The $181 million Unity One of Fort Worth, Texas, which favors of a leadership role in cause marketing, is expanding into Facebook, its first entry into the virtual arena.  

“We’ll see what kind of response we get and perhaps try Twitter and Linkedin next year,” said

Erayne Hill, director of community and public relations.

Unity One, in particular, will be promoting on Facebook its “U Give” charity campaign inviting online users from its St. Paul, Minn., and Fort Worth member base to vote on their favorite local charity with the winning charity receiving prize funds.

Three charities chosen by the credit union to receive contributions include Friends of Mears Park, a St. Paul group devoted to park beautification; Shelter2 Rescue Coalition, an Arlington, Texas, animal shelter; and Artes de la Rosa, a Fort Worth Latino arts charity.

On the premise that cause marketing is a more beneficial method to promote awareness than direct newspaper or TV ads, Unity One devotes some 50% of its marketing budget to “U Give”-style campaigns, said Hill.

“Community relations and building partnerships are key elements of the credit union’s strategic plans, particularly in reaching the Latino community,” said Hill whose railway-based credit union maintains a branch presence in both St. Paul and Fort Worth. Its 24,000 members include employees of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

Unity One, said Hill, is finding that it can build stronger account relationships with members through cause marketing charities than through media ads. She added, “Unity One hopes to bring awareness to the credit union industry and the organizations chosen to be spotlighted.”

Credit unions have always been associated with giving and being a part of the communities they serve a fact evident during last year’s Bank Transfer Day but “why stop there?” Hill asked.

 “Our U Give campaign shows our public that we care, that we give, that we follow through and that we are a partner,” she concluded.