Co-Ops Take Center Stage at CUNA

NCBA head Michael Beall urges CUs to harness the power of collaboration.

October 21, 2013

Co-Op Day: Jill Tomalin and Mike Beall

Micheal Beall president/CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association (shown above), visited Madison in September for a forum on area cooperatives hosted by CUNA. At right  is Jill Tomalin, CUNA's executive vice president/chief operating officer.

Beall said CUs could gain membership and market share by actively partnering with cooperative businesses in their communities.

"Other co-op leaders may have a passion for brewing or baking, but don't have a lot of financial background," Beall said. "How do they get a business loan? How do they comply with local and state regulations? Credit unions have a good basis and background for that."

Co-Op Day: Mike Beall with audience

Mike Beall addresses the momentum generated nationally by cooperative businesses during a visit to CUNA headquarters in September in advance of National Co-Op Month.

Co-Op Day: Mike Beall

Beall says working with other co-ops is similar to working with underserved segments of the community: Community involvement is rewarded with membership growth.

Co-Op Day: Brianne Gutoski

CUNA's Brianne Gutoski discusses the Co-Op Connection, an event in Madison that featured 22 interactive booths, product giveaways, and live music from The Disclosures, a band that features songs about the importance of financial literacy. More than 4,000 people attended the free, public event, which kicked off National Co-Op Month.

Co-Op Day: Dorothy Steffens, James Carrick, Rick Govek

Right to left: CUNA's Dorothy Steffens, Rick Govek, and James Carrick discuss a visit to REI's Madison location during a forum on cooperative businesses at CUNA headquarters in September.

A group of mountain climbers formed REI in 1938 to improve their access to quality gear, which at the time was available primarily in Europe. The company honors its roots by employing modified ice pick handles on its front door.

Notably, REI trains its employees to ask customers if they are members while checking out. If not, they quickly explain the values of membership and ask people if they want to join--an open invitation that sometimes gets overlooked as a means to increasing membership.

Co-Op Day: Michelle Willits and Jan Garkey

CUNA's Michelle Willits (left) and Jan Garkey summarize a recent visit to Isthmus Engineering, an industrial worker co-operative. Employees there must make a financial investment of $15,000 and be voted in as a member worker, which ensures people are a good fit for the ownership structure.

Co-Op Day: Angela Prestil and Kathy Smith

CUNA's Angela Prestil (left) and Kathy Smith share a light moment during their recap of an employee visit to Summit CU's Inspiration Branch, which features a series of theatrically designed "sets" created to help members crystallize their dreams and work with branch staff to fulfill them.

Co-Op Day: Wes Millar

Wes Millar, senior vice president of CUNA Strategic Services, discusses a recent visit with Union Cab Co. in Madison, Wis.

Union Cab is a worker cooperative governed by a board of directors consisting of an elected group of drivers, mechanics, and dispatchers.

Co-Op Day: Paige

CUNA's Nicole Daniels (right) and Paige Knipfer recap a visit to Willy Street Co-Op, a full-service grocery cooperative in which members' equity investments are used as capital, assisting with store operations and improvements.