In a new recently published paper titled A socially responsible financial institution – The bumpy road to improving consumer well-being SHINE researchers, Piotr Bialowolski, DorotaWeziak-Bialowolska, and EileenMcNeely, examined the extent to which a financial incentive such as a higher interest rate savings account can influence YMCA members to participate in fitness and wellness activities.
There is a strong belief that in addition to making a profit, companies should act for the benefit of the society. This research has evaluated a novel cooperation model between a non-profit financial institution and a community service provider (a local YMCA) with the overarching aim of advancing customers’ well-being. By offering a financial incentive (a savings account with higher interest payouts, contingent on account holders’ increased participation in YMCA activities), the financial institution and the YMCA partnered to improve consumers’ financial standing, positive health behaviors, and overall well-being. The collaboration exemplified a business engagement in the community that goes beyond philanthropy.
Participation in YMCA activities was found not to be influenced by the financial incentive. However, households participating in the program swiftly transferred their financial resources to the incentivized account and along with that increased their activity in YMCA to boost the interest rate. Sport-related YMCA visits had some positive effects on momentary well-being, but none were observed for non-sport-related activities. Furthermore, the incentivized activities did not translate into improved well-being outcomes but had a potential to positively contribute to emergency savings. The evidence from qualitative feedback from in-depth participant interviews pointed to a reverse effect of the incentive, where YMCA engagement was a trigger for setting up the savings account.
The findings have corroborated the understanding that designing interventions that target customers’ well-being is not a straightforward task.