By Ray Birch
MADISON, Wis.—Crashers are growing up, and so is the program that supports them.
The Cooperative Trust, the arm of the Filene Research Institute that is informally known as the “Crashers,” is maturing, as are those young adults who have taken part in the program. Each year at CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference, the Cooperative Trust brings a group of young CU professionals to the meeting, at least one from each state in the U.S. and Washington, D.C., to experience credit unions, network and learn. The program also offers other “Crash” events during the year at multiple other meetings.
Lauren Culp, Cooperative Trust manager, said the Crashers have evolved into a formal training and networking program for young credit union professionals to help them advance in their careers.
Culp said the program has become more sophisticated over the years by going beyond just focusing on simply crashing the–the program earned its name when young people just showed up to GAC without paying the registration fees–to find ways to impact more young adults and in many more ways.
“The Crashers are growing up themselves, and the program is growing up and maturing as well,” Culp said. “If you think back to when it started in 2010, it was just a handful of young professionals who showed up at the GAC and wanted to make an impact. Now what we've been working on is formalizing the program and making sure we can offer more events to more people.”
Updated Logo, Website
To emphasize its evolution, the Cooperative Trust changed its logo and enhanced its website last year. The logo, said Culp, has a fresh look more in line with the young people who are part of the program, while the website has bold colors, changes dynamically and includes significantly more content that can advance careers of new and former Crashers.
The website contains a Community section, for instance, where Crashers can chat, share ideas and network; a Mentorship link that will someday provide easy access to mentors for young adults—the mentorship program is now in its pilot phase; and a section on Crash the GAC that includes a page with the faces and names of the latest group of Crashers.
“The old site was just a bunch of plugins, so what we have now is really nice and does a much better job of helping people to connect online and learn,” said Culp.
100 Crashers Crash DC
Culp told CUToday.info change had become necessary as interest in the Crashers has grown each year.
“We had about 200 applicants to Crash the GAC in 2019 and we were able to take 100 to the meeting,” said Culp. “So you can see interest is high; we are turning away about one young adult for every one we take to the GAC.”
The total of 100 at the 2019 event in Washington was four times the number of Crashers who showed up the first time the group made its presence known in 2010, Culp noted.
Culp emphasized what is now being offered Crashers, and what will be even expanded in the future, are strategies for building careers in credit unions.
“Back in 2010, the idea was pretty much crash the conference,” recalled Culp, who at the age of 26 was a Crasher in 2016. “They went to the meeting then because they wanted to make an impact and make a splash and get access to the big names in the industry, and go to a conference where traditionally they were not invited. We have focused on keeping that aspect of the Crashers—you get access to the conference, you get access to the industry leaders—but now it’s also about formalizing a lot of content, training and mentoring opportunities after the GAC. That is what’s changing now.”
Culp said, too, there are formal programs for Crashers at GAC conferences today.
“What we've been working on since 2010 is really training people to fully give them the tools to be better leaders, and that includes bringing in some speakers to the GAC just for young credit union professionals,” Culp said.
The Cooperative Trust has also introduced a “follow-up Crasher series” that shares stories of young professionals who have been a Crasher and advanced their careers in credit unions as a result. While the Cooperative Trust does not formally track the progress of Crasher careers, Culp said a few have risen to take CEO roles.
What the Cooperative Trust hopes to do much more in the future with the Crashers is extend the reach of the program to many more young credit union professionals.
“One thing we are focused on now is mentorship,” explained Culp. “You've got all of these really talented people who come to the program with their eyes wide open to all the industry has to offer. We’ve been working on a mentorship program, and just completed a pilot with 10 people in which we matched the Crashers with people at a senior level in credit unions. We feel this offers Crashers continuing development opportunities. Now we are starting a second pilot with 20 people. It used to be that the Crashers were a one-time event—not anymore. The program is more formalized today and offers ways Crashers can stay connected and engaged long after they crash the GAC.”