What Is Project 100?
By Bryan Dahl, MCUL Information Services Coordinator
When a credit union gets creative to make an impression on their community, the results are unique and inspiring in how they help everyday people. Taking this concept to a new level is Livonia-based Co-op Services CU, whose strikingly original Project 100 program has generated all of the positive benefits a credit union could want from a community initiative.
Jeremy Cybulski (left0, youth and community develoment coordinator of Co-op Services CU, surprises Anton from Walled Lake with $100.
Cybulski gives $100 to Tamara of Farmington Hills, who read a news story about Project 100 and signed up online to become a potential recipient.
Here’s how it works: Over the course of 100 days, the credit union gives a $100 bill to 100 random individuals in the community; no strings attached, only a humble request to consider giving back to the community any way they wish. It’s a simple premise and seems almost too good to be true – just ask the recipients approached by the credit union that almost didn’t accept the cash. The Project 100 team had to change its approach to assure that people knew off-the-bat the legitimacy of the offer.
“With people losing their jobs and a lot of negative stories in the press, we were looking for a way that our credit union could help,” said Co-op Services CU Marketing Manager Lisa Fawcett. “We set some goals for developing a program to help the community move in a positive direction. We understood that with our limited resources, we could only make so much of an impact, but with the idea of Project 100 and enlisting the aid of other people to continue the giving, we could really spark change.”
Project 100 doesn’t stop when the money changes hands. Edge Marketing Group, which helped conceive the program, has assured that numerous other pieces of Project 100 create a strong PR hook and allow for plenty of feedback through online resources. Co-op Services CU’s involvement wasn’t initially revealed in order to generate some additional buzz in the community about who was behind the program.
The polished and comprehensive Project 100 Web site (www.WhatIsProject100.com) allows recipients to share what they’ve done with the money or how they gave back to the community. A blog keeps members and the community plugged into how the program is developing, and a list of ways to volunteer is also included. You can even sign up to become a potential recipient of a $100 bill in the future through the “You Could Be Next!” feature.
Co-op Services CU had high hopes for how Project 100 would unfold, but things have turned out better than anticipated as numerous media outlets covered the initiative, including The Detroit News, WXYZ TV news, and local radio stations.
“We knew that we’d get some press coverage out of it, but it has exceeded our expectations,” Fawcett said. “The press has been positive, the blog comments have been positive, the stories shared on the Web site by recipients have been positive, and the member feedback has been great.”
Project 100 has been successful because of its originality and its simplicity. There are many benefits to such a program, including community exposure, positive publicity, spreading of the credit union message and potentially growing membership – the credit union recently began a second phase of Project 100 that involves promoting credit union membership, the results of which they hope to measure in the New Year. For credit unions interested in raising their profile through community involvement, it’s an inspiring idea.
“The program has exposed the nature of credit unions and their desire to give back to communities, and it’s promoted the visibility of our credit union,” Fawcett said. “Our last goal [with Project 100] is to hopefully increase membership. It’s too early to tell, but it appears that people are excited to do business with a financial institution that is focused on giving back.”
To learn more about Project 100, visit podcast.mcul.org for an interview with Fawcett and Edge Creative Group President Greg Wohler. Also visit www.WhatIsProject100.com for a blog, videos, photos and media coverage.