MADISON, Wis. (5/3/11)--Credit unions, providing a lesson that banks could learn, are increasingly using a combination of online contests and social media to hire spokespeople who are young and media-savvy, according to a Sunday article in Collections and Credit Risk (CACR). As part of the Young & Free Campaign, launched in 2007 by Currency Marketing, a credit union marketing company in Chilliwack, Canada, the company provides credit unions the tools to engage the youth market, the publication said. The key to the spokespeople’s success is using the Internet to build a community that still is mostly local. Faced with aging members, credit unions needed a method of staying relevant and garnering a new base of young members, CACR said. To date, nine credit unions have participated in Young & Free, with many saying they have doubled their Gen-Y membership year-over-year. Only one credit union per state participates in the program, the article reported. Eleven percent of people in Generation Y have had a primary financial relationship with a credit union, compared with 15% of all other ages, according to an August 2010 survey by Javelin Strategy and Research. By contrast, 43% of Generation Y had a primary relationship with a top-10 bank, compared with 38% of all other consumers, CACR said. The article mentioned ORNL FCU Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Michigan First CU, Lathrup Village, Mich., and South Carolina FCU, North Charleston, S.C. Although credit unions may not have all the technology of the biggest banks to extend their reach, they have something those large banks do not, Mark Schwanhausser, a Javelin senior analyst, told CACR. Credit unions are nonprofit, and they have roots in an intensely local and specific community, he said.