|Home | Spring 2009||
Rose Garr, Communications Director for America Saves
Since the start of the America Saves campaign seven years ago in Cleveland, banks and other financial institutions have played a critical role in developing and supporting the burgeoning savings movement. The results have been impressive. Not only has America Saves helped foster more financially stable communities, but bank partners have reported specific benefits from their work with the campaign, including
This article discusses the critical role banks have played with America Saves and how banks have used the campaign to promote savings and realize the impacts listed above. It also highlights America Saves Week, one of the best avenues for banks to partner with America Saves and promote savings in their communities.
Role of Banks in Launching America Saves
When Cleveland Saves launched in 2001 as a pilot project for the national America Saves campaign—conceived as a social marketing effort to improve personal savings behavior—banks played a major role.
The nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA) founded the campaign as a response to the decades-long downward trend in the personal savings rate. With a message of "Build Wealth, Not Debt," the campaign encourages and assists low- to moderate-income individuals and households to pay down debt, build emergency funds, buy homes, or afford other investments that result in asset development and financial stability.
America Saves' centerpiece--both nationally and in the many communities, like Cleveland, that are home to local Saves efforts--is a coalition of nonprofit, corporate, and government groups. Coalition partners are charged with promoting saving and providing opportunities to do so; schools may add the topic to curricula, nonprofits may provide counseling, employers may introduce or promote retirement savings programs, and policymakers may pursue legislated incentives to save.
Because banks serve as savings vehicles for many Americans, their participation and support was central. Leading up to the campaign's launch in Cleveland, Saves staff approached several local banks for input, support, and participation.
Banks in Cleveland rose to the challenge. A set of institutions, including Ohio Savings Bank (now AmTrust Bank), Huntington Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Key Bank, and U.S. Bank, contributed to helping develop and launch the campaign.
Cleveland banks helped conceive the idea of providing special savings products designed for low- to moderate-income savers and aggressively marketing those products in conjunction with the Saves campaign. In many cases, banks encouraged the use of those products by offering higher interest rates, "special-prize" drawings, cash rewards, or other motivators.
Among the many products offered were the following:
Bank staff also helped develop the campaign's overall organizing model, which included a motivational workshop, financial education classes, wealth coaches, and printed resources. Saves staff and bank partners laid a plan for signing up individuals as "Savers" by asking them to create and commit to a basic financial plan and savings goal.
Finally, several banks offered financial support for the budding Saves campaign in Cleveland, funding staff time and outreach efforts that succeeded in recruiting over 400 local organizations to participate in the city's savings campaign.
America Saves: Current Scope
Seven years later, the plan that Saves staff, bank partners, and others put in place has grown into a national movement far beyond its Cleveland roots. America Saves is now a robust national campaign with local initiatives in over 50 communities (for a complete list, visit our Web site). Over 130,000 people have enrolled as "Savers," and the campaign has reached millions through the news media, Internet, and public events.
The campaign also reaches an array of audiences through Military Saves, Black America Saves, Hispanic America Saves, and Youth Saves and helps consumers with specific savings goals through "America Saves on Homeownership" and "America Saves on Car Purchases."
Throughout the campaign's growth, banks have continued to play an integral role as important local partners. In fact, every campaign under the America Saves umbrella works with at least one local bank to provide and promote savings products designed for low- to moderate-income savers.
America Saves Week
In recent years, America Saves Week has emerged as the signature event for the campaign. This event brings together a large set of partners, reaching more people than it would through disparate events, and has been a boon for our bank partners, who report that it helps them maximize their marketing and promotion efforts and see more success.
Participating in America Saves Week is highly recommended for banks that are taking their first steps toward becoming part of the America Saves campaign or for banks in areas without a local Saves campaign. See our Web site for local campaign contact information; if you have a local Saves campaign in your area, please contact it directly for information on participating year-round.
Additionally, a new partnership with the America Savings Education Council has allowed the focus of America Saves Week to expand and reach savers of all incomes, as opposed to focusing only on the low- to moderate-income savers who have traditionally benefited from the work of Saves campaigns. The council, which coordinates America Saves Week in conjunction with the America Saves campaign, has long been recognized as a key player in the retirement savings community with expertise on long-range savings. The council has recruited Saves Week participants in its formidable coalition of large employers, plan sponsors, and national financial institutions.
America Saves encourages banks to use America Saves Week to promote the key message, "Make Savings Automatic." Automatic transfers into a savings account have long been considered one of the most effective savings mechanisms available. Saves Week material emphasizes "Make Savings Automatic," and bank partners have used that material to publicize their savings products and their involvement with America Saves.
The third annual America Saves Week took place between February 22, 2009, to March 1, 2009.
Examples of Participation in America Saves Week
Many banks and financial institutions have partnered for America Saves and offer excellent examples of successful savings promotion.