...Has Insights Into Volunteerism

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A long-time credit union volunteer who has now joined the professional ranks has some unique ideas on how credit unions can attract new blood to their boards.

Patrick Mahaney, who has served on the board of DEXSTA FCU for 25 years (and 30 years as facilities administrator for DuPont Co., the CU's sponsor) has been named CEO of the Delaware Credit Union League. Mahaney is replacing Bob Walls, who has moved on to run the New Jersey CU League.

The role of directors in the leadership of a credit union is usually pretty well defined, but the role of directors in the leadership of the movement as a whole is a different story, with some volunteers suggesting their voices are not being heard by the professionals who lead the movement, except when they're needed as examples of an an important defining feature of CUs.

The Credit Union Journal asked Mahaney to offer his perspective on this growing disconnect.

"Volunteerism as a whole has become a very difficult piece of the puzzle," he suggested. "It's hard to find people who can make the time to serve on the board of a credit union, much less the time to serve on the board of a trade association, too. We will be looking at this, because it is an issue here in Delaware, as well. I believe there are things we can do on an educational level and maybe some incentives to draw in quality people to serve as volunteers."

For example, Mahaney pointed to the fact that some volunteer fire companies have a retirement plan for volunteers, typically a small stipend that isn't intended to be a person's full retirement plan but will serve as a reward for having volunteered.

"Credit unions, for the most part, are run by folks who have been in the system for a long, long time," he offered. "They're close to retirement or already beyond retirement, and technology has passed them by. We need to get the younger set involved."

One way to do that, he said, is to highlight one of the most unsung benefits of serving on the board of a credit union. "Serving on the board of a credit union is a unique opportunity to learn how to run a business," Mahaney commented. "In today's economy, just about everybody is trying their hand at owning their own business. Serving on the board of a credit union gives you the chance to learn how to run a business from the inside and see how it's done properly before trying to do it yourself.

"If we put together a program that shows them the benefits, volunteers will start to come back because they see the benefit to them."

The next challenge, then, is grooming those volunteers for leadership positions beyond just the individual credit union.

"If you look at the way credit union business is going, we are shrinking in numbers, alarmingly, I think," he said. "Volunteers increasingly are ceding leadership over to the professionals. It's why the mom-and-pop credit unions are going away, and if it continues, credit unions won't be recognizable, the movement will lose part of its heart."

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