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Success Stories Classroom Cash

January 1, 2021
  • Martell Elementary School will use their Classroom Cash Grant for Logitech Crayons digital pencils.

  • One winner of the Classroom Cash Grants is Huron Academy who will use the funds for iPads for Learning 21st Century Skills.

  • Grant money will go toward Math Puzzle Tiles at Greenwood Elementary School.

Success Stories

Classroom Cash

Michigan Schools and Government CU Rooted in Education 

By Donna Adinolfe

Background:

When tasked with implementing this year’s Classroom Cash Grants Program, the marketing team at Michigan Schools and Government Credit Union (MSGCU), in Clinton Township, Michigan, had to consider that students were not actually in the classroom much of this year due to COVID-19.

The fact that most of the students are distance learning did not seem to matter, though, as the credit union received 94 requests for grants worth up to $750 apiece. They awarded more than $45,000 to 64 educators spanning 51 schools across the Metro Detroit area.

This year, some grants will aid in virtual learning and help to keep educators and students safe from COVID-19, including personal protective equipment.

In its 15th year, the Classroom Cash Grants program promotes MSGCU’s roots of supporting the education community, according to Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Ann Jones.

“We strongly believe in the power of education and the important role educators play in the development of our youth,” said Pete Gates, MSGCU president/CEO. “We are humbled to provide this resource to educators as they plan creative and impactful learning experiences in their classrooms and virtually this school year.”

Classroom Cash Grants Program winners are determined by the total votes cast by students, parents, colleagues, family members and friends. More than 72,000 votes were cast during an 11-day online voting period.

What they did:

The process begins in September when the credit union reaches out to teachers and school district officials via a microsite that’s embedded on the credit union’s website, Jones said. They also reached out to parents of school children on Facebook to promote Classroom Cash Grants.

In October, all grant requests are loaded onto the microsite. The CU used social media and emails to encourage parents, members, teachers and students to vote for their favorite applications up to five times per day.  Voting took place over 11 days and garnered 72,000 votes.

The CU budgets $45,000 for the grant program every year, Jones said, adding that members are supportive of the teachers, who historically dip into their own pockets for classroom extras.

“It’s a great demonstration of how we value teachers, “ Jones said. “It really aligns with who we are.”

The grant money is disbursed to the schools, which then allocate the funds to the teacher, librarian or other staff member who applied for and won a grant. Recipients must become a member (if they aren’t already) to receive the funds, Jones said.

Winners are posted on the credit union website. Some recipients video their students’ reactions and post it on the school’s social media, or are sent to the credit union to be used in promoting the following year’s program.

Lessons learned:

  • Keep things fresh with new technology — MSGCU began using voting by text this year to encourage younger people to vote. Plus, Jones said, texting overcomes the issues that sometimes happen with firewalls and blocked emails.
  • Make sure your website is working — Use a leaderboard to increase excitement, but make sure the tallying component is accurate.
  • Be transparent — Participants need to see where the grant money goes and how they are doing during the voting period. “We are handling people’s finances,” Jones said. “We need a lot of trust.”