Is your community something you’re proud of? Do you feel connected to those around you? What effort are you putting in to better your community?

Financial brands are truly are the heroes in their communities. Our Community Spark award recognizes banks and credits that are going above and beyond to create a spark and make a difference. These financial brands had to first develop an initiative – one that would help serve their local areas in a needed way. They then had to write a story and submit a nomination for our internal committee to read and discuss. After much deliberation, our internal committee determined 10 finalists for the award. Following this, we launched a public round of voting. These banks a credit unions shared and encouraged followers to vote online.  After more than 2,000 online votes, we determined our three winners for this year’s award.

There’s a lot we all can learn from reading their stories. From volunteerism to donations, the contributions these financial brands made were remarkable. There were many connections and partnerships that had to be created to make their initiatives successful.

Sometimes bringing people together can be challenging, and it often requires extra creativity and collaboration. Despite these efforts, it is always an investment worth making. No matter how you choose to connect with your community, here are some ideas to get you started.

Adapt to the Online Environment

Adapting to the online environment was crucial this past year. Financial brands exist to serve their communities, and the online environment doesn’t change this. This shift to online required everyone to build relationships in an entirely different way. Financial brands had to digitalize not only their products and banking apps, but their interactions with the community as well. From virtual education sessions to videoconferencing and webinars, this online environment is slowly becoming the new normal. With a little bit of innovation and a touch of ingenuity, financial brands banded together to make a difference in their local areas.

Our second runner-up winner, CNB Bank, found an innovative way to reach their community online. They implemented a Virtual Reality Fair. This interactive, fun event for students provided them an experience to simulate real-life financial choices, including how to spend, save, and budget. Students chose salaries and the selected their “lifestyle” choices for housing, vehicles, entertainment, and other options. Students saw the impact of their financial choices in comparison to their salary. The “Reality Check”, the name of this mini-reality fair, was followed up with a subsequent day of learning about credit, credit scores, checking accounts, and investments.

CNB Bank plans to continue this initiative, even when things return to normal, and aims to reach 6 school districts, with plans to spread the event to other markets, during the upcoming school year. CNB Bank is a star example of how to use digitalization to reach an audience and engage community.

Pro Tip

Hear tips on how to Engage Your Community at a Distance by viewing our past webinar recording on this topic here.

Partner with Community Institutions

Committed to the communities they serve, financial institutions bring us together through volunteerism and philanthropic events. But they don’t have to rely solely on themselves to craft strong community relationships. Turning to community partners is a great way for financial brands to live out their core values with the support of local businesses and non-profits. One way to do this is through sponsoring local events. Not only will you gain some awareness for your financial brand, but it proves you are invested in your local community as well. Both financial institutions and local businesses achieve success through these kinds of partnerships.

Our 2021 award winner, Dean Bank made connections with many local businesses the town of Franklin, Massachusetts. They created a closed-circuit gift card program branded, “Think Franklin First.” Each dollar spent on these gift card went back to the Franklin community. Dean Bank received overwhelming support from the patrons of the community who responded by shopping locally. More than 60 local businesses were supported from the sales of 443 gift cards. Dean Bank inspires others to get involved and creates lasting partnerships.

Pro Tip

Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce to gain access to resources, grow your exposure, and create a lasting partnership.

Be Creative

You are so much more than “just” a bank or credit union. Finding continued ways to increase customer engagement and community connection requires creativity. One way to do this is on social media. Whether you’re looking to boost brand awareness, increase your number of touchpoints with customers, or inform others about products and services, social media can be a powerful and engaging tool. In an industry with extensive regulatory compliance concerns, financial brands can be seen as boring and traditional. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to allow those restrictions to limit your creativity. Create your brand personality and have fun with your social! Your brand personality is established through storytelling.  Our past blog, What is a Brand, shares the impact of storytelling and the importance of building a brand image that your community can connect with.

The 2021 Community Spark award manifested the power of sharing. Sharing stories, sharing brands, and sharing posts. Financial brands began to share Social’s Assurance’s Facebook and Instagram posts that promoted the Community Spark Award. Brands encouraged followers to join in on the public round of voting. From funny to clever posts, using names and hashtags, these brands sparked a chain reaction with their creative efforts.  Social media has the power to engage and inspire far beyond your customer base. All it takes is one share or tag to start something.

Pro Tip

Incorporate free Financial Resources for customers to access into your marketing plan. Our Consumer Awareness Calendar is a great example. Click HERE to check it out!

When part of a thriving community, we feel a sense of camaraderie and connection.  Financial brands help make that happen through initiatives like the ones shared for this year’s award. We learned so much from our Community Spark Award finalists and winners.

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Author: Sydney Long

Sydney Long is a Content and Campaigns contributor for Social Assurance. When she’s not helping develop strategic content, she loves to go on runs, drink coffee, and travel.

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