Posts Tagged ‘UMassFive College FCU’

Zucchinis and credit unions: Not strange bedfellows

November 30, 2009

I love it when credit unions display their awesomeness.

And recently, UMassFive College FCU did just that.

I was driving about Western Massachusetts, when I heard a news story on our local NPR affiliate, WFCR, about UMassFive College FCU and their new CSA loan. Here’s the one-minute radio segment about it: Credit Union loans for farm shares

This statement may raise some or all of the following questions from you:

1.) What does CSA stand for, and what is it?
2.) What is a CSA loan?
3.) Why is it a perfect match that a Credit Union should offer a CSA loan?
4.) Why is this a brilliant business strategy on the part of UMassFive College FCU?
5.) What could UMassFive do to promote their CSA loans even further?
6.) Why do I care?

Q. What does CSA stand for, and what is it?
A. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically it’s a cooperative farm, in a similar way that a credit union is a cooperative financial institution. Customers each purchase a share of the food that is made by the farm. For example, one share might cost $700 for the year. During the spring, summer, and fall, you come to the farm and grab that week’s share of food, the contents and amount of which will vary during the harvest season. Typically, you get a box full of fantastic fresh produce each week. Here’s an example of what Simple Gifts Farm’s produce share consists of. The photo on the right is a typical summer week’s share from Doe Run Farm, a CSA in Tennessee.

What is the advantage of a CSA? Terrifically fresh and local food. Savings over what it would cost if purchased from a grocery store. Half-shares are also often available from a CSA, which get you half the amount of a full share of the farm harvest each week, usually at somewhat more than half the cost of a full share. Often times, membership in a CSA also requires a few hours per month helping to box up the week’s harvest.

Q. What is a CSA loan?
A. A CSA loan is a loan for the cost of one year’s share. While many people might be interested in buying local, and supporting local agriculture for a variety of reasons, many of the people interested in doing it can’t afford a lump sum payment of $600-$700. So in this case, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union is offering their members a NO-INTEREST loan, payable over 6 months, to finance buying a share in the CSA. So instead of $700 in one payment, the consumer would be able to pay $117 a month for six months. For many families, they may lower their total grocery bills while receiving a plentiful amount of fresh fruits and veggies.

Q. 3.) Why is it a perfect match that a Credit Union should offer a CSA loan?
A. The sixth of the Seven Cooperative Principles states that cooperatives should cooperate with each other. Both credit unions and CSAs are cooperatives. Both are (usually) dedicated to local cooperative principles. It’s a perfect fit.

Q.) Why is this a brilliant business strategy on the part of UMassFive College FCU?
A.) Because great businesses differentiate themselves, which creates a brand unique to that business. Credit unions are the only type of financial institution which can partner with CSAs in this way, authentically. (Banks could do it, but they’d be seen as copycats. Realistically, offering these types of loans is not on any bank’s radar screen.) This loan does many things at once: Strengthens the credit union’s brand as a local cooperative, actively doing things to strengthen the community which they serve. It also helps the CSA by making it possible for more people to afford to buy shares in it. It helps the member by spreading the payments for a CSA share out over several months.

There are other benefits of of buying local food, (belonging to a CSA is one way to do it), from which the Credit Union’s brand image is enhanced by association: CSAs help reduce the nation’s overall energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the fuel needed to package and transport food through the wholesaler to supermarket supply chain.

Offering interest-free CSA loans is not going to add significant dollars to the CU’s bottom line, nor is it going to cost them a significant amount. But their reputation is enhanced immeasurably, and management and the board must be taking the position that the PR gained, and thus future business, will more than offset the small amount of the cost of the program. Already, being interviewed by the local NPR affiliate is fantastic marketing, which had no cost.

Q. What could UMassFive do to promote their CSA loans even further?
A. Right now, their CSA loan page has a link to a local food site. I’m not sure if UMassFive is promoting this in their lobbies and teller lines too, but if not, they should. Also, they could provide a more direct link to the CSAs that are in the same area as the majority of their members. And of course, they should get in touch with all of these area CSAs and make them explicitly aware of their interest-free loans. UMassFive could also create a CU/CSA-day event, inviting representatives of the CSA to bring samples to the CU, and make it a festive occasion, bringing both more awareness to the CSAs themselves, and to the fact that UMassFive supports them. Also, UMassFive could publicize the WFCR story about their CSA loans nationally, which if successful, will increase the pride that its members have in it.

Q. Why do I care?
A. Long before I knew what a credit union was, as a child, my mother belonged to a food coop. Now that I’ve made a profession helping credit unions, it’s great to see a credit union that is doing something that makes a lot of sense from a business and community-enhancement standpoint. And by so doing makes the world a better place.

Oh yeah, and my mother is a not only a member of UMassFive College FCU, she’s also a member of CSA Simple Gifts Farm in North Amherst. And on Thursdays in the fall, she often brings my son there to help gather the week’s share.

Congratulations Credit Unions, on a Century of Service

March 12, 2008

I have the great honor and pleasure of talking to credit union professionals all over the nation. The subject of the proud history of CUs, holds special meaning to me because I had worked with the movement for about ten years before I learned ANYTHING about its incredible history. I certainly had no idea that the movement started in my backyard, a hop skip and jump across the border, in Manchester, New Hampshire.

I gave a talk on social media and World 2.0 this morning to a group of about forty credit union marketing professionals from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire at the CU League’s headquarters in Marlborough, Mass. I asked about the movement’s founding, and it was wonderful to get a detailed answer. In our presence was a representative of that very first CU, Andrea Pruna of St. Mary’s Bank. Not only did she know the date by heart (November 24, 1908), but she let us know about a wonderful section of their web site devoted to this, the Centennial Year of Credit Union service. I encourage everyone to check out Celebrating 100 Years for a terrific look at the amazing road we’ve traveled so far.

This is one of the reasons I’m especially excited that BarCampBank NewEngland will be held in America’s Credit Union Museum on April 5. The museum is the actual house where St. Mary’s Bank first began operations 100 years ago, out of the home of Attorney Joseph Boivin, who served as the CU’s President. If you listen very carefully, you may hear the whispers of the generations that have preceeded you when you stand in the parlor of the building.

Shout-outs to so many of the fabulous credit union marketers who came today. Thanks to Jon Reske and Anne Pinkerton from UMassFive College FCU, Mark Vautour from Telephone Workers CU, Deena Bernier from NMTW Community CU, and Debra Perrin from Southern Mass CU. I’m not good with names, so I haven’t remembered those who I met for the first time, but thank you also. It was fun that we had four one-billion-dollar CUs represented as well, Greylock FCU in the Berkshires, HarborOne CU in the South Boston area, DCU of the Worcester area, and Navigant CU in RI. Thank you to Rob Kimmett for organizing a great event and inviting me, and it was wonderful to catch up with CU whirlwind Bonnie Doolin.

My presentation today included demonstrating and explaining Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and showed examples from Shari Storm and the Verity CU team, William Azaroff of Vancity CU and Change Everything, Ginny Brady, board member of UFirst FCU with the Boardcast, and Tim McAlpine of Currency Marketing with Larissa Walkiw, spokesperson for Young and Free Alberta, and her infamous Credit Union Difference video part one, currently at 16,228 views. On the topic of Facebook, I have started writing a paper on the Facebook as Marketing Engine and plan on publishing excerpts to this blog. For those interested in checking out twitter, here’s the one-page PDF of Twitter Tips.

I also touched on Peer-to-Peer Lending (P2P Lending), Prosper’s amazing growth rate, and how CUs can participate by getting in touch with Doug True, SVP of Lending, at Forum CU. Doug has been instrumental in having P2P Lending company Zopa partner with CUs to offer NCUA-insured loans and investments.

Think your story doesn’t affect your bottom line?

November 27, 2007

If you think your story doesn’t affect your bottom line, think again. It’s one thing to feel intuitively that your story is important, it’s quite another to have proof. And I’d like to share some proof, to the tune of $600,000.

I recently had a chance to visit and have lunch with Jon Reske, VP of Marketing of UMassFive College Federal Credit Union. UMassFive has just opened a new branch in Northampton, MA, and it is quite nice. Jon told me that many features of their new branch were inspired by what he learned and experienced at the Triple-B Portland in 2005, particularly by what he learned from Umpqua Bank. It’s quite warm and welcoming, and if you are ever in Western Mass, I would urge you to check it out.

While there, Jon showed me their new member brochure, and the items which are covered when a person signs up as a new member of the credit union. The very first item covered is the credit union’s story; what a credit union is; and how the cooperative nature of the financial institution works.

Just a few weeks ago, a couple came into the credit union to open a new account, and a CU employee explained what the credit union was all about. The next day, the couple came back with a check for $500,000 and deposited it into their new money market account. The employee who opened the account with them the day before was quite happy, and asked them how this deposit came to be. It turns out that the couple was looking for a place to deposit this money, and when they learned about the cooperative, not-for-profit nature of the credit union, and what it stood for, and the fact that their money would stay local, they decided to deposit their money with UMassFive. Later in the week, the couple returned with an additional $100,000 deposit. The couple was also referred to the Financial Planning division of the credit union. Both the couple and the credit union are exceedingly happy.

So start with step one: If you are a credit union, TELL YOUR STORY. Don’t let anyone tell you that your story doesn’t matter, that no one cares. Your story matters. Period.

Pioneer Valley credit unions are a-rockin!

November 14, 2007

John Buckley and MorrissJust gave a talk on World 2.0 to the Pioneer Valley Chapter of the Massachusetts Credit Union League. It was wonderful to see so many of our Western Massachusetts friends, and the turn-out was fantastic with 120 people representing 13 credit unions. Huge props to Jon Reske, VP of Marketing, at UMassFive College FCU, and the person responsible for my involvment in credit unions today. Jon is an excellent person doing great things for his credit union, which just opened a new branch in Northampton. Thanks for the great introduction tonight, Jon! Also a big thank you to UMassFive College FCU President, Kathy Hutchinson, for inviting me to speak to the chapter, as well as Chapter President, John Buckley, COO, of MassMutual FCU, a charming host. Dave Plantier, President of MassMutual FCU also provided helpful advice. Morriss and MattThe credit union industry is very very lucky to have these talented and gracious individuals working so hard on their behalf. Also big shout-outs to the other CUs in attendance that we’ve worked with; Jim Nagy and Noella Boileau of ValleyStone CU; Anabela Pereira and Trecia Marchand of Pioneer Valley FCU; and Wendy Tariff, CEO of Wemelco CU. I look forward to keeping in touch with the other credit unions in attendance.


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