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Careers·Change·Collaboration·Conferences·Crash·Crash Event·Crash the GAC·Creativity·CUNA·Filene·Gen Y·Governmental Affairs·Ideas·Leadership·Meetups·Mentorship·News Release·Perception·Professional Development

Say Yes.

Let’s get up around 6am daily and potentially stay up until 2am nightly.  On a daily average let’s do 13,000 steps and burn 3,500 calories without hitting the gym.  But it doesn’t stop there, let’s push through the joint pain, muscle aches and any other bodily issue that may fall to fatigue or soreness because trust me, places that you didn’t know could ache will show themselves during this timeframe.

High-fiving Crash Facilitator, CUNA’s Ariel Bilskey!

However, let’s not forget conditions that require emotional and mental preparation.  Although these conditions may vary, they could include but aren’t limited to: being alert every waking hour, managing hunger or the feeling of being hangry (hungry +angry), dehydration or over hydration, seeing every moment to make an impression for future follow ups, photo opts, converting strangers to friends or family, massive social media updates, patience of a grade school teacher, stamina of long distance runner, and smiles and handshakes, oh yes many many smiles and handshakes for everyone.  Lastly, let’s make sure we are equipped with two very important skills, the electric slide and a new or current dance.  For this example let’s say the Whip and Nae Nae but, it’s ok to only prepare for one or the other, this is a judgment free zone.  Who fills this role and what calls for this type of conditions?  Is it a professional athlete, a politician, or movie star?  Is it a sporting event, campaign, or an awards show?

No, it’s a Crasher at the CUNA GAC (Government Affairs Conference) 2016 and I’m proud to be one.

I can still remember the stages of excitement vividly as the days changed throughout the week.  Although originally nervous, I was at ease entering into this conference thanks to the preparation, structure and leadership of James Marshall, the Crasher team captains, and The Cooperative Trust.  It didn’t take long before the nerves fell by the waste side and were replaced with adrenalin.  Looking back, I am thankful for memories that will last a lifetime.

Carrying my flag at the opening ceremony, in front of almost 5000 people.

I can recall how exciting it was to meet my fellow crashers after many weeks of discussions and online activities.  I’ll never forget my heart pounding as I walked with my association president carrying our state flag surrounded by the claps, shouts and positive energy to kick off the conference.  I’ll recall the unity while everyone bowed their heads in prayer for a divine blessing for the conference and each attendee.

Although 5000 people were estimated to participate, it was the consistent message and unity that I felt throughout the conference.  I remember other defining moments such as the feeling of honor and admiration to meet some of the current leaders of the movement from NCUA, CUNA, and NAFCU, to mention a few.  Knowing that individuals such as Jim Nussle, Rich Meade, Gigi Hyland, Ryan Donovan, and Monica Davy would take their time to invest in us was unbelievable.  To be able to hear their personal stories was a highlight of the conference.  It’s not every day that anyone can get personal time with so many leaders of the movement.  All of this can transpire in one day at the GAC and its worth every moment.  It seems overwhelming, and it is.  Yet in this environment I found the culture had a way of keeping me energized and wanting more.

My experience at the GAC made me even more proud to be a credit union professional.  The feeling that I can effectively create change through advocacy or community reinvestments, to increase financial wellness is incredible. But it was at the GAC where I saw the credit union culture at its best.  The GAC served as a platform to hear the stories across the nation of kindness and courage to fight for what’s right.  From conversations with representatives in congress to random conversations at social events, it was easy to see how the culture of people helping people was contagious.  Information sharing wasn’t frowned upon, in fact it was the norm.  The culture of every individual I came into contact with broadened my understanding of the impact our not for profit cooperative has on the nation.  Every moment was invaluable at the GAC.

For future crashers, it’s important to know that a crasher isn’t one person who is selected to get shipped to Washington DC to meet 51 other strangers from across the nation.  We aren’t just gung-ho credit union advocates under the age of 35 with time on their hands to travel.  A crasher is a person who has said yes and believes in it. That’s it!

But this yes has probably been said a millions times in the mind of a crasher even after several no’s.  This yes is also a readiness.  The GAC is the

Saying YES to singing our National Anthem on day 1.

largest credit union advocacy event of the year with a duration of 5 days, but what about the other 360 days.  That yes is a consistent drive in the movement of a crasher from day to day.  That yes makes them get up early to tend to the needs of members and coworkers a like that isn’t in their job description.  That yes enables the mind of a crasher to innovate, create and establish new ideas that may disrupt the way we used to do things to be relevant to the new needs of a changing society.  That yes understands the social and economic needs of tomorrow and works to get them in place today.  That yes transfers the mind of a crasher to seek out mentors while being a mentor. That yes says I understand the call to action and I am available.  That yes represents the credit union difference.

That, is the heart of a crasher.

Future crashers of the world are the successors that will join hands with the current leaders now.  That is why the GAC is so important.  That is why you are so important.  It is at the GAC where that transfer can begin to take place.  Crashers go through an incubation process in a safe environment and it has the potential to change both your professional and personal lives forever.  Crashing the GAC was a defining moment in my life and it can be the same for you.  All it takes is a yes in your spirit and the rest can make history.

Change·Collaboration·Community Development·Conferences·Crash Event·Crash the GAC·CUNA·Filene·Gen Y·Ideas·Innovation·Leadership·Meetups·Mentorship·Professional Development

Dear Future Crashers…

Me outside the exhibit hall for the CUNA GAC!

It is just hours after my final event of Crash the GAC 2016 and I am already thinking about the next group of Crashers for the 2017 session. I have gone from being surrounded by inspiring and motivated peers to being alone in a hotel room, unable to stop replaying the extraordinary events from the past 5 days. I’m definitely feeling all the feels. Yes, the schedule was packed, and yes, I’m super tired, but it has been an experience like none other and I can’t help feeling grateful to have been part of it.

Let me start by addressing a few of your potential questions:

  1. Did you get much sleep? Nope, but neither did anyone else, and it is easier to be awake and happy when you have 51 friends who are going through it with you. (Plus, as James aptly reminded us, you can sleep next week.)
  2. Did you like your roommate? Yes! In fact, connecting with my roommate Tara Efird (South Carolina) was one of the top highlights of the entire experience.
  3. Is James Marshall as British as he seems? Even more so.
  4. What happened at Thunderpunch 2016? Not telling. (Yes, this party is that awesome.)
  5. Who makes this Crash happen? So many people! I’d like to send a huge THANK YOU to CUNA and Filene, who support Crash the GAC and the Crashers. We couldn’t attend without CUNA’s generosity, and wouldn’t have our extra sessions without Filene putting together an awesome schedule. (Note: An extra shoutout to CUNA CEO Jim Nussle who has been incredibly supportive!) Everywhere you go you will meet people that shape your experience – take a minute to thank each and every one of them.
  6. Why should I apply to be a Crasher? Because the experience will change your life, if you let it. You will walk away with close friends, valuable connections, and enthusiasm about the credit union movement.

I would like to call out an important topic: engagement. The old saying “you get out of it what you put into it” is so true. While you can’t help but be inspired by the excellent speakers and in awe of Capital Hill, it is your Crasher duty to engage fully and deeply with the people around you. I know there is often aversion to it, but “networking” is not a dirty word – it is simply the term for connecting with others and exchanging information. How could that be bad? If you put yourself out there, be genuinely interested in others, and keep a smile on your face during the late nights and early mornings, you will reap the rewards.

With my roommate, Tara!

I am privileged to have had conversations with amazing people in the credit union movement and they were all so generous with their time and advice. I took copious notes (often on my iPhone in the corner of a bar so I didn’t miss capturing the wisdom of new friends) and I have a handful of business cards that I will definitely be putting to use when I have a question or need guidance in the future. There are so many great photos and quotes on Twitter under #CrashTheGAC16 and #CUNAGAC that will give you a good idea about what to expect from the sessions, and I already know that I will be revisiting those threads regularly.

As I prepare to head back into the real world, motivated and focused, I leave you with this: Credit unions need you to Crash the GAC. This movement, founded on the idea of people helping people, wants and needs talented young professionals that can carry the torch into the future. If we step up and take these development opportunities seriously, we put ourselves in the position to be credit union leaders that protect members and serve communities. The Crashers have the fire – bring on the torch.

Careers·Collaboration·Community Development·Conferences·Crash·Crash Event·CUNA·CUNA Mutual Group·Filene·Gen Y·Ideas·Innovation·Leadership·Meetups·Professional Development

It’s time for Crash Louisiana 2015

Follow us here!

big. bright. minds.·Collaboration·Crash·Crash Event·Crash the GAC·CUNA·Filene·Gen Y·Governmental Affairs·Leadership·Professional Development

#CrashtheGAC15 or: How to Change a Life in 144 Hours

GACcover1

By: Grant Gallagher, External Affairs & Financial Education Specialist at Affinity FCU
NJ’s own “non-fist pumping fist pumper”

When I received my first email about “Crash the GAC” from Candice Nigro, VP of Marketing, Communications & Business Development of the New Jersey Credit Union League, in 2013, I thought it sounded like an interesting concept. I had heard good things about the GAC from my senior leadership prior to my attendance as a crasher, and as someone who has their hand in credit union regulatory and legislative advocacy on a regular basis, a “free ride” to the premier conference covering this topic seemed almost too good to be true. I ap­plied my first year, to my disappointment, with no success. Fast forward to January 16, 2015, the day I received my application outcome (and accep­tance!) as a crasher, a day that would, unknow­ingly to me at the time, change my personal and professional life forever.

To “Crash the GAC” to some means to go and be disrup­tive. Shake up an institution that has the median age of 110 and has forgotten that the future of credit unions lies in the hands of a generation more comfortable tweeting to an audience of 1,000+ followers than picking up the phone and calling a single individual. To me, “Crashing” was a 144-hour crash course in credit unions, cooperatives, advocacy, networking, training, and much more. Despite my familiarity with issues such as preserving the not-for-profit tax status of credit unions, stopping merchant and retailer data breaches, increasing the MBL cap, relieving regulatory burden, and the need for access to supplemental capital, it was not until after hearing numerous anecdotes in regards to how these issues are directly impacting other credit unions on a day-to-day basis, that the urgency, and my understanding, of these issues became expo­nentially clearer.

Trying to summarize the experience of a crasher in the space I have here is an unjust task. Not even Mark Twain or E.E. Cum­mings could pen the words succinctly enough to fill such a space. Regardless, I will try: The experience was awesome; the people even more incredible. Just to clarify, when I say “awe­some”, I do not mean it in the all too common use as “neat”, “cool”, “great”, or “terrific”, I mean it quite literally as “inspiring awe”. The crashers were led by James Marshall of the Cooperative Trust, a subset of the Filene Research Institute. Within moments of meeting this amazing group he miraculously crafted, I couldn’t believe I had lived my life without knowing them prior to becoming a crasher. I met 52 credit union advocate crashers, and 4 crasher leaders, and one incredible photographer, in Washington, D.C., and left with 57 new friends. The crashers did not just network; we bonded, we laughed, we cried, we formed inside jokes within hours of meeting, and we formed a network of friends that stretches from Alaska to Florida.

While the breakout sessions, exhibit floor, receptions, and general sessions were brimming with compelling individuals and inspiring speakers such as Gen. Stanley McChrystal, USA (Ret.); former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer; and chair, president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group Arianna Huffington; the “pièce de résistance” was truly the small group roundtable sessions every morning/afternoon. These sessions would occur every day and would feature four speakers from CUNA, Filene, CUNA Councils, other state leagues, cooperatives, NCUF, and more. They were structured so that each of the indi­viduals would present for 10 minutes on their area of exper­tise, and then the small table discussions would com­mence, with a speaker as­signed to each of the four small groups to discuss the pre­sentation, their topic of ex­pertise, or any burning ques­tions that any of the crashers may have had in regards to anything in the credit union world. Rinse and repeat, until all speakers had their chance to present. The discussions most importantly stressed that the crashers’ opinions were important and valued. All of the guest speakers made it clear that the future of credit unions is in our hands, took our questions, comments, and opinions seriously; as a young professional, that is an unfor­tunately rare commodity to come by.

Most of the small table sessions took place at 7 a.m., after a late night, and it may only be those of you that know me, and my distaste for mornings, that will truly appreciate just how much more powerful that makes my accolade for those sessions. I am happy to divulge that I love to sleep, but in the six days I spent crashing the GAC, I slept a total of 17 hours. If I could do it all over again, I would not change a single second. Both the days and nights were long, but when you are in the midst of a once in a lifetime opportunity, you realize you can sleep when you’re dead. Despite lack of sleep, all 52 of us still managed to happily keep to our daily, grueling 18-hour schedules.

When I received that first email back in 2013, I never thought it would lead to an experience that I, and all 51 other crashers unanimously, would call “life changing”. My experience has inspired me to pursue forming a young professionals network, has given me the passion to make sure the voices of young credit union profession­als are heard, has strengthened my belief in coopera­tives, and that the greatness provided by them is greater than the sum of their parts, and it has solidified a place in my heart for credit unions. It was an incredible privilege to #CrashtheGAC2015, and while I cannot express my thanks to the magnitude it is deserved, my sentiments go out to Filene Research Institute/The Cooperative Trust, CUNA and The Foundation, to the New Jersey Credit Union League, my boss Lauretta Farrell, and to all of the leadership from Affinity Federal Credit Union, who not only joined me in attendance, and for a selfie, at the crasher’s annual party THUNDERPUNCH, but also encourage my professional development on a regular basis. Thank you all for your encouragement and support of myself, and of the crash program.

Lastly, to anyone who has the opportunity to send a young professional to “Crash the GAC”, I would highly encourage it. It is an investment in the young professionals in your credit union that has an exponential potential return. The CUNA GAC that you know and love is only a tenth of the content and experience that the crashers receive. To those young professionals who have not considered applying, or have applied and not been selected, it is an experience you will never forget and something worth pursuing unyieldingly. To my fellow NJ applicants for Crash the GAC 2016, I offer you the best of luck; as someone who is already planning next year’s application, I hear you are up against some stiff competition.

To get a firsthand look of my experience “Crashing the GAC” see my photos/live tweets by following me on Twitter @thegrantg.

The views and opinions expressed above are solely my own and do not reflect those of Affinity Federal Credit Union, the New Jersey Credit Union League, or Filene/the Cooperative Trust.

big. bright. minds.·Careers·Collaboration·Community Development·Conferences·Crash·Crash Event·Creativity·CUNA·CUNA Mutual Group·Filene·Gen Y·Ideas·Innovation·Leadership·Lending·Meetups·News Release·Professional Development·Updates

November is Crash-tastic!

Can you believe it’s almost November already? (Or it might be November when you’re reading this – in which case, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?). What does November bring? A change in leaves? A change in weather? Thanksgiving? A countdown to Christmas? (As I write this, it’s just 62 days until Christmas day!). 

But you know what else November brings us?!?! TWO CRASH EVENTS! That’s right… TWO! Our Crashers have been selected and we’d love for you to meet them.

Head over here to meet our Crashers for Crash CUNA Lending Council in San Diego, CA.

And go in this direction to meet our Crashers for Crash big. bright. minds. in Tucson, AZ.

The Cooperative Trust is a Filene community. Everything we do is made possible by Credit Union National Association. Crash CUNA Lending Council is supported by Twenty Twenty Analytics and Crash big. bright. minds. is supported by CUNA Mutual Group.

Change·Collaboration·Community Development·Conferences·Crash·Crash Event·Creativity·CU Water Cooler·CUNA·CUNA Mutual Group·Filene·Gen Y·Ideas·Innovation·Interviews·Leadership·Meetups·Mentorship·Professional Development

#CrashCUWCS – a recap

A hurricane just flew through Austin, TX. No, not what you’re thinking – it was our Crashers!

We’ve just this moment finished an incredible 5 days. I’m sitting in a coffee shop, taking advantage of their free wifi, trying to note and account for everything that we learned and to give you something to learn too! Where to start… I have no idea. But let’s try this…

So, arriving the day before the symposium kicked off we got our Crashers together and really set out some goals which they decided on themselves. We asked them: “what makes Crash the CU Water Cooler Symposium a success at the end?”. As you can imagine, the conversation took off! When the dust settled though, we decided on 3 key things that our Crashers wanted from their experience:

  1. To network and make real connections.
  2. Find an idea or innovation which they can take back to their credit union and implement. 
  3. Build a support network for themselves.

So – if we achieve these things, Crash CUWCS is a success. What happened next I hear you say (through my secret spy equipment currently positioned conveniently near to your current location….).

The symposium kicked off with a cool networking event at a local arcade / bar. You could feel the energy straight away and we couldn’t wait to get things started. I would love to give you a full overview of every speaker and every session but let’s be honest you don’t have the time to read that and I don’t have the time to write it. So I’m going to leave you with some themes and takeaways from the sessions in a short a form as possible:

Symposium Day 1:

  • The man who invented Pringles was so proud of his creation he was buried in a Pringles can. What will you do to make you that proud? – Matt Davis.
  • We have fantastic tellers who we then ask to become sales people. You don’t say congratulations to your dog for being a great dog and then ask them to become a cat! – Shari Storm.
  • Save water, drink beer. – Linda Bodie.
  • Savour the time you have now, enjoy life’s moments. Look at life through 30 year goggles. When you look back, what will be those moments you remember? – Andy Janning.

Symposium Day 2:

  • No one ever started a cooperative who wasn’t pissed off! – William Azaroff.
  • Take every chance, drop every fear. – Ronaldo Hardy.
  • Children have the freedom to just ‘do’. Adults seek instruction, let’s rediscover the freedom to be creative. – Brent Dixon.
  • Mistakes allow us to make our most beautiful creations. – Charlie Trotter.
  • An idea is nothing unless you get up and do something about it. – Jimmy Marks.

And as quickly as it had started, the CU Water Cooler Symposium was over. But not for us! For those of you that don’t know Crash events – throughout whichever conference we are attending, we run our own separate track alongside to bring something a little extra.

On that note I’d like to thank our guests: Brett and Corlinda Wooden, CUNA Mutual Group, Currency Marketing / It’s a Money Thing, Andy Janning, Larky, Jimmy Marks, Matt Davis, Charlie Trotter, William Azaroff, Gene Blishen and Brent Dixon.

Saturday morning we came back together to talk about whether or not Crash the CU Water Cooler was a success. The answer, a resounding YES! We made connections, we found innovations and within our own group built a support network that will last a life time. I would love to tell you how the conversations on that day went, but I want to throw that challenge to our Crashers – go out. Tell the world what you learned. Make a difference. Share your success, recognise your failures… But most of all, above anything else – don’t forget how lucky you are to be a part of this wonderful thing that we call the Credit Union System, love what you do.

Finally, thanks must go out to Credit Union National Association to making all that we do at The Cooperative Trust possible, to CUNA Mutual Group for supporting the Crash the CU Water Cooler event and to CU Water Cooler themselves for having us.

Until next time, check out our storify to catch up on all things #CrashCUWCS:

Change·Collaboration·Community Development·Cooperative Economy·CUNA·Filene·Gen Y·Innovation·Leadership·News Release·Updates

CUNA Support for The Cooperative Trust

MADISON, Wis. (9/9/14) – The Credit Union National Association will support The Cooperative Trust, Filene Research Institute’s young professional initiative, as a chairman’s roundtable benefactor with a commitment of $250,000 over three years.


“In order to successfully position credit unions as forward-thinking, we need to invest in our up-and-coming industry leaders,” said Bill Hampel, interim CUNA President/CEO. “We see our best results from people fully engaged with the credit union philosophy. CUNA wants to drive those opportunities for young professionals.”

The move is part of CUNA’s already-strong commitment to raise awareness with and involvement by young professionals in credit unions. CUNA and its CUNA Councils have provided “crash” opportunities at the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference and individual council conferences.

CUNA Councils will be highly involved in CUNA’s role as benefactor.

“This support is part of a bigger strategy, which includes the launch of an official CUNA Young Professionals Committee, demonstrating our commitment to developing and retaining the next generation of leaders to grow, promote and sustain the credit union movement,” said Jill Tomalin, CUNA executive vice president/chief operating officer.

“We are excited to build on our work with CUNA Councils and Filene and provide leadership support to the Cooperative Trust,” she added.

“Our relationship with CUNA really demonstrates our shared commitment to shape and build the future of credit unions,” said James Marshall, The Cooperative Trust manager.  “These are indeed exciting times for young professionals who are passionate about credit unions and cooperatives.”

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