Turns Out, Governmental Affairs and Tie-Dyed Shirts Do Go Together

“I’m Minnesota,” or as many of my Crasher friends would adoringly point out as they repeated it in the way I supposedly say it, “I’m Minnesooo-dah.”

Early this March, I spent nearly a week with complete strangers in our nation’s capital talking about credit unions. I’ve learned it’s a great topic to kumbaya over because when it was time to say goodbye, I was like, “That’s it? Can there be more?” Not to mention, I knew I was genuinely going to miss this group of people I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet.

Officially, this group was called “Crash the GAC 2015,” and it was made up of one “Crasher” from every state. What were we crashing? The mother of all credit union get-togethers: the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) – moving forward, known as the GAC.

This year’s GAC brought together more than 5,000 credit union professionals from across the country to talk about all things credit union – legislative issues that affect us, policies and practices we should implement, new technology we should offer, and so. much. more. To summarize GAC and all of the information it covers would sell it much too short, so I offer you this: if you ever have the opportunity to go, GO!

The purpose of having Crashers at this type of event is because the Crash group is made up of credit union professionals who are 35-ish and just dipping their toes into the cooperative pool. I don’t want to give you the impression that we were all “new employees,” because some Crashers have worked at their credit union for more than five years. What I mean is that we all are on the cusp of experiencing, or are currently experiencing, a point in our credit union careers at which we ask, “I love this, but how can I grow more, do more, give more back to our members?”

And those questions are the glue that helped us stick together and support each other through six days of a nonstop, bootcamp-like schedule of early morning meetings and late night social oblitunities. I combined obligation and opportunity here because, for some reason, the word obligation has a negative connotation, like “I was forced [obligated] to go. Ugh.” In no way were these social outings a drag – they were scheduled, and for the most part, structured, so we would accomplish brainstorming, networking, innovating, dancing (insert more powerful verbs ending in –ing here).

When you bring together a group of more than 50 people who don’t know each other, it sounds like something that could turn out like Survivor. But this group of dedicated professionals is eager for the opportunity to learn about ways they can better themselves so they in-turn can better their credit unions and the credit union movement. It was the recipe for something magical.

Because of this incredible opportunity to Crash, I’m more engaged in my job as a marketing specialist at Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union than ever before. I’m hungry for more knowledge; I’m seeking more networking opportunities within the credit union industry and beyond; and I’m more vocal about why I love my credit union.

“How do you prevent yourselves from having conference amnesia?” We were asked this question as a group before we left the conference. We decided the proper remedy would be to stay in touch using The Cooperative Trust website, a website designed to connect credit union professionals using a forum atmosphere. I must point out, we all returned to our lives on the evening of Thursday, March 12, and there hasn’t been a day since I haven’t texted, messaged, or responded in a forum to one of my fellow crashers, and I don’t see that dissipating any time soon.

The experience was like a pink and blue tie-dyed shirt. For laundry purposes, it could be washed in a cycle of its own, but you choose not to because its bright, cheery colors should be shared and remembered – just like Crash the GAC 2015 and my 50+ new buddies.  

Photo credit: Andy Janning