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big. bright. minds.·Business Development·Change·Collaboration·Community Development·Creativity·CUNA Councils·Gen Y·Innovation·Leadership·New Release·Uncategorized

Scholarship Application Ideas

Hello Everyone!

I am looking to see what other credit unions have done for college scholarship applications. Our scholarship is for high school seniors that will be attending a university/college in Fall 2018.

In past, we have done papers, but I am looking for something more interactive/innovative that would get students excited to apply.  Two years ago we tried video applications and that did not seem to go over well either.

Thank you in advance for your suggestions. :)

Business Development·Crash·Crash Event·CUNA Councils·Professional Development

Crashing the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council Conference

#CrashMBD16 was quite the experience to say the least. It was packed with great networking experiences, excellent speakers and invaluable knowledge.

  • Crash Sessions
    • We were the inaugural crashers of the MBD council conference led by our fearless leader James Marshall of Filene Research institute. Along with attending the conference, crashers get the opportunity to meet and network with some of the top leaders in our industry, and get additional “crash” sessions that with special guest speakers. These were some of my favorite sessions because we get to have intimate thought-provoking conversations with a few of the speakers that hosted their own breakout sessions, the executive council and some were previous crashers at other events. Leadership, Technology and the Cooperative Principles were just a few of the topics that we tackled as we listened, learned and exchanged our own individual experiences from our own credit unions. The crash experience puts things in perspective since we were all from different states at credit unions of different sizes, it exposes us to a bigger picture of the common challenges we can face and more importantly it allowed us use cooperation to come up with potential ideas and solutions that other might be implementing that we could bring back to our own institutions.

                                   Crashers at the Diamond Awards


  • Keynote Speakers
    • Johnny “Cupcakes” Earl
      • Johnny had a great presentation about building your personal brand. His was specifically a T-Shirt company with storefronts disguised as cupcake shops. He did this in an attempt to really stand out in a saturated market and needless to say it was a huge success for him. Financial institutions all have the same products for the most part, so how can credit unions stand out. One of the best things we can do is have our members become Brand Ambassadors to inspire Brand Loyalty. We do this by giving our members new experiences and positive memories that people want to share with the world. Johnny was able to grow his brand virally by the word of mouth of his customers that had unique experiences when they came into his store and I believe that we can do the same thing with credit unions.

                                                        Johnny Earl with Crashers


  • Scott Stratten
    • Scott is the President of Unmarketing. A terrific speaker who uses wit and humor to get his point across to get people to “stop marketing and start engaging.” He refers to this as authentic marketing. We need to realize that we are able to connect to people easier than ever thanks to social media. Social media isn’t just a way to communicate to the mass audience but rather a way to reach people individually. Every interaction moves the pivot point of the member experience either up or down, positively or negatively. Stability is not the goal, continuous change is the goal. Credit Unions have an advantage because we serve our community; we know our community and we need to position ourselves to be our community’s first choice when they have a need.



             Scott Stratten presenting                                       Scott Stratten with crashers


  • Overall Takeaways (From myself and fellow crashers)
    • No matter how big or small we can make a difference and an impact!
    • Be coachable, you don’t know everything.
    • When building the brand be compassionate and genuine. Give members a sense of ownership of THEIR brand.
    • Tap into your network to help brainstorm ideas and get different perspectives.
    • Be transformational no transactional.
    • A hand written note can go a long way.
    • Stay humble, stay hungry.
    • Give people a memory.
Business Development·Collaboration·Community Development·Conferences·Cooperative Economy·Ideas·Professional Development·Updates

Cooperative Credit Unions: My Experience at ACE Institute

Last month I had the opportunity to see North American cooperatives in action. ACE—the Association of Cooperative Educators puts on their annual ACE Institute Conference, and this year it was held in cooperative central, Austin, Texas. Woohoo for my first time in the Cooperative Capital!

ACE is a membership organization that brings together educators, researchers, cooperative members, and cooperative developers from across cooperative sectors and national borders resulting in ideas that enhance cooperative development, strengthen cooperatives, promote professionalism and improve public understanding.

Being a busy guy, I unfortunately only had the opportunity to attend day 1 of a 3-day conference. It was a quick trip, but nothing short of a fantastic experience. I had never before seen the momentum of the cooperative movement outside of consumer finance.  Like many of my colleagues, I am a self-proclaimed credit union junkie, so I guilty admit that I tend to neglect thoughts of the cooperative movement that exists as a whole. Credit unions live by the cooperative principals, so how could I forget?!

I was most impressed with the cooperative efforts in housing, community gardens, and retail. I noticed that credit unions and “cooperatives’ were often categorized in two different buckets, unintentionally of course. I want to hear from my fellow credit union junkies, why are credit unions not associated with the word “cooperative” as much as other segments? What can be done to bring the two closer together?

Ready, set & go!…

Business Development·Change·Collaboration·Creativity·Ideas·Innovation·Professional Development

Innovation Wingmen

The discipline of suffering, of great suffering — do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far? That tension of the soul in unhappiness which cultivates its strength, its shudders face to face with great ruin, its inventiveness and courage in enduring, persevering, interpreting, and exploiting suffering, and whatever has been granted to it of profundity, secret, mask, spirit, cunning, greatness — was it not granted to it through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering? ” – Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

There are only two things you can count on when creating and launching a new idea: (1) it won’t be easy and (2) it will likely fail. While your left brain is keenly aware of these realities, even it will be surprised by just how many barriers you will face. You know there’s a chance for your idea to fail, but no one can foresee exactly how the deck will be stacked against you.

You need a wingman.

That’s not to say you don’t have the talent to do it alone. You do. Your idea is plenty good enough to work. You’re smart enough to somehow, some way, overcome the technical barriers that stand before you. But you can’t do it alone.

The key ingredient to making an idea happen isn’t money or timing or intelligence or authority. No, it’s something much more precious. It’s a rare element deep down inside some people that doesn’t allow them to give up. Some call it passion, will, grit, or stick-to-itiveness. Others call it delusion, foolhardiness, or irrationality. Truth told, it’s probably all of these things.

You need a wingman because passion can be fragile. You need someone you can turn to who isn’t going to remind you how much you’re risking by pursuing your idea. You need someone to help you plan for the “best case scenario.” You need someone who, when things look the bleakest, encourages you to carry on. You need someone who keeps your mind on the justified ends, and reminds you that the means are only temporary pains.

A good wingman is hard to find, but I have never successfully launched anything without one. Any time I have a new idea, I have a mental list of people I know, love, and respect in credit unions who I contact. I can tell how passionate about the idea I am by the number of arguments and calls I’m willing to make about it. If I truly love the idea, I keep dialing, emailing, arguing, presenting, and pleading as many times to as many people needed to get the only phrase that matters to me: “I think you’re on to something. How can I help?”

This is a wingman. The more original the idea, the less likely you’ll find her. Wingmen come in two flavors: the Bandwagoner and the Astatine. Bandwagoners support your idea because it’s easy to do so. They have a “best practices” mentality, and will support your idea because there are enough case studies and data to build a solid case for it. A Bandwagoner’s support is useful, but it can ultimately distract you from meaningful innovation. Bandwagoners are rational, and look to the past to predict future success. Your idea has no past.

An Astatine wingman supports your idea because she believes in you. She sees your passion, is frustrated by a similar problem, and thinks that experimenting with new ideas is the only way to make new things happen. Astatine is the rarest element on the planet (it’s estimated that only an ounce of it exists on earth). And with a half life of 8 hours, don’t count on it sticking around. So, when you find an Astatine wingman, you don’t have time to lose. Create. Do it now.

Most people are not suited to be an Astatine wingman. This is because most people are intelligent creatures. They see the world through a different lens. They avoid risk. They fear change. They’re busy.

Don’t confuse lack of support with unhelpfulness. When your idea is not meaningfully unique, the “Sell-Out Police” help you realize it. It’s not that they don’t support you or innovation, it’s that they’re knowledgable enough to realize that your idea isn’t original at all. Sell-Out Police can be vitally important. However, if you don’t articulate your idea properly to this group they can also be devastatingly toxic. If there’s any element of your idea that sounds like any element of any other idea, this group hears nothing else. Sell-Out Police don’t care about improving your idea or molding it into something truly unique, they simply care about finding reasons why it is not. No one deflates enthusiasm like the Sell-Out Police.

And the last group of people you’ll meet on your way to innovation is the Realists. Realists think they have a monopoly on reason. They’ve been around the block. They’ve seen things. They’ve read things. Some of them (very few) have even built things. They know how hard, slow, uncertain, and expensive innovation can be. They try to talk you out of pursuing your idea because the harsh reality is that it probably won’t work. Realists are almost always right. They are rarely helpful.

One goal of this post is to encourage you to find support for your new ideas. Astatine wingmen are rare, but they exist. Keep making connections with people inside and outside of our industry that inspire you. Find people who are just as dissatisfied with status quo as you are. Find people who see problem-solving as the key to happiness. Find people who can fall in love.

But the primary goal of this post is to encourage you to be a wingman. The world needs dreamers, no doubt. But the dreamers need someone like you to help them beat the odds.

Business Development·Change·Collaboration·Cooperative Economy·CUNA Mutual Group·News Release

CUNA Mutual Group Commits $35,000 To The Cooperative Trust

MADISON, Wis. – CUNA Mutual Group has committed $35,000 over the next year to The Cooperative Trust to support the future of credit unions. This new sponsorship continues CUNA Mutual Group’s long-standing involvement with the Trust and will increase leagues’ efforts to engage young adults.

“The leagues’ ability to engage young adults and credit unions attracting and retaining them as members and employees is key to the future of our industry,” said Gerry Singleton, vice president, CU System Relations, CUNA Mutual Group. “Our industry needs to pursue the next generation of members and employees, and we see our support of The Cooperative Trust as an investment in the future of credit unions.”

The Cooperative Trust, founded by Filene Research Institute in 2010, is a grassroots group of young people working in credit unions and cooperatives with the goal to learn from the vast amount of talent among industry veterans while aggressively shaping the future.  CUNA Mutual Group is a charter and founding member of the Filene Research Institute.

CUNA Mutual Group’s funding will help The Cooperative Trust community attend, learn from and be heard at non-traditional industry events.  It will also support Leagues’ desire to engage and maintain relationships with young professionals by providing on-site facilitation for young professional events, guidance, templates, mentorship best practices and more.

“Our continued relationship shows CUNA Mutual Group’s commitment to the future of credit unions.” said James Marshall of Filene, and The Cooperative Trust manager.  “We are very excited to engage on a deeper level with credit union leagues and associations to help them develop their young professionals and future leaders, thanks to the support of CUNA Mutual Group.”

The Cooperative Trust’s online community offers open conversation and encourages active collaboration among young credit union and cooperative industry professionals.  If you’re under-35, entrepreneurial and have a passion for cooperatives and credit unions, apply for membership.

To learn more, follow @CUNAMutualGroup on Twitter, circle +CUNA Mutual Group on Google+, or visit

CUNA Mutual Group was founded in 1935 by credit union pioneers, and our commitment to their vision continues today. We offer insurance and protection for credit unions, employees and members; lending solutions and marketing programs; TruStage®-branded consumer insurance products; and investment and retirement services to help our customers succeed. More information is available on the company’s website at

CUNA Mutual Group is the marketing name for CUNA Mutual Holding Company, a mutual insurance holding company, its subsidiaries and affiliates. Life, accident, health and annuity insurance products are issued by CMFG Life Insurance Company. Property and casualty insurance products are issued by CUMIS Insurance Society, Inc. Each insurer is solely responsible for the financial obligations under the policies and contracts it issues. Corporate headquarters are located in Madison, Wis.

Business Development·Careers·Change·Community Development·Governmental Affairs·Ideas·Leadership·News Release·Professional Development·Uncategorized

Hiring a communication/pr manager for the CU League of CT

And it just took me 15 minutes to figure out how to create a blog post and I’m still not sure it will show up in the right place, so you can see how critical this function could be…

The Credit Union League of Connecticut is seeking a Communication and Public Relations professional to promote the value of association membership and ensure Connecticut consumers choose credit unions as their best financial partner.

Our new team member will plan, coordinate, develop, and implement the overall League communication program, managing internal communication to member credit unions and external communication to targeted audiences such as local and national press, lawmakers and policy makers, and general public.

You should have a four-year degree in communication, public relations, marketing or a related field; a passion for story-telling; an understanding of established and emerging public and media relations practices; a sense of humor; and a sense of fulfillment from helping others.

To apply, please send a resume, salary expectations, and a cover letter that shows why you are a perfect fit for this position to

The Credit Union League of Connecticut, located in Meriden, CT, is the trade association representing approximately 100 not-for-profit financial cooperatives.

Business Development·Change·Creativity·Ideas·Innovation·Technology

Our Crashers can THiNK!

Hi Team Cooperative Trust.

Have you heard about THIS?! It’s kinda cool – and this year, not one BUT TWO of our awesome family are finalists.

Brett Wooden with “Where’s my Allowance?”, a cool app which will help to teach young users financial literacy.  

And Chris Whalen with “MobileOne”, a complete mobile banking platform solution for credit unions.

This is all really exciting! Please support out community and vote for your favourite Crasher!

Click here to vote now. Voting closes on May 2nd, 2014.



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