Charitable rewards make sense (and dollars)

For thousands of years philosophers have asked: are humans inherently good (only to be soiled by society) or inherently bad (with social norms keeping us in check).

This post doesn’t aim to solve what has confounded philosophers and scientists since Plato’s time. But it will illuminate ways to extend the human desire to do good (whether natural or learned) to everyone’s benefit — including that of your bottom line.

To Giveth Is To Receive?

Many credit unions already give a great deal back to their community, including partnerships and/or donations to local charities. This is great! A philosopher would ask if this is true altruism or motivated by a desire to endear your institution to the community and get some good PR.

Actually, let’s go ahead and settle that debate after all: it’s a little bit of both.

And that’s OK.

If you can do good, charitable work and get a little recognition for it while you’re at it….nobody loses and everybody gains. If fact, when the giver receives some benefit as well, it can serve to foster more giving. So don’t feel guilty!

One area that has no debate: corporate social responsibility (CSR) can have a very positive effect on your image. This is no surprise, as the “people helping people” ethos is why credit union enthusiasts are so passionate about their credit union. CSR can ultimately have a positive impact on your balance sheet as well. Here are just a few numbers:

  • 91% of Americans state they would switch brands to support a cause1
  • 42% are even willing to pay extra if the company is committed to positive social impact2
  • 87% of Americans say they are more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues1
  • And it’s 87% again that have high expectation for a company to do more than make a profit1

Give Your Members The Ability To Give

Inviting your members the opportunity to be part of the giving is a great way to magnify the impact and foster the credit union philosophy. This is not to suggest you halt any outright donations or sponsorships. Just add another layer of charitable giving — without adding more expense.

There are a number of ways to do this. For example, let’s say your credit union already has a relationship with a local charity. Schedule a fundraiser for them at one of your branches, or simply sponsor one of their existing events.

Promote this activity heavily in advance and invite your members to volunteer to join in on the cause. A full 70% of Americans are willing to volunteer for companies that provide them the opportunity.1

Reward Donations: The Most Virtuous Cycle

Of course, what most charities need most is money. Thankfully, Americans really want to donate money to charities. But the actual donating level doesn’t match the desire level.

One way to make it easier for folks to part with their money is if the money really wasn’t theirs in the first place.

Like rewards!

Point-based (or reward accumulation) card reward programs have become a consumer expectation from their banking institution (88% rank it as a top priority3). Your credit union can leverage this program as an opportunity to create charitable donations. Here’s how it works:

Your members will be getting points for transactions made with your card. As they earn enough points, they can redeem for their reward. Develop your program so the ability to “pay it forward” is one of the reward options. This way, your members can satisfy their desire to donate without feeling the pinch in their pockets. Since the reward is free money that they never had to begin with.


That’s a lot of winning. Better yet, nobody gets a short end of the stick.

  • Your members get rewarded for purchases they’re already making and get the sense of well-being that is proven to come with donating.
  • Local businesses benefit from a program that drives more businesses and increased ticket size.
  • Local charities benefit from donations they otherwise would not receive, plus the awareness the reward option creates.
  • Credit unions gain — not only from the increased interchange revenue and loyalty that rewards programs brings — but from the significant increase in reputation and affinity that comes hand-in-hand with being a conduit to charitable acts.

1“Global CSR Study,” Cone Communications/Ebiquity, 2015

2“Doing Well By Doing Good,” Nielsen, 2014

3”Understanding Financial Consumers in the Digital Era,” CGI, 2014

Dante Dominick

Dante Dominick

Danté Dominick is an award-winning content and marketing strategist with specialized knowledge for the financial services industry. He has helped over a hundred community financial institutions improve their image, creative ... Web: Details