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Apply for a grant, just like STAR Credit Union did!


STAR Credit Union in Madison is applying a $3,000 grant from the Wisconsin Credit Union Foundation to beef up its technology aiding the saving and financial learning of student savers. What could you do to help members or improve your outreach with a little financial assistance?


The credit union, which exclusively serves young savers attending the after school programs of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, used the grant, some of its own funds and support from the Madison Area Chapter of Credit Unions to purchase a computer for another one of its two Dane County locations. Since then, STAR has opened 40 new student savings accounts.


The rest of the grant has been earmarked for a new website that will replace the credit union’s former site, offering the students more financial learning opportunities – particularly through online games – as well as continued online banking.


The credit union is working with a volunteer web developer through the United Way to develop the site based on input from students who developed a "wish list" for the project.


Besides offering virtual recognition for students completing certain educational games, the students envision the site hosting a blog to share students’ knowledge as well as offering a platform for students to connect with other young savers through social media.

"There’s not much incentive right now to visit the STAR website frequently, but we know that the students make more frequent deposits the more often they see their balances and the more they are learning or being nudged to do so," said STAR’s Youth Development Director Kristel Renn.


Students open STAR accounts with an initial deposits of just a quarter. Some are saving for a bicycle or an e-tablet while others are saving to pay the fees associated with participating in school sports, attending group trips associated with other clubs, or even for college.


The credit union encourages frequent deposits by paying 5% in interest as well as offering hands-on financial lessons.


For example, STAR’s lessons have involved a field trip to the grocery store to look for the best deals. Students also developed a business plan for a lemonade stand—discovering what ingredients cost, what permits are needed and more. A cultural fair that allowed the kids to buy food from vendors of various ethnicities taught them about the varied buying power of foreign currencies as well as the economic challenges in other countries. A recent Reality Store event gave the students an eye-opening look at what real-life expenses they may face in the future.

The students’ growing knowledge has even stimulated interest among their parents, many of whom are low-income, single parents struggling to make ends meet. STAR has invited them to come in for basic money management workshops held by its sponsoring credit union, Summit Credit Union. One mother came in for help after realizing her daughter had a larger savings account than she did.


Student tellering and a marketing committee allow additional opportunities for student learning.


"Most of the third and fourth graders who save at STAR can answer the questions that many teens at their schools can’t answer. They can count back change and know quite a lot about financial subjects you’d be surprised that students that young are interested in," Renn says.

Because the kids’ lessons have already touched on the effects of taxation, they’ve been vocal advocates during the recent "Don’t Tax My Credit Union" outreach to Congress, sending letters, making videos, and even canvassing for support for credit unions’ tax status.


For more information on STAR Credit Union, contact Kristel Renn.


Also check out how Park City Credit Union applied its grant funds.


How could your credit union increase your outreach to unique markets or help members with a little financial assistance? Follow the grant guidelines and apply by June 30!


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