“We’re here to fight for your future,” CUNA’s Tom Sakash tells attendees at the Small Credit Union Roundtable. (Photo by

‘Small credit unions tell the best stories’

Successful advocacy requires influence with a compelling story and ask.

February 26, 2023

As CUNA’s manager of small credit union initiatives, Tom Sakash fields frequent questions about the outlook for these institutions.

“I only have to look at all the amazing things you do to know the outlook is very bright,” Sakash told attendees of the Small Credit Union Roundtable Sunday at the 2023 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. 

Small credit unions make up a substantial percentage of the credit union movement. There are 3,000 credit unions with less than $100 million in assets, including 700 with less than $5 million in assets, says Sakash, who pledged, “We’re here to fight for your future.”

Small credit unions also punch above their weight in terms of advocacy, says CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle.

“Advocacy means influence and having a compelling story and a compelling ask,” he says. “Small credit unions tell the best stories and have some of the best connections with members that we can promote.

“You’re the ones who fulfill our mission of improving members’ financial well-being. You live this every day, but don’t get tired of telling your story.”

CUNA Small Credit Union Committee Chair Karen Madry, president/CEO at $86 million asset Afena Federal Credit Union in Marion, Ind., encouraged attendees to share their blueprints for success to include in a new resource for small credit unions. 

“There’s no one blueprint on how to build and retain a successful small credit union,” she says. “Our goal is to identify as many blueprints as possible to use in strategic planning and for your continued success.” 

Madry also lauded attendees for participating in the conference. “You understand how important advocacy is. The work you do here is important to making sure small credit unions are equally represented, our issues are heard, and that Congress continues to pass legislation and regulations that will ensure we have long lives.” 

Carma Parrish, president/CEO at $48 million NorthPark Community Credit Union in Indianapolis, shared a heartfelt account of how she overcame personal financial struggles and has made it her mission to improve the financial well-being of underbanked consumers. 

Jon Hernandez explained how he serves as CEO at four credit unions with combined assets of more than $200 million. His keys to success: organization and delegation. “This only works because of my team.” 

The roundtable concluded with a “Hunger Games” style of competition for the best ideas for generating revenue. 

The co-champions were Pamela Stelly, CEO at $62 million asset Maple Federal Credit Union in Lafayette, La., and Mira Ness, CEO at $71 million asset New York University Employees Federal Credit Union.

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