Teach Early and Often

How one CU grooms youth into fully engaged members.

April 01, 2013
KEYWORDS education , literacy , youth
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What's the best way to groom youth members into fully engaged credit union members?

When its “junior partner” youth members turn 18, the $2 billion asset Redwood Credit Union in Santa Rosa, Calif., transitions them to regular membership.

After two years, about 80% of those former youth members have retained their regular memberships. Currently, the credit union has 25,000 members between the ages of 18 and 29. It has total membership of about 225,000.

The growing comfort with, and demand for, remote financial services make it possible to hold on to young members who relocate away from the Bay Area for college or jobs, according to Robin McKenzie, senior vice president of marketing and communication.

But products and services are only part of the equation. She also attributes the credit union’s success to its extensive financial education outreach to children and their families. “We want people to think of us as a resource for financial information and education, and not just products and services,” she says.

To that end, the credit union organizes the financial planning content on its website by both product and life stage, so members can take either route to find what they need.

Redwood partners with the Santa Rosa School District to offer the Banking and Finance Academy—an accredited 16-hour financial literacy program for high school juniors and seniors.

Offered during spring break and summer, the program routinely fills up early. The credit union is currently planning online programming to extend the reach of the academy and other financial literacy training, she adds.

“It’s empowering to learn how to manage money,” McKenzie says. “If this recession taught us anything, it’s that a lot of people lack the education they need to make the right decisions about their finances and their futures.”

Underlying all of the efforts is the familiar notion of building trust: If members find the information and education they need from Redwood, they’re more likely to turn to Redwood for the products and services, too.

That’s good for the credit union, but it’s also good for the members who won’t fall prey to financial institutions that, unlike Redwood, don’t have members’ best interests at heart.

“Start educating young people early about credit unions and financial matters,” McKenzie says. “It’s a great equation for success.”

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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