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|Washington Mutual Rolls out Innovative Program to Benefit Local Schools; WaMoola for Schools Program is Expected to Drive Millions of Dollars in Donations to Local Schools|
SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 12, 2004--In an innovative effort to step up support of local schools, Washington Mutual Inc. (NYSE:WM), one of the nation's leading retailers of financial services, today announced that its banking subsidiaries are introducing a new check card program that is expected to drive millions of dollars in donations to K-12 schools.
Called the WaMoola for Schools(R) program, it is the first of its kind to tie support for local schools to check card usage, and in turn allows schools to accumulate points which will be converted to cash at the end of each year.
"In a time when educational budgets are tighter than ever, every dollar counts when it comes to school funding," said Bettye Wilkes, senior vice president and manager of Corporate Giving at Washington Mutual. "This is especially true for unrestricted funds, in which schools can decide for themselves on how to use the money -- whether it's for teacher training, special assemblies, school supplies, playground equipment, field trips, musical instruments and more. We have found every school has a wish list, and we want to help fulfill them."
Designed to be simple: enroll and just use the check card
The WaMoola for Schools program was designed to be simple and flexible. There's no enrollment fee and Washington Mutual does not charge customers for using its check cards for purchases, although some merchants may charge. Under the program, customers with a Washington Mutual Visa(R) Check Card enroll by selecting a school to benefit and begin by simply using their check cards when making everyday purchases. The designated public or private school will receive a point worth approximately five cents for each purchase made using the card.
At the end of the year, the points will be converted into cash and schools will receive a check from Washington Mutual. Actual rewards can vary, however, since Washington Mutual also plans to run special promotions including an offer to double points for check card purchases made through this coming April 30.
Parents can choose a child's school, grandparents and aunts and uncles can also participate, and even neighbors can designate a local school. Enrollees who do not have a specific school in mind can opt to have points allocated to a local underserved school.
"In our recent research, we found that education was top of mind among our customers with a large majority indicating that they were extremely concerned about it as a public issue," said Cheryl DiRe, senior vice president and manager of Community Marketing at Washington Mutual. "We took these findings to heart. While Washington Mutual already generously supports educational initiatives, we want to provide an easy, effective way for customers to be more directly involved and help us decide which schools should receive funding from us."
Combine with other school-giving programs like soup labels, box tops promotions
One of the advantages of the WaMoola for Schools program is that it can be used with other programs that support education. For example, shoppers can use their check card to purchase certain grocery products with soup labels or box tops rather than writing a check, and their schools benefit multifold. "In fact, our research found that activities such as buying candy bars and wrapping paper and collecting box tops and soup labels are among the most popular activities by which consumers give to schools," said DiRe. "What was even more compelling is that when we described the WaMoola for Schools program nearly two-thirds of the respondents rated it very favorably."
DiRe added that check card usage was purposefully linked to the program, because checking accountholders represent the broadest base of Washington Mutual's consumer customers. "Our goal is to raise as much in funding as they can for schools. We also see the WaMoola for Schools program as being an example of how we look for new ways to add value to our products, particularly to Free Checking which remains a popular core-relationship product since we introduced it nearly 10 years ago."
Washington Mutual has a long-standing history of supporting education
The WaMoola for Schools program is one of many education programs supported by Washington Mutual. "Although many businesses support education, our commitment is long-standing and passionate," said DiRe. For example, Washington Mutual expects its community and employee giving program to total over $115 million in 2004, with approximately $24 million of that total to support education initiatives. "While we will continue to support national and local initiatives through cash grants, we expect the WaMoola for Schools program to be an ever-increasing part of our community giving budget," said DiRe.
In addition, Washington Mutual offers the School Savings(R) program, which it launched in 1923 to teach youngsters early money management skills, and provides classroom presentations on financial literacy for ages K-12. Under the CAN! (Committed Active Neighbors) program, Washington Mutual employees routinely volunteer at local nonprofits and in neighborhood schools. In 2003 alone, employees volunteered more than 44,000 times providing 184,000 hours of community service.
The newly launched WaMoola for Schools program is actually a revision of an initiative started six years ago. In the past, Washington Mutual donated $1 for each new checking account opened and local branch managers determined which schools benefited. "While it was well-received and popular, we ultimately wanted to expand the number of schools that could potentially benefit and broaden the program so that new and existing customers could participate," said DiRe.
Washington Mutual recognized for innovation
Washington Mutual has been recognized for its innovation and retail banking strategy, both nationally and internationally. Fortune magazine announced that Washington Mutual was the No. 1 rated company nationally in the innovation category as part of its 2004 Most Admired Companies list, and the company was named the "Best Retail Bank -- Americas" in the Lafferty International Retail Banking Awards announced last November.
About Washington Mutual
With a history dating back to 1889, Washington Mutual is a retailer of financial services that provides a diversified line of products and services to consumers and commercial clients. At December 31, 2003, Washington Mutual and its subsidiaries had assets of $275.18 billion. Washington Mutual currently operates more than 2,400 consumer banking, mortgage lending, commercial banking, and financial services offices throughout the nation. Washington Mutual's press releases are available at www.wamu.com.
CONTACT: Washington Mutual New York: Tara Williams, 646-521-3320 mobile, 973-280-1976 firstname.lastname@example.org or Chicago: Missy Cousino, 713-543-3113 mobile, 713-594-9332 email@example.com or Los Angeles: Alfredo Padilla, 213-217-4093 mobile, 213-804-1323 firstname.lastname@example.org or Seattle: Mary Kelley, 206-377-6878 mobile, 206-459-0394 email@example.com or Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot, 206-377-3635 mobile, 425-444-2500 firstname.lastname@example.org SOURCE: Washington Mutual