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How One CU Is Reaching Out To Market's 'Ripplers'

In the U.S., even after decades of attempting to indoctrinate every elementary school student, we still aren't giving up on Fahrenheit. In Canada, they've joined the rest of the globe in going Celsius. In the U.S., we seem to remain satisfied with the tacky "huh." In Canada, you have to give it to the Northerners for the slightly more pleasant "eh." And in the U.S. we Yanks like to talking about "paying it forward." In Canada, it's the "Feel Good Ripple."

Pay it Forward is an idea that has taken root at some credit unions as a means of reinforcing the credit union concept. Wisely, in my opinion, rather than just give away money to a charity and taking satisfaction in a nice deed and a two-line mention buried in the newspaper, credit unions that have deployed Pay it Forward have found it's so effective because, in reality, it also Pays Backward.

The practice, popularized by Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union and then by dozens of other CUs, involves offering money to members — which they, in turn, must donate or invest in someone or something else. It usually leads to extensive awareness of the CU and the CU brand itself by both members and the community. 

Now comes Servus Credit Union in Alberta, Canada, which said it is seeking to help its community fulfill their New Year's Resolutions through an initiative they are calling the Feel Good Ripple program. In Servus CU's case, it asks individuals to make someone feel good, inspire them to do the same for someone else, and then share their experiences with others online. "From buying a cup of coffee for someone to shoveling a neighbour's sidewalk, to date thousands have taken part and more than 1,300 Albertans have shared their 'ripple' online," according to the credit union, which has set up a website at, well, you can probably guess, "www.feelgoodripple.ca.

Now, in 2011, Servus Credit Union said it will be randomly selecting "ripplers" to receive a $500 donation to a registered charity of their choice.

The Feel Good Ripple, a reference to the way a good deed ripples through a community, is part of a bigger Ripple at Servus CU, which notes it returned $43 million to members in 2010 as it rewards members according to the number of relationships they have.

SCU also uses a strategy similar to that of DFCU Financial in Dearborn, Mich., which offers an online calculator that allows prospective members to see what their share of those profits would be if they joined up. You can find it at www.servus.ca/about-servus/why-bank-with-servus/profit-share/Pages/Default.aspx/

Of course, there is a question about just how much Rippling will be taking place moving forward, as Servus CU is part of a proposed mega-merger in the province with CommonWealth CU and Community Savings. That merger is now out to the ripplers for their OK.

• Remember the Move Your Money people who have provided a lot of free press to credit unions over the past year. This is that other "movement" that says it was inspired by the movie "It's A Wonderful Life" to "encourage individuals and institutions to divest from the nation's largest Wall Street banks and move to local financial institutions. In what had started as a conversation over Christmas dinner between friends has blossomed into a thriving grassroots movement responsible for more than 9% of American adults moving their money."

Now the group says it is at a "crossroads" as to where to "invest our energy and efforts," and it is seeking "input." One of its proposals is going to sound very familiar to credit unions. In an e-mail sent to people who have expressed support for the organization, it explains that bills have been proposed in several legislatures to create central public state banks

"Please note that these public banks do not compete with community banks but rather lends support and works through community banks," the group states in its e-mail. "Therefore these public banks act more as a "bankers bank," providing many of the functions that would be expected of a Federal Reserve."

Hmm, where have we heard of this business model before?

• Received an update from LinkedIn recently alerting me that during 2010 33 of my LinkedIn connections had "started something new" during the year. As I have considerably more than 33 connections, that leaves a considerable number of you with a goal for 2011. Even if it's just to "start something" period.

• I would be remiss were we not to acknowledge all of the readers who have been offering feedback to Credit Union Journal in recent months. You can, too, by using the Letters To The Editor tab at cujournal.com.

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann@cujournal.com

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