger in Iowa City, Iowa created the mouse masks, employees became the live mice during the photo shoot and the cartoon characters got a “Reality Check”. The newsletters feature learning games, a member’s bio with picture and special activity notices such as a free movie day. * Raleigh, North Carolina-based State Employees’ Credit Union believes it is never too early to teach kids to start saving money. Its FAT CAT Youth Account program launched only last November, has already opened over 19,000 savings accounts. The program is for children 12 and under and offers members an interest bearing savings account. Children receive a FAT CAT passbook, special statements and a quarterly Paw Prints newsletter. The program also hosts FAT CAT coloring contests and has FAT CAT make special appearances at local schools and branch offices. Plans are underway to launch a teen program that will include checking account and debit card options while educating teens on credit purchases. To order the CUNA and Affiliates’ 2001Credit Union Executive Journal Youth and Seniors Marketing Survey Report visit www.cuna.org or call (800) 356-8010, ext 4157. So dish out some ice cream, bring out the mascots, coloring books, savings games and get ready for the kids. [email protected]

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