Make it short and sweet and members will get more out of it
By Laura Enock
February 12, 2008
Credit Union Management magazine's Web-only "Teaching Smart Money Management" column runs the second Tuesday of every month.
While looking back at your school days may bring a sense of nostalgia for those carefree, fun, younger years, you probably don't relish the thought of sitting through classes. You might even go to great lengths to avoid them even if it's a part of your job requirementand certainly if it isn't.
I mean, we all want to learn new things and grow in our knowledge and understanding. But classes? School? Thanks, but no thanks.
How then, is financial education going to be fun, interesting, engaging, and exciting for your members?
Not by scheduling a two-hour class, seminar, WebEx, teleseminar or whatever your "university without walls" is doing to educate members. Even if you get a good turnout to that type of event, members will typically tune out during the prolonged learning time and retain very little.
Can financial education be painless for both teachers and students?
Approached the right way, it can. When it's short. When it's quick. When it's easy and doesn't take a huge commitment of time. When you deliver financial education to members in tiny, bite-sized pieces, you have a dramatically different financial education program in place with dramatically different results.
Your members won't know they're being "educated." They'll remember what you've taught them because it's easy to capture and hold their attention for five minutes. They'll retain what they've learned because it's just enough information to remember. And you can build on what you've taught them in the next five-minute slot.
So much for theory. Practically, though, can it work? How would members respond? Can you bring your members into the credit union for a daily, five-minute dose of finance?
But there are other fun and creative ways to get your members hooked on finance. Consider any one (or a combination) of the following:
1. E-mail. A financial tip of the day is a great way to help members build their financial vocabulary, and it's extremely inexpensive to deploy. Once you've gathered a list of e-mail addresses (a good thing to do in any case, as it'll give you another way to market to members), simply send a brief paragraph or two to members though your own e-mail program or, once your list grows to a point where that's no longer practical, use a service, such as www.constantcontact.com.
2. Your credit union's lobby. Especially if you're on site, post a financial idea of the week on a white board, and change it every pay day. Or, if you use video screens for other marketing purposes, this is another great use for them.
If you want to use your lobby as a financial classroom, but members don't come in regularly, consider revolving financial tips and ideas members can watch/read while waiting in line. A video screen can accomplish this. If you don't have one, consider an electronic picture frame that gives you the ability to scroll up to 2,000 different messages and costs less than $300.
3. Your Web site. While this isn't nearly as effective as e-mail because members probably don't check your Web site every day, posting fresh content regularly will give your members a reason to come back. Don't, however, fall into the trap of posting long, "informative" articles. The shorter they are the better.
4. Postcards. While these are more expensive than electronic or in-branch channels because of printing and mailing costs, if you've set a budget for financial education, postcards may be an effective tool. Quick to read, no envelope to open, they can be seen instantly. Give out larger-size index card boxes, and encourage members to file -and occasionally review-what you've sent them.
5. Your newsletter. Again, the articles should be short. Choose three short features rather than one long article and your readership will go up.
6. Employee lounges. If you can put information in your SEG or sponsor employee lounges, don't fill the bulletin board space with promotional information only. Update your flyers regularly and include a new financial tip or idea.
7. Get a column in your local weekly paper. The penny-pincher types of papers are looking for content, and would love to have a regular column on finance. See what's out there, and call the publisher or an editor. Whether they publish weekly or monthly, you should have no problem coming up with a 200-word column for them regularly. If you want to get the column already written, simply copy and paste from creditunionnewsletters.com.
There are so many ways to deliver financial education to members, and many of them can be painless. Think out of the box. Think about what will work, and give it a try. Re-evaluate regularly, and try new things as needed. If it's working, stick with it.
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