PLYMOUTH, Mich.-Community Financial Members FCU here has kicked off another season of giving back to the community, bringing back its "Summer of Sharing" for an encore.

"Summer of Sharing" debuted last year in honor of the credit union's 60th anniversary, and CFCU gave $1,060 each day to a different non-profit or community organization during a 60-day period. Community Financial is repeating the promotion this year, but trimming it to an even $1,000 per group, with an eye toward awarding $60,000 over the course of the summer.

CEO Bill Lawton said that in 2011 CFCU was able to reach a lot of groups through the Summer of Sharing that it might not otherwise have touched.

"Normally we're reaching out to the organizations that reach out to us, so it's helped us become aware of a lot more of the organizations that are really making our communities a great place to be," he said. "It's building awareness of what we do throughout the community, and building awareness for us of the nonprofits and organizations that are helping our community as well."

 

Microsite Set Up

The $500-million, 50,000-member credit union is publicizing its efforts through SummerofSharing.com, a microsite it has set up to collect applications for potential recipients, announce winners and publicize the stories of what winning groups plan to use the money for. The tagline is "What GOOD can you do with $1,000?" and anyone nominating an organization to win a grant is asked to explain how the funds are expected to be utilized.

The first winner was named on June 8, with $1,000 going to an Eagle Scout project aimed at building a maple syrup platform. About 150 groups applied last year to receive the funds and CFCU expects 150-200 submissions this year as the program continues to gain recognition. Some 2011 winners included the Detroit Area Diaper Bank, Hillman Tiger Paw Park, Northville Youth Assistance and the Village Theatre at Cherry Hill.

Membership at CFCU is not required to receive the $1,000 grants, and the credit union does not expect any kind of reciprocation, though Lawton said sometimes the organizations will mention CFCU in their newsletters or issue press releases announcing that they have won. He said some people have come in to the CU to join or take out loans as a result of this project, but CFCU does not track specific response to its giving efforts.

The credit union is able to afford this level of generosity thanks to what Lawton called "two really super years, financially," during which it set aside funds from that windfall with an eye toward giving some of it back to the community. ("Getting Lending Message Out Drive Growth At One CU," April 16, 2012). The CU also runs a similar "Season of Giving" around the holiday season.

"You do something one place and it's the right thing to do, and you find out it has benefits to you someplace else you don't expect it," said Lawton. "If we go about this like it's a marketing campaign, then it comes across like a marketing campaign. If we're looking for ways to benefit nonprofits and we're doing it in a way that's very sincere and looking to benefit our communities ... it provides better marketing for us than if we had designed it another way."

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