As National Volunteer Week approaches, I’ve been reflecting on the incredible spirit of volunteerism in the credit union movement. Every day, I continue to be impressed by the selfless generosity exhibited by our member credit unions and their greatest resource, their people.
Volunteerism is truly at the heart of our movement and is woven into every aspect of operations, starting with leadership. Credit union governance consists of dedicated members and community leaders who graciously volunteer their time, expertise, and passion to serve on our boards. These individuals often sacrifice their free time to review financials, provide feedback, and strategize to guarantee the continued success of their organization. Additionally, they are required to receive ongoing education to provide members with best-in-class financial services, all while taking on the risk and responsibility that comes with being a board member. In return, they receive no compensation for their time and commitment other than the heartfelt appreciation from the credit union, and perhaps a catered meal now and then.
These incredible board members directly contribute to the accomplishments of their credit unions. The 2019 LSCU Award recipients for Volunteer of the Year are outstanding examples of the role that volunteerism plays in our movement. Like Alabama winner, the late Gary Cannady at Avadian CU, whose leadership helped the credit union become better equipped for the future with a core processor conversion and the movement of six branches and a new corporate office during his tenure as the board chair. Or Florida winner Rohland Bryant at Achieva CU, who has spent his time, talents, and influence in the community to promote financial literacy and county-wide community outreach. And finally, Georgia winner Cleve Hartley at Coosa Valley CU, who regularly advocates for the credit union movement by attending the CUNA GAC and meeting with local elected officials. While the impact of these individuals shines bright, achievements like these can be found at every credit union and serve as a reminder of the invaluable impact made by volunteer leadership.
This foundation of volunteerism extends well beyond the board of directors. For an industry not subject to the requirements of the Community Reinvestment Act, credit unions consistently give back to their communities and membership, often even more so than the institutions who are legislated to do so. Community giving is often considered to be a major component of overall success and reinforces the credit union philosophy of “People Helping People” through the creation of impactful local stories that go unmatched by the large national banks. I challenge you to find a community event; a charity run, a downtown parade, a community picnic, that is not sponsored by a local credit union. Credit unions are active in the towns and cities they call home because they understand the importance of being involved as a community partner, not just another local business.
Many credit unions also promote volunteerism internally among their teams. Whether through a formal program organized by the credit union or individual employee efforts, credit unions seem to attract those with a heart for service. These efforts illustrate the investment credit unions continually make into their communities through paid time off and designated volunteer days. Like Kathy Edwards of FLAG Credit Union, one of LSCU’s 2019 Credit Union of the Year Award winners, who was named Mentor of the Year by the local elementary school adopted by the credit union. Employees at All In Credit Union, another 2019 Credit Union of the Year Award winner, logged a total of 2,260 volunteer hours in 2019. These outstanding achievements exemplify the power credit unions have when we work together towards a common goal.
National Volunteer Week takes place April 18-24 this year. I hope we can all take a moment to collectively reflect on the impact we have made on our members, our communities, and countless causes through volunteer work. Even through the challenges of 2020, credit unions have continued to find innovative ways to stay connected with their communities through volunteer initiatives, including utilizing the Southeast Credit Union Foundation’s resources for virtual reality fairs and Biz Kid$ workshops. I am proud to work for an industry that spends so much time giving back, not because they have to, but because they want to.
It’s clear to see that the credit union movement would not be where it is today without the quiet sacrifices and ongoing support of our volunteers. Take some time to celebrate those efforts and share them with your membership. I look forward to seeing the incredible impact credit unions will continue to make through their volunteerism on National Volunteer Week and beyond.
Ms. Jordan Burroughs, CUDE, BSACS, CCUFC
VP, Member Engagement
League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates