As longtime credit union leaders retire, a new generation of leaders must take the advocacy mantle in the decades to come.
With this reality in mind, CUNA, in conjunction with the New York Credit Union Association, hosted its first young professional advocacy workshop this past fall.
“It’s never too early to prepare a new generation to advocate on behalf of the credit union movement, especially when so many young professionals are already in place within the system and passionate about not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperatives,” says Adam Engelman, CUNA’s grassroots manager and the workshop coordinator.
“CUNA has access to an incredible variety of advocates with years of experience advocating for credit unions, and it only makes sense to connect them with the younger generation,” he adds.
The workshop consisted of briefings from CUNA leadership, including President/CEO Jim Nussle, Chief Advocacy Officer Ryan Donovan, and Chief Political Officer Richard Gose. It also featured a panel of congressional staffers and discussions with league staff and outside consultants.
“As someone who previously had only a fundamental understanding of credit union advocacy, I attended the training expecting many learning and networking opportunities,” says John Shaner, a lending risk analyst with $1.7 billion asset Anheuser-Busch Employees Credit Union in St. Louis. “My expectations were exceeded. I enjoyed a well-rounded program of advocacy speakers, presentations, and meetings with lawmakers and their staff. I also got to know other young professionals and colleagues.
“The knowledge I gained of how elected officials are representing the needs of credit unions, and what our membership can do to affect real change, has given me valuable perspective in my career,” he adds.
Michael Mattone, vice president of public relations for $2.6 billion asset Municipal Credit Union in New York City, agrees. He says the program gave him a good sense of how to get the credit union message to policymakers.
“We got a very well-rounded perspective of exactly what it takes to make sure you’re heard, especially when members of Congress take so many meetings from people, all trying to get their message across,” he says. “This is the type of experience that is vital to furthering the credit union movement for the next, 10, 20, 30 years.”
Both Shaner and Mattone note that hearing from lawmakers gave them newfound confidence in the credit union message, and how to speak with legislators.