FLINT, Mich. – Imagine putting on a member appreciation event and having 5,500 people show up. You can’t buy that kind of publicity, budget be damned. Dort Federal Credit Union’s Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, Tom Gisewhite, is thrilled that his “Reel Deal” free movie event far exceeded his expectations, even if the extraordinary turnout cost more than projected. “We went over budget, but not by much because we anticipated it would be a large event,” Gisewhite said. “We purposely created a high perceived value and set our budget accordingly,” he added. Dort offered movie tickets and $5 concession vouchers for members and up to four guests at two local Flint theatres on Tuesday, August 9. Because members and guests were invited, Gisewhite is unsure how many members participated. The VP said 1,750 members logged in, and he estimated 2,300 members attended because many members brought family members as guests, who may also be members of the credit union. Credit union employees and volunteers staffed tables at the two theatres from 1 to 10 p.m., checking in members by asking for membership cards, ATM, debit or credit cards to confirm membership, along with a photo ID. “The volunteers had the opportunity to meet and greet members, and with them there, it truly was a member appreciation event,” Gisewhite said. Dort did not sign up new members at the theatres, nor did they distribute new member applications. “We worked with the theatres on this event, and they discouraged us from having a sign-up table because people would sign up just to get the free movie tickets, and then we would never see them again,” Gisewhite said. “So, we decided to let this event speak for itself, and let word of mouth and discussion between members and guests be enough to leave a positive image of Dort Federal Credit Union in their minds.” The $300-million Dort has a community charter, serving Genesee, Lapeer, Shiawassee, and northern Livingston counties. Gisewhite said he was pleased with the variety of ages that attended the Reel Deal event. When the event started at 1 p.m., Gieswhite said, attendance was mostly made up of empty nesters and retirees. As the afternoon progressed, the credit union saw more children attending with parents and grandparents. By 7 p.m., couples on dates became the norm. Then, when the late shows began, teenage members showed up. “The number of teenagers we saw was really gratifying and surprising,” Gisewhite said. “Almost everyone who checked in for the 10 p.m. show was under 21, which means that young people are not only taking advantage of membership, they’re taking advantage of a value-added amenity.” Gisewhite said the Board ultimately decides which activity to select for the 45,000-member credit union annual member appreciation event. However, in light of the Reel Deal’s success, Gisewhite said the institution is likely to repeat the event next year. -

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