Establishing and maintaining community relationships is perhaps the most crucial responsibility that credit unions have. Financial services make up most of the day-to-day interactions with clients, but a solid partnership is the foundational piece of the puzzle.
A financial literacy program can create and strengthen partnerships, so credit unions have to make each one count. Follow these five tips to establish a successful financial literacy course.
1. Choose a Unique Target Audience
A well-established financial literacy course might be able to attract all kinds of students, but a new course should start with a small, unique audience. It’s important to build a strong foundation around a niche group before trying to market to a larger audience.
For example, a branch might offer a course to high school seniors centered around taxes, paychecks, and other financial matters they will need to know in the coming years. Whether virtual or in person, these courses can fill knowledge gaps from high school educations and prepare students for real-world financial concerns.
Many banks and credit unions also focus their educational efforts on low-income schools and students, providing introductory lessons to give them more financial independence. Some even set up in-school credit union branches to help teach students about basic banking and provide volunteer “job” opportunities.
Adults can use financial literacy courses too, of course. For people in their 20s and 30s, first-time homeownership may be a good education subject. For members approaching their retirement years, courses on retirement savings and thinking through inheritance and generational wealth can be timely topics.
Every audience has a set of needs, and it’s the course creator’s responsibility to address those needs. Credit unions can stay successful by thoughtfully narrowing down target audiences based on member needs and participation.
2. Personalize the Lessons
Credit unions should also try to integrate personalizable features into their financial literacy courses, as the textbook approach to finance doesn’t work for each student. The course needs to include reflection exercises, peer-on-peer lessons, and real-world examples so every student can construct an attitude and understanding of finance that fits their needs.
Today’s economy is more dynamic and hectic than ever before, so the topics of mental health and financial well-being also deserve a place in the curriculum. Many students feel pessimistic about their finances, so the course must offer assurance and give them knowledge and hope for a secure future.
A course with personalized learning will also seamlessly adapt to other target audiences as it grows in popularity. Students can still have a unique experience with the course without requiring the creator to make significant changes to the curriculum.
3. Reach Out to the Community
The most successful financial literacy courses use community connections to expand their influence. Start by reaching out to friends, teachers, and school boards to share the program’s details and benefits. Explore whether the course can get added to a school district’s curriculum or an after-school program.
Credit unions should expect to send an ambassador to a fair number of meetings to get their foot in the door. Here are some organizations that would make great supporters:
- Board of Education
- Chamber of Commerce
- National Education Association
- Parent-Teacher Associations
- Rotary Club
Educational groups are just the beginning. Credit unions should also talk with other people who work with young students – youth sports teams, charities, etc. – about promoting the course.
For example, if a credit union wants to reach low-income students and families, it should connect with the local Boys and Girls Club and family support groups. It needs to show the target audience why the course is relevant, and community involvement is a great way to demonstrate relevancy.
4. Advertise the Course
Establishing partnerships is a key part of building a successful course, but credit unions still need to advertise through traditional methods. Start by briefing employees about the course’s contents. They spend more face-time with clients than anyone, so they need to be reliable and enthusiastic spokespeople.
Credit unions should also write press releases, market their courses on social media, run ads on TV or radio, and share the course’s goals with everyone who will hear them. A little PR may be necessary to reach the target audience and maximize the course’s impact on the community.
5. Be Creative
Making a financial literacy course from scratch won’t be easy, but credit unions should allow some creative freedom when building the curriculum. After all, finance isn’t a straightforward subject. It has a wide range of topics, from learning basic money management to understanding the Federal Reserve.
The lessons surrounding these topics have changed over time and will continue to change. A standardized lesson plan won’t work.
Finance is fluid, so a financial literacy course should be fluid as well. It should be a learning opportunity for the educators, not just the students. Chances are good they need to improve their financial skills, too. A creative curriculum will get all parties engaged and excited about making those improvements. Credit unions must give teachers the ability to add their own twists and turns while keeping the main lessons intact.
Enabling a Stable Financial Future
As previously mentioned, today’s students aren’t looking forward to their financial futures. An unstable economy has something to do with it, but they’re ultimately lacking the skills and self-confidence to be responsible with their money.
Credit unions can enable stable futures for local students in need and establish strong business partnerships by launching a creative, personable financial literacy course.