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Crash·Crash Event·Crash the GAC·Filene·Governmental Affairs·Professional Development

From crash to cooperative: how to change a life in six days

By Brian Rich aka BRich aka the guy from Idaho

It’s not often you meet someone, spend six days with them, and create such a bond that you’re brought to tears upon separation. It’s even less common when you can say this not only happened with one individual, but with more than 50 of them simultaneously. And yet, this is exactly how Crash the GAC 2015 played out for dozens of young credit union professionals from across the country.

The Crash the GAC 2015 crew | Photo by Andy Janning

Call it a product of sleeplessness, physical exhaustion and emotional depletion if you want, as those individual factors undoubtedly created the perfect environment to reduce 50+ Millennials to a sobbing mess on the final day of the conference. But these realities aside, this emotional breakdown (or crash, if you will) couldn’t have existed without a passionate buildup first taking place; the kind that happens when community-minded young people are glued together for six days to cultivate the future of the cooperative financial movement and determine how our careers will contribute to that development. Six days where 10 miles of walking and 18 hours of activity each day, followed by four hours of sleep each night, is not only common but incapable of subduing the enthusiasm generated by the bonds forged through the process. A process that took a group of disparate individuals scattered across the country and, with a touch of beautiful irony, created a cooperative group greater than the sum of its parts – a group that could serve as the very model of cooperative behavior we seek to establish across the cooperative national landscape as we know it.

Just as the 2015 crashers are greater than the sum of our parts, so was our experience crashing the GAC. What could have been a tremendous – albeit isolated – learning experience for any one of us instead became a movement within a movement. Because of this shared experience, we now enjoy an unstoppable momentum across the country, where this group of crashers has ignored the reality that we now span 5,000 miles and has instead grown even closer, thanks entirely to social media, this brilliant Cooperative Trust website and the simple fact that Millennials are obsessed with texting, group chat and instant messaging. To wit, in the week since we returned home, dozens of messages have been exchanged on the topics of business development, cooperative partnerships, financial literacy and other topics that allow our collective wisdom to spread far beyond the walls of our offices and credit unions. Many of us – myself included – have even joined with our state’s former crashers to create local young professional groups to keep the momentum going locally.

2015 Crash the GAC embrace for a group hug

If you look close enough, most of us are crying | Photo by Andy Janning

I know I can speak on behalf of my fellow crashers (we’re close like that) when I say this program changed our lives. And with the same degree of certainty, I can tell credit union leaders across the country that this experience, and the action items generated by it, will permanently bolster the credit union movement as a direct result of our time spent together. It would be impossible to quantify my gratitude for the privilege that was Crash the GAC 2015, but I’ll attempt to say thanks nonetheless. To James Marshall and Filene Research Institute/The Cooperative Trust, CUNA and The Foundation, to the Idaho Credit Union League and to Connie Miller, my CEO and awesome boss leader, thank you for your support of the crash program. I can’t tell you how much this program meant to the crashers, but I can promise we’ll attempt to show you through our actions over the coming months and years.

Careers·Change·Community Development·Crash the GAC·Innovation·Leadership

Hi Chris!

§ a note from james §

Hi everyone,

This is some really exciting news! I would like to welcome Chris Fraenza into The Cooperative Trust family!!!

As many of you know, at the end of 2013 Theresa Hilinski moved on from The Trust. We wish her nothing but success for her future and thank her for everything she’s done over the years.

But change brings new challenges and lots of excitement. Chris is a young credit union guy through and through. We’re so so excited to have him as he brings a wealth of experience. He’s great with people, children and pets too! We couldn’t ask for anyone better than Chris to join us on our journey as we take The Cooperative Trust forward.

Party time!!

§ a note from chris §

Hi everyone!

I couldn’t be more excited to begin working with The Cooperative Trust and all of you great young people! I am no stranger to credit unions, young adults, and the issues that we face personally and industry wide. As young adults, we play a very important role in shaping the future of credit unions—what we can accomplish is limitless.

Like many of you 2014 brought many changes to my life, I started a new role at Filene Research Institute as the Research and Innovation Catalyst. One of my main responsibilities will be to assist the Trust’s leader, James, in all the cool stuff that we plan to make happen. My new role also allows me to help credit unions create “Impact” and engage with our valued membership. I cover a lot of ground and move fast, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I can’t wait to see many of you at Crash the GAC ’14. Please reach out and say “hi” and keep on doing what you’re doing. Ya’ll are awesome! (I’m not from the south but I think it sounds better!)



Twitter: @cfraenza

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/christopher-fraenza/39/279/9a9/

Crash the GAC

Your 2014 GAC Crashers!

It’s finally here! It’s finally here!!!!!!!!!

Your 2014 GAC Crashers! Check them out!

Crash the GAC

Crash the GAC 2014!

Welcome, welcome!

Today, we have some seriously amazing news for you and I hope you have your party hats on because you are NOT going to want to miss this!

We are ever so delighted to announce that The Cooperative Trust, CUNA and your state leagues/associations are joining forces to launch the search for our Crashers for the CUNA GAC 2014!

This year, we are attempting to get 1 crasher from each state and the District of Columbia represented at this year’s GAC.  That’s right, 51 Crashers in D.C.  Applications are now open, click here to go and fill one out!

Applications close on December 17th 2013.

Every Crasher will receive a full conference registration from CUNA. If the chosen Crasher’s credit union can’t cover all of their travel expenses their league may be providing some funding to help too!  More details about available sponsorship can be found on the Crash the GAC site.

With more Crashers than ever before, a deeper dive into the world of credit union advocacy, and support from state leagues, Crash the GAC is going to help arm our young professionals with ideas to stay involved when they return home.

Crash the GAC will bring young credit union professionals together, running a tailored program alongside the main event and allowing for mentor sessions with key individuals from the likes of National Credit Union Foundation, Credit Union National Association, National Credit Union Administration, Filene Research Institute and CUNA Mutual Group.

We also got a cool little quote from Jill Tomalin, EVP and COO of Credit Union National Association:

I believe we need to develop next generation leaders to grow, promote and sustain the credit union movement. The CUNA GAC is the premier, annual, must-attend program for engaged credit union staff.  We look forward to working with The Cooperative Trust to expand the presence of young professionals in the 2014 Crash the GAC.

Head over to www.crashthegac.com right now to find out more and complete an application form.

Seriously, why have you not gone to www.crashthegac.com yet?

REALLY?! You’ve still not clicked and visited? You really need to hurry up!

Good luck with your application. If you have any questions, email us at: trust@trust.coop

Collaboration·Cooperative Economy·Crash the GAC

Crash the GAC 2013: What’s Ahead

This year’s Crasher projects have been in full swing the past few weeks.  Since we returned from DC, (four) groups have been working like crazy to prototype their ideas on creating more accessible lending options for cooperatives, through a cooperative fund. You’ll find their individual recaps through the links below on the steps they’ve taken so far.

The Projects

LoCoSo (local, co-operative, social)

Team members: Chris Friederich (team lead), James Marshall, Jennifer Tebbe & Meghan Storck

The Cooperative Bucket

Team members: Ashley Dietz (team lead), Amanda Brenneman, Olivia Rockers, Mitchell Michiels & Liz Weger

Community Cooperative Catalyst (CCC)

Team members: Sean Flynn (team lead), Justin Mouzoukos, Lindsay Estok, Blake Woods & Josh Smith

CU Grow Foundation

Team members: Danielle Frawley (team lead), Erin Ballard, Brittany Hilton, Chad Holz & Ashley Pierce

The Judges

We’ve been lucky enough to secure four well-respected judges to provide feedback and direction to our teams.  Over the next several months, each of the judges will be piping in with their thoughts on how the teams can improve their projects and refine their focus.

Bryan Sims
Tansley Stearns
Impact Director
Tim McAlpine
President & Creative Director
Todd Marksberry
Executive Leadership

Next Steps

As you can see, the teams have jumped in with two feet and already have plans for what they’ll revise for their second round of prototyping.  In early May, each group, along with our judges will be meeting up through a Google Hangout to review more in-depth results from their first round of work.  Here’s a glimpse for the rest of the steps they’ll be taking towards a successful cooperative fund:

Round 1: Prototype 1 – Due April 2nd
Round 2: Prototype Results – Due April 30th
Round 3: Prototype 2 – Due June 4th
Round 4: Prototype Results – Due July 9th


Collaboration·Cooperative Economy·Crash the GAC

Crash the GAC 2013: CU Grow Foundation

Team members: Danielle Frawley (team lead), Erin Ballard, Brittany Hilton, Chad Holz & Ashley Pierce

Our prototype consisted of images of different pages of our website that we would be running our CU Grow Foundation through. Brittany was in charge of putting the images of the website screenshots together and we all provided input for revisions. Erin was responsible to provide strategic insight for the website due to her background with content management software. Ashley was in charge of putting together our business plan through Google Docs so that we could all provide insights and revisions as we saw fit. Chad was in charge of putting together a database of different grants and programs already available to cooperatives. I was in charge of putting together a brief survey that our group could send out to cooperatives to gain more insight into changes we might need to make to our prototype. We were all responsible for getting survey feedback and feedback on our prototype.

We hit quite a few roadblocks in accomplishing our tasks. The largest roadblock was the difficulty we had in communicating with the cooperatives. It was difficult to find contacts at cooperatives and once we did find contacts the contact information we had normally only consisted of physical mailing addresses and phone numbers. Thus, it really slowed down our progress because we had assumed that we would simply be able to email our surveys to local cooperatives. Chad and Ashley were planning on presenting the prototype to a local cooperative group in Austin, but the group didn’t meet in March, so they had to reschedule for April.

Formally writing out the business plan has made us question a lot of the variables that has been unanswered when we first left DC. We’ve all been working together to come up with solutions to those variables. We’ve also learned through contacting Adam Schwartz that there are credit unions out there lending to cooperatives, so rather than recreate the wheel, we will be contacting those credit unions to find out how they handle the risk management of lending to cooperatives and use their insight to help us build our CU Grow Foundation.

Collaboration·Cooperative Economy·Crash the GAC

Crash the GAC 2013: Community Cooperative Catalyst

Team members: Sean Flynn (team lead), Justin Mouzoukos, Lindsay Estok, Blake Woods & Josh Smith

Based on initial interviews with a few cooperatives who responded to our initial survey, we found that all of the co-ops used alternative means to initial fund their operation.  We also found that some had applied for business loans, with only one being able to secure business loan funding (from a credit union, too).  A third conclusion was that all of our co-ops who responded would like to see a line of credit product that could help them with cash flow/budgetary restrictions.

With this information, we attempted to raise a pool of funds to create a very rudimentary line of credit, but were only able to raise approximately $100 from our own events.  We encountered a few obstacles with our crowd funding idea because we found it difficult to sell the idea without an actual co-op being represented in our pitch.  We are currently in the process of reaching out to individual cooperatives that responded to our survey to identify their specific needs, with the intent to use their story as part of our fundraising pitch that will fund the prototype.

From our initial discovery and research phase, we’ve learned that co-ops and small businesses are busy!  While we already knew this was going to be a challenge, but with limited (three) responses to our survey, it was difficult to make generalized assumptions about coops needs overall.  We also have found (as we expected), that coops are not liquid.  Cash is not always readily available, and having relatively inexpensive access to cash would help coop directors manage and even grow their organizations more effectively.

We know there is a market for a cooperative line-of-credit.  What we really want to know now is how big of a market it is and what kind of barriers or competition will our product face?  We also want to know how will this product perform once delivered and what will it be used for?  And perhaps most importantly – will it provide a creative, competitive, and affordable solution for cooperatives?  Raising even another $400 will allow us to offer a $500 line to a small cooperative and see how it behaves.  These are the questions we will answer and obstacles we will address in the coming weeks.

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