Tinker Federal Credit Union ($6.0B, Oklahoma City, OK) didn’t plan on starting an annual holiday tradition. The cooperative launched a holiday membership drive in 2008 and the campaign has run in November and December of every year since then, including this year.
In fact, the credit union’s “Give the Gift of Membership” campaign has become a core growth element of its strategic planning process.
Adding new members provides revenue and profitability for the institution to fund future investments and return value to all members. Some credit unions actively recruit members throughout the year as part of their daily operations. Others run dedicated campaigns for a limited duration. And almost all credit unions send representatives to attend community events and present at schools, select employee groups (SEGs), and community meetings.
A Holiday Tradition
“The holidays are a magical time of the year and the season of giving,” says Nicole Emmons, director of marketing for Tinker FCU. “What better gift to give your family and friends than a membership to a financial institution that is safe and secure and holds your best interests at heart?”
Tinker’s multi-touchpoint campaign uses a gift concept to incent parents and grandparents to open accounts for their children and grandchildren. The credit union offers $10 to every member who refers a relative, friend, neighbor, or co-worker to the credit union to open a savings account, effectively making brand ambassadors of existing members. New members, also, receive a $10 reward.
With the exception of the 2020 and 2021 COVID years — a period when many credit union branches arrows the nation were either closed or operating on a limited schedule — Tinker’s holiday membership drive has been successful every year.
That’s more than a decade of welcoming new members and rewarding all members. And despite what’s happened during that time, Tinker’s end goal to make a positive impact has remained steadfast.
“We do this campaign specifically to grow our young member segments and start them on a path to good savings habits,” Emmons says. “We focus on the benefits and value we deliver to our members.”
“The modest $10 we distribute reflects our effort to be good stewards of our members’ money,” Emmons continues. “We landed on a $10 incentive, feeling that amount would be effective while also being budget-friendly.”
As the largest credit union in Oklahoma, Tinker FCU leverages an expansive set of community relationships to reach a large pool of potential new members. The credit union’s name reflects its close ties with the military community from Tinker Air Force Base, but today the credit union offers more than 850 ways to join. Tinker is a common bond credit union with more than 850 SEGs, including two Air Force bases as well as colleges, universities, hospitals, churches, and other businesses and organizations across the state of Oklahoma. Emmons says that with so many paths to membership, occurrences of membership denials are rare.
Tinker employs a 360-degree approach to spreading the word about its Give the Gift of Membership campaign. It promotes the campaign in all branches; uses traditional, member-direct, print-based marketing; and leverages the popularity and cost efficiencies of email, website, and social media.
The credit union decks its branches with large lobby and smaller teller station posters and makes takeaway collateral available for visiting members. The branches also insert a message about the campaign in the content loops on the multimedia screens it runs in the branches.
Tinker also produces three newsletters, each directed to a separate segment of its membership base — one for heritage members who are age 55 and older, a second to reach its general membership, and a third directed to business members. Each of the newsletters includes ads that promote Give the Gift of Membership.
But Tinker doesn’t stop there. The credit union’s digital monthly statements include ads for the campaign; printed, mailed statements include an insert. And online, Tinker’s website includes banners and ads for the campaign.
According to Emmons, the top-performing marketing touchpoints are social media and the newsletters, particularly the heritage newsletter for members 55 and older.
A Gift That Warms Hearts (And Bellies)
In temperate regions — those with four distinct seasons — the cold winter months often bring cravings for steaming hot cocoa with whipped cream, marshmallows, and sprinkles. Tinker loved this imagery so much, the credit union designed a social media giveaway around it in 2021.
“We gave away packaged TFCU mugs throughout the months of the campaign,” Emmons says. “We also gave the same gifts to our vendors.”
Tinker also paid homage to the winter comfort food vibe by assembling gift packages that included two TFCU coffee mugs, packs of hot cocoa mix, an insert about the campaign, and a favorite recipe for making homestyle hot cocoa.
It arranged the contents of the package on a bed of shredded paper that resembled wood shavings. The credit union then notified each referring member and the new member to visit their closest branch to pick up their gift box.
The work and attention to detail paid off in membership gains as well as recognition. Tinker’s 2021 Give the Gift of Membership campaign earned a Diamond Award in 2022 from the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council.
“We were very excited,” Emmons says. “A lot of work goes into this campaign, and it is one of our favorites. The 2021 creative was inspired by the joy of sharing a cup of cocoa with a friend or family member.”
On the heels of COVID, inflation and economic woes are prompting Tinker FCU to rethink its referral incentive.
“The campaign continues to be successful,” Emmons says. “However, with inflation and rising rates, a $10 incentive doesn’t have the same impact it used to. So, in our 2022 campaign, we will be increasing the incentive to $25.”
Emmons emphasizes that it takes more than a single department to deliver an effective marketing campaign. At Tinker FCU, the front line hands out referral pieces, IT ensures systems are assigning incentives properly, marketing communicates on all available channels, and more.
“Efforts like Gift of Membership are especially successful when you can get the whole organization behind them,” the marketing director says. “It takes a village to make member referral promotion work.”