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Saver’s Credit Program Review

No one likes to admit failure, but that is what this project reports. The Saver’s Credit Program (SCP) was an idea that made a lot of sense but would ultimately fail.

Executive Summary

An enterprising i3 group came up with a clever idea to create “savings exchanges” to reinforce savings practices. Borrowing from Weight Watchers, these savings exchanges provided credit union members with a plan and encouragement to meet their savings goals. Next, the i3 group and the Filene Research Institute wrote a National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) grant to extend this idea to the income tax time savings event. Finally, Progress Through Business, a well-respected organization with strong ties to credit unions, policymakers, and academics, implemented the project. Progress Through Business has a strong distribution channel through their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites throughout the United States and impressive knowledge of income tax time savings strategies for both credit unions and employers.

What is the research about?

The project team got off to a strong start with impressive demand for the SCP. However, as more information was shared on the SCP’s specifics, credit unions began to drop out of the project. The project team then made adjustments to the SCP to make it more palatable to credit unions, but demand was still lacking. We finally concluded that we were working on a flawed campaign. The key lessons learned include:

  • The target population for the SCP was not large enough.
  • Credit unions were too busy to promote a campaign with limited application to their members.
  • Credit unions needed to spend significant non-reimbursable time analyzing who was eligible for the SCP.
  • Credit unions were only able to work with SCP-eligible members and not other credit union members.
  • Consumers did not understand the SCP.
  • The SCP’s value proposition was lacking for credit unions and consumers.

What are the credit union implications?

A well-known axiom in the world of innovation is to fail fast, fail cheap, and fail often. While the SCP was a failure, that doesn’t mean we will stop thinking about opportunities to improve consumers’ savings habits. Progress Through Business, the Filene Research Institute, and our i3 groups are focused on taking one step back and two steps forward. Onward to the next idea.

This report is sponsored by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF).