'Crashers' Phenomenon Is Evolving Into CUnext Group In Kansas

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TOPEKA, Kan.-A new group from the Kansas Credit Union Association aims to replicate the success of the GAC Crashers and invigorate young CU professionals in the Sunflower State.

CUnext, as the group is known, came about because of what group coordinator Haley DaVee called a national push "to engage young professionals and provide them with some behind-the-scenes access to credit unions. We wanted to bring that here to Kansas and provide that to our credit union professionals."

CUnext is targeting professionals between age 18 and 30, though the upper end of that cut-off has some flexibility.

The group is similar with the better known group of "Crashers," a group of young CU professionals who "crashed" the GAC in 2010 and again in 2011. One of the major takeaways from this year's Crashers group was a push to institute networking and development programs for young CU professionals in communities across the country, and KCUA's plan mirrors that effort.

"We were definitely inspired by the 'Crash the GAC' group, but it's different in that it's Kansas-specific and we're teaching about the opportunities we have here in Kansas to get involved with our industry," said DaVee.

CUnext has held two events so far, including a meeting at the Kansas State capital, where participants met with state officials, shadowed their local representatives and met with staff from the governor's, attorney general's and treasurer's offices. "It provided them the opportunity to learn about the legislative process and the role that credit unions play, as well about as the importance of advocacy for credit union professionals and for the future leaders in our industry," said DaVee.

The second event was tied to KCUA's annual meeting and convention and allowed young professionals who had not been to such an event to not only attend, but have breakout sessions and "pick the brains" of speakers and other seasoned CU professionals.

Each event had about eight CUnext participants who paid $35-$50 to attend. Only a few people were at both events, and instituting those fees has kept CUnext budget-neutral for KCUA. DaVee said she did not have the demographic information to know how many potential CUnext members are employed by credit unions in the state, but she posited that most Kansas CUs probably have at least one person on staff that fits the bill. As such, group organizers are contacting CEOs across the state and encouraging them to identify future leaders in the movement "so that they can select people on their staff that they feel can really get the most" out of the group.

Recognizing that other state groups could latch on to the idea behind CUnext, "we're encouraging all state leagues to get involved and provide some sort of opportunities for our young professionals," said DaVee. "We need to communicate that credit unions are more than just a job-they're part of a dynamic and growing movement, and there are lots and lots of opportunities for young people to get involved."

With a pair of events now under their belt, the next task for CUnext organizers, said DaVee, will be bringing together potential members from across the state for feedback and a focus group to determine what kind of networking and education they are looking for. Beyond that, there are expected to be networking socials around the state-likely in Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City metro area. Webinars and social media are also on the radar, though much of the group's functionality is still a work-in-progress.

Because many members of this generation may have a half dozen different jobs during their career, DaVee said that part of CUnext's purpose is to hook professionals into the CU community while they are young.

"Our goal is really to provide opportunities for them to see the different aspects of what we do as a movement," said DaVee. "We're hoping that by giving these young professionals a taste of a lot of different areas, we're showing a lot of ways for them to find their niche and grow their careers."

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