The Voice of Canadian Credit Unions
Community Development / Marketing /  •

Summertime connections

Mix work with play to make the most of an all-too-short season

icecream_summerSweet, sweet summertime. Members are staying away from branches in droves, so how can a credit union engage its community when everyone just wants to grab a little family time? Meet members when they’re at play, mixing business with pleasure and building relationships at events and get-togethers. Need some inspiration? Three credit unions showcase how they celebrate the season through targeted initiatives

1. HIT THE ROAD

The spark for Access Credit Union’s (50,000 members, $2.2 billion in assets) roving pancake kitchen was lit 25 years ago when a neighbourhood festival was allowed to dwindle and, eventually, shut down. The then-CEO of the southern Manitoba-based credit union committed to finding a way to rebuild community participation at the grassroots level. Brainstorming led to the launch of a travelling wooden trailer, which served as a mobile pancake shack for 15 years before being updated a decade ago.

Equipped with three cooking ranges, the trailer shows up at community festivals where staff serve free pancake breakfasts. Better still, the trailer is also made available to community groups to use for their own events and fundraisers. Over the years, staff have fine-tuned the system to maximum efficiency, says Adam Monteith, marketing VP.

“As of April, we have eight events planned for July and August alone. It’s an opportunity for us to work shoulder to shoulder as a team, and shoulder to shoulder with other community groups.”

Why it works: Having a mobile trailer allows Access Credit Union to cement ties with community members across its service area.

2. HEADLINE A MULTICULTURAL FESTIVAL

A huge and popular event, the Servus Heritage Festival sees close to 400,000 people descend on Edmonton’s William Hawrelak Park on the August long weekend for three days of multicultural performances, dancing, food sampling, and shopping.

“It’s a natural fit for us,” says Michael Dickinson, director, Corporate Communications at Servus Credit Union (390,000 members, $14.2 billion in assets) in Alberta. “It’s free, it’s fun, it’s family oriented, and it allows to honour its own roots.”

As title sponsor, Servus hosts an information tent filled with games, a photo booth, and a huge map of the world into which visitors stick a pin to honour their hometown. Servus takes part in dozens of smaller events throughout the summer, but Dickenson says this festival allows the credit union to stand out. “We’re the only financial institution here, and we’re right in the middle of it all.”

Why it works: By sponsoring a major event, Servus Credit Union builds brand awareness among hundreds of thousands of visitors, while celebrating its historical and cultural ties with the many regional credit unions that merged to form Servus.

3. HOST POP-UP SHOPS

Credit Union Atlantic (19,000 members, $440 million in assets), headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, launched its first Small Business Saturday Series last year, setting up outside its busy Spring Garden Road branch. The street is a high-traffic commercial and cultural district and CUA sits right in the hub. It’s the perfect spot for the featured pop-up shops to show off their wares to a steady stream of members stopping in at the ATM, but also to hundreds of local passersby and tourists.

“Halifax is a huge supporter of the ‘I Love Local’ movement, so we have lots of people stop by as they stroll down Spring Garden,” says Andrea MacDonald, marketing assistant. Last year, the branch hosted three pop-up shops, highlighting a dozen businesses. This year the program will expand to four summer Saturdays.

Why it works: A regular, very focused event like Small Business Saturdays is a great opportunity to give publicity to member businesses while keeping the tone casual over the summer. ◊