Learning about member needs using a financial health survey

Experiment Type
Field Experiment
Increase engagement
Increase short-term savings
Focus Areas
Marketing & messaging
Behavioral Concepts
Salience Descriptive social norms
Lake Trust Credit Union
Partner Type
Bank/Credit Union

What Happened

It didn't work. There was no significant difference in survey completion between whether members received one of two versions of an email. However, we cannot say how either of these emails compared to members receiving no email at all.

Lessons Learned

Based on the results, an email conveying either personal benefit or social comparison does not seem to be sufficient to increase completion of a financial health survey.


For financial institutions, helping people save–and to achieve a greater degree of financial well-being generally – revolves around creating products that actually meet people’s financial needs. However, financial institutions may not know what those needs are and finding ways to engage with members to ensure that new products actually fit the financial needs of their members is not always easy.

We partnered with Lake Trust to help them learn more about the needs of their membership and to develop new products that match those needs. Lake Trust Credit Union recently was certified as Michigan’s largest Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Like other CDFI’s, Lake Trust is dedicated to being responsive to the needs of their membership and developing products that serve those needs, particularly their members with low- and moderate-incomes. The first step was to encourage their members to get their CFSI Financial Health Score.

Key Insights

We needed to give members a reason to take the survey. There were certainly long-term benefits to the member: getting products that better serve their needs. However, those benefits by themselves are not very compelling because they are abstract and far off in the future. Instead, we know that there are several ways we might use findings from behavioral science to increase response rate:

  • Provide a short-term benefit to the member for taking survey (get a score) rather than long-term benefit.

  • Tell members they will learn how their financial health score compares to other people (social norms).

  • Be clear and specific about what the “ask” is. Let members know how much time the survey will take (rather than the number of questions).


E-mails encouraging member participation were sent to all 80,000 Lake Trust members with emails on record. Members were randomly assigned to receive one of two versions:


Lake Trust reported a record high open rate compared to similar email campaigns, which may be due in part to the subject lines that we helped them design. Across the credit union’s whole membership, 25% opened the survey (over 20,000 members). However, there were no significant differences in open rates based on email version or significant differences in click-through rates. Lake Trust gained valuable insights from the survey results, however, including that “saving” and “planning” were the areas where members had the biggest needs.