News & Information

2018 Desjardins awards honor two for adult and youth financial education

by Christine Henzig, Director of Communications Nov 07, 2018

Join us in honoring two Wisconsin credit unions for excellence in financial education. 

Desjardins AwardThe award is named in honor of Alphonse Desjardins, the founder of the North American credit union movement. Desjardins established the first "caisse populaire," or people’s bank, in Quebec in 1900 and helped establish the first American credit union in New Hampshire in 1909.

Separate awards for 2018 honor their:

Hover over photos for their captions

Adult Financial Education

Altra Federal Credit Union, La Crosse - First Place ($1 billion+ in assets)

Last year the credit union focused on helping people protect their financial futures by offering multiple identity theft and recognizing scams workshops.They also helped older adults by having sessions dedicated to Social Security benefits and retirement strategies.

Altra Federal hosted fraud seminarsThey partnered with other organizations and provided free educational sessions, one-on-one counseling, and online resources. Sessions included a focus on deterring ID theft, protection privacy, claiming social security, enhancing social security benefits, and the social security rules of the road. A shred day enhanced the messaging about protecting identities.

In addition, Altra staff met with more than 300 members to examine their spending habits, make a budget to build savings, pay bills and improve members' credit. This resulted in a reduction of delinquencies and defaults by those members.

The credit union also worked with Western Technical College to help recent high school dropouts trying to get their equivalency diplomas. The program participants received training on budgeting, smart shopping, ID theft and fraud, and credit, and created a spending plan for living independently.

During Money Smart Week in April, Altra also provided education to more than 2,900 people working with financial institutions, schools, nonprofits and local businesses.

The credit union also sponsors teachers to attend the National Institute of Financial and Economic Literacy in Madison, and trained mentors to work with high schools through a Junior Achievement Business Challenge competition.

Youth Financial Education

Royal Credit Union, Eau Claire - First place ($1 billion+ in assets)

Over 12 months, Royal team members conducted 657 total presentations on financial topics that reached 8,937 unique students. A total of 436 of these presentations were using curriculum developed by Royal. More than 220 of these presentations were through a partnership with Junior Achievement, for which 40 Royal Team members assisted.

Royal's Superheroes of Saving reached elementary school studentsIn 2018, Royal launched a program called Elementary School Takeover Day, featuring the Superheroes of Saving, to help schools meet the state's new requirement for personal finance education. Six experienced financial educators - the superheroes, who wore matching shirts and royal blue capes (right) - provided lessons to every student. Take home activities were included and follow-up education was provided. Nine such superhero events have touched 111 classrooms, educating 2,407 elementary students.

In addition, Royal continues to provide four reality fairs a year for more than 1,000 students, a competitive entrepreneurship program that engages youth in presentations to a panel of judges, and 28 in-school branches in elementary, middle and high schools. In one year students saved $580,496 with over 16,250 deposits. Royal even donated $250 to each school for every 500 deposits students made.

Royal also made two videos that show how its elementary/middle school program is creating a savings habit and how the high school program is positively impacting teens. The credit union routinely consults with credit unions in Wisconsin and nationally on best practices for in-school branches.

Governor Walker mugs with students at the RCU youth branch

Royal also created a high school credit union advocacy internship program through the Eau Claire Area School District. The first intern met with legislators in-district and as part of The League's state Government Affairs Conference. In addition to visits with their state lawmakers, Royal also met with Governor Walker at Royal's North High School branch. He posed for pictures on social media and local media.

Royal also hosted financial education training for teachers and volunteers in partnership with the UW Center for Financial Security and via the National Institute for Financial and Economic Literacy. Royal's youth financial ed coordinator also presented at The League's YP Conference in 2017 to showcase best practices for community partnerships, and at The League's 2018 Financial Education Workshop.

Altra Federal Credit Union, La Crosse - Second place ($1 billion+ in assets)

(L to R) Altra's Tony Beyer and Danielle Anderson show off their awards presented at a recent chapter meetingThis past year Altra increased its outreach, financially educating 5,312 students (a 17.6% increase) through presentations and reality fairs, 512 students through Junior Achievement and 3,140 students through the classroom version of Banzai, a free resource provided to 53 teachers. More than 188 in-classroom presentations reached 3,975 students - an 86% increase in students. The Banzai program is also provided to Boys and Girls Clubs, women's shelters and veteran support groups.

New opportunities were provided in all of the communities that Altra serves, including through a Boys and Girls Club, Good Fight Boxing Center, YMCA Youth Center, girls summer camp, community center and 13 additional schools in Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota and La Crosse.

Altra also made a $20,000-two year grant to Junior Achievement, for which it was recognized with a Hero Award for Outstanding Community Partner.

The credit union's website, which was revamped in June, now houses an online learning page for financial topics. Enhancements were also added to the Altra Jr. kid-friendly app, which helps young people earn financial literacy badges. The app has 846 users - about 10% of the membership ages 2-12.

The credit union also added two new programs to its youth offerings. One was Banzai Teen's website, offering free learning modules for teens and a $50 VISA gift card incentive that post-test takers can win in a drawing. Since launch, there are 53 users, 81 logins, 105 hours of viewing, and 17 post-tests competed with a 4% increase in knowledge. The other new program - a rewards program - offers a higher interest rate and doubled the limit on a graduation certificate, to $4,000 vs. $2,000.

Altra's political advocacy team also grew from six to ten employees - covering marketing, lending, credit, deposits, member experience, HR and mortgages - to represent the credit union for advocacy purposes. These experts attend the League state Government Affairs Conference, Hike the Hill in D.C. and other key advocacy events. Altra's other staff also received informational sessions on advocacy from the League, and a day-long Town Hall meeting with CUNA CEO Jim Nussle encouraged activists' engagement.


Winners receive a plaque and are honored on social media, at a local chapter meeting and at The League's annual Convention. Winners also receive assistance to share news about their accolade with local media, as awards are an excellent opportunity to create awareness about the value of belonging to a member-owned financial cooperative.

National-level winners, which are selected by the Credit Union National Association, will be announced later this year. Those winners will be honored at CUNA's 2019 Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.