2019 Excellence in M&BD Award Winners

The awards recognize outstanding new marketing and business development approaches with potential for universal application across the industry. Without regard to asset size, a panel of judges selected winners based on strategy, process, application, and results. Representatives from the winning credit unions were present at the conference to accept their award. This year’s winners are:

The recipient of all three Excellence Award categories was Richfield Bloomington Credit Union, Bloomington, Minn. 

Business Development, Community Outreach and/or Political Advocacy, and Multifaceted Awards: Richfield Bloomington CU, Bloomington, Minn., for its Flags for Fort Snelling initiative.

By Todd Barduson, VP of Marketing and Development, Richfield Bloomington CU

Richfield Bloomington Credit Union, Bloomington, Minn. RBCU poured its heart and soul into sponsoring and leading the Flags for Fort Snelling effort, with its goal of restoring the tradition of properly honoring all 200,000 veterans laid to rest at nearby Fort Snelling National Cemetery by placing a U.S. Flag at each headstone for Memorial Day. RBCU reached out to Mall of America and KARE 11 TV and that collaborative team raised $350,000, purchased 200,000 flags and recruited an army of 8,000 volunteers that showed up to get the job done. RBCU received over $500,000 worth of nearly free publicity and built some great relationships and credibility within the community by simply choosing to act and do the right thing. RBCU would have done the exact same thing though even if it generated $0 publicity because honoring our veterans will always be the right thing to do. At least for a credit union our size Flags for Fort Snelling represented a very atypical sponsorship. We chose and pursued them! They said they accepted our offer because we were a credit union and therefore, they trusted us! To be recognized by your peers for not just one, but three Excellence Awards was truly an honor not just for RBCU, but more so for the 200,000 heroes laid to rest a few miles away whose service and sacrifice will truly never be forgotten. Flags for Fort Snelling was a great example of credit union power in action!

It is amazing how many RBCU members and community members that are directly related or at least know at least one veteran buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. I am no exception. Once my dad passes away, I will have 10 relatives buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery and one on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. This common bond amongst families of veterans and those who have served is powerful and emotional. When RBCU goes out in the community, people now know RBCU was the driving force behind the success of Flags for Fort Snelling and that is something I am very proud of on behalf of RBCU. I can’t think of too many other signature events credit unions receive praise for months and years later. Veterans and families of veterans still thank us when they see us. The stories of bravery and sacrifice they share with us bring you to tears and really puts life into perspective. I wouldn’t be here and be free, if it weren’t for the bravery and sacrifice of these brave men and women.

Richfield Bloomington Credit Union, Bloomington, Minn. To know that I was able to initiate something that has been as impactful as it has been is reward enough for me. The tradition of properly honoring veterans in Minnesota each Memorial Day has been restored – end of story.

From RBCU’s perspective there were multitudes of positives that were generated by taking a lead role with Flags for Fort Snelling. We demonstrated teamwork as we fundraised $200,000 with our members and in the community (KARE 11 raised $150,000 more) and volunteered to lead parts of the event itself and serve on the planning committee. We demonstrated the power of a credit union to mobilize support. We now have a great relationship with Mall of America and KARE 11 and other supporting organizations. And we benefited tremendously simply by choosing to act and take a leap of faith that supporting FFFS was the right thing to do. There was no blueprint to follow, we had to build the blueprint on the fly. Most employees are proud to respond to questions about Flags for Fort Snelling, knowing my credit union did that! Might we gain membership as a result of supporting FFFS? Most certainly, but it also was never a stated goal of participating though either. Not a bad thing to have on your side of the ledger if a community member is weighing whether to become an RBCU member or somewhere else.

Richfield Bloomington Credit Union, Bloomington, Minn. I applied for the Excellence Awards because deep down I truly believed RBCU had done something unique, different, powerful, impactful and knocked it out of the park. The idea of sponsoring Flags for Fort Snelling was not pitched to us – we pitched it to them! We recruited Mall of America and KARE 11 to join our effort, not the other way around. We served on the planning committee. About 2/3rds of our staff and our Board of Directors were up at 4:00 am to volunteer and place the 200,000 flags the Saturday before Memorial Day. We contacted all 400+ American Legion and VFW Posts in Minnesota to encourage their participation. We raised $200,000 by conducting in-branch silent auctions, a FFFS Silent Auction at our Annual Meeting and asked for donations from our members. We even had patriotic themed Christmas Trees to offer a different reason for the season (without the sacrifice of our veterans) we might not be celebrating the holidays like we do.

But the main reasons I would encourage any marketer to apply for the Excellence Awards are:

  1. They provide another great platform to tell your story.
  2. And the Excellence Awards challenge you to go the extra mile to make your event or promotion worthy of Excellence Awards consideration. And there is never anything wrong with being challenged to dig a little deeper!

RBCU was fortunate because the Flags for Fort Snelling story was compelling and impactful on its own, so we enjoyed telling that story, but that story continued to create new opportunities for RBCU to consider as well. So a simple idea of placing 200,000 U.S. Flags for Memorial Day became a complex eight month journey of fundraising, building marketing collateral and community engagement on behalf of Flags for Fort Snelling.