The Making of an Advocate
In 2014 I had the opportunity to “crash” CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). I knew it was a big deal when I was selected, and I admit to squealing in my office when I found out, but I had no idea the conference would spark within me a new passion or grow my love of credit unions by a billion +1.
I walked out of the conference with a new understanding of the issues that impact us individually and as an industry; yet the best part was the people who attended… they inspired greatness. Every single person had a story to tell and you could see the love for credit unions pouring out of them. Their excitement to learn and make an impact exponentially increased with each day and you couldn’t help but be motivated to join in.
When I returned, I presented my experience and ideas to my leadership. I was so excited to share all I learned I forgot about being nervous! From that day forward I, with the commitment of key leaders, would be working towards motivating and inspiring others through our newly formed Young Political Advocates (YPA) group.
Finding My Way up the Yellow Brick Road
After a few months of brainstorming, meeting with my leadership sponsors, scratching ideas off the list and preparing, the group came together for their first meeting in September 2014. A local representative spoke about his role and the processes involved in state government. Following the meeting, I surveyed the group to understand what they expected and would like to see in the future, gathering data to help shape YPA.
Since our first meeting we have had distinguished speakers like our Association’s VP of Political Affairs, senior credit union leaders, and two of our Board members. Myself and other YPA members have attended forums outside of work regarding issues affecting our local area as well as mayoral debates. The discussions surrounding these events were incredible. I loved hearing the honest opinions of my co-workers and picking their brains about solutions to local problems.
Though the program was appreciated and supported, we lacked structure. The team developed a mission statement that was approved by senior management, but we needed something more. Meetings lacked regularity and involvement wasn’t as high as we hoped. Hoping to build excitement and increase engagement, I sat down and created a 12-month plan.
I have three goals with this plan: gain management buy-in, establish structure and create group excitement. Though the plan has been drafted for several months, leadership time commitments have prohibited its review. A meeting is set in late August to discuss it with my leadership sponsors.
A plan allows us to regularly schedule in advance meetings, events and learning opportunities which will allow more employees to attend and fit YPA in their busy schedules. With management buy-in and structure, current and future YPA’ers will know what to expect from this group. Leadership can anticipate many positive outcomes from this program, including knowledgeable and capable leaders for succession planning, an increase in employee retention, long-term effects on our membership and community, and a more engaged employee base.
My favorite goal is group excitement. The other two are important, but giving employees a renewed purpose in their company is something that gets my fires going! With this plan, group members will become educated about the advocacy our industry requires to continue moving forward. They will have opportunities to network and develop. They will be shown that their opinions matter and that they CAN make a difference, no matter their role. Most importantly, they will become engaged in their credit union.
Going to work, doing your job, and going home works for some people. I respect that. For me, that feeling you get when you know you are part of something bigger and that you contributed to it - is indescribable. As I sit here typing this, I am excited! It motivates me and I just can’t wait to see the YPA group evolve into the leaders I know we all are! Every one of us can make a difference. Sometimes we just need someone to say it and believe it.