All association groups conduct meetings and events to enrich their members, but those that interface with the public also stage advocacy events that better consumers’ lives. In the banking and financial sector, the American Bankers Association (ABA), via its education foundation (ABAEF), teaches schoolchildren financial literacy through two annual events, Teach Children to Save Day (TCTS) and Get Smart About Credit Day (GSAC). To date, 100,000 bankers have voluntarily traded in their balance sheets for blackboards to teach 4 million kids the financial facts of life.
The two annual programs are actually clusters of individual events nationwide, with TCTS held in the spring and GSAC in the fall; this year, the respective dates are April 21 and October 20.
“We’re the owner of the events, but the bankers put them into action,” says Laura Fisher, executive director of the ABAEF, based in Washington, DC. “They have the local connections to set up events in their children’s schools. It’s easier for them than us as a national organization.”
Similar to any association designing an education program for its big annual event, the ABAEF develops TCTS and GSAC lesson plans and instructional materials for banker volunteers to use in their events. Participating banks register with the ABAEF to take part in the programs and receive these teaching materials.
The ABAEF also equips volunteers with all TCTS and GSAC marketing collateral. Essentially, the individual bankers, armed with all these materials, become their own event designers.
The education foundation also does its fair share of event marketing and communications. Fisher and her three-person staff put out a monthly e-newsletter, hold webinars, and send e-mail reminders designed to keep TCTS and GSAC top of mind. There are even incentive and teambuilding elements. In 2009, the ABAEF created the Million Child Challenge, inspiring 23,000-plus industry members to teach personal finance skills to more than 1 million young people. While the foundation didn’t quite reach those heady numbers in 2010, Fisher says the Million Child Challenge gave participants an industry-wide teambuilding project with a clear goal.
Public confidence in the banking and financial industry hit a new low following Wall Street’s collapse in 2008, and anyone involved in consumer event planning knows the value of brand image and loyalty. TCTS and GSAC are “purely community outreach, to improve the image of banks in communities,” says Fisher. She adds, “Teach Children to Save is such a feel-good program, working with elementary school students. In a small community, a banker could be interacting with the same kids year after year and hopefully [future] long-term customers.”