'Crashers' Focus On Changing CU Community From The Inside Out

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KANSAS CITY, Mo.-The "Crashers" group may no longer be the upstarts they once were, but the group is still keenly focused on changing the CU community from the inside out.

The cohort-which started last year with about 20 members-is now more than 120 strong. More than 60 would-be Crashers applied to "crash" CUNA's 2011 Governmental Affairs Conference, 16 of whom received full scholarships to do so.

The "Crashers" earned their name when a small, informal group of young CU professionals organized an effort to "Crash the GAC" in 2010. CUNA eventually welcomed the Crashers, and the group has since "crashed" other CU events.

The major takeaways from this year's GAC experience, as several Crashers explained in a recent webinar, were a variety of projects designed to bolster the CU movement over the course of the coming year.

One of the chief components of this year's scholarship application was creating a project each Crasher could bring back to their home credit union. While several participants planned to institute financial literacy programs in their communities-particularly at the school level-the dominant theme was continuing to develop young leadership within the CU community.

Brandon Michaels, a Crasher who serves as CFO for Kansas City, Mo.-based Mazuma CU, noted that the high number of Crashers from across the country interested in the same type of project indicates that "there's a void that is being felt in the industry, no matter where you are in the country."

Michaels' plan, like many of the others', consists of creating informal meet-up groups of young credit union professionals-generally in their early-30s and younger-for networking and career advancement purposes. He said that the measure of success for the group would be "after one year, are the people in the network...better prepared after joining the group and gaining insight from the other people in the network?"

Michaels said he is beginning by contacting CU heads throughout Missouri to identify potential members, and hopes to have the first meeting by June. "We have 40 people just in my credit union who are under 35, at least," said Michaels, "so I have to believe that that ... the ratio across all credit unions is going to be fairly similar. It could be a fairly large network if we do it correctly."

Sasha Kemble, Trainer & Silver-Lining Specialist for Seattle-based Verity CU, said she is reaching out to young CU professionals in the Seattle area and hopes for "a ripple effect" that will allow the group to expand to places like Olympia, Wash. and Spokane, on the other side of the Cascadia Mountains. She also hopes to coordinate with the Northwest CU Association-which serves both Washington and Oregon-to reach more people.

Rather than just networking and preparing for the future, Kemble hopes her group will also have a benefit to local communities, with participants eventually participating in different projects, such as financial education, community service projects and impacting legislative change. "I'm hoping to facilitate more projects by bringing people together," she said.

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