The Cooperative Trust honored for professional development efforts as 2017 Herb Wegner Memorial Award winner

Cooperative trust recognized as outstanding program by foundation

MADISON, WI (October 13, 2016) — In recognition of their boundless generosity of time, money, energy and spirit in providing growth and development opportunities for young credit union professionals, the National Credit Union Foundation (the Foundation) is pleased to announce The Cooperative Trust from the Filene Research Institute as the recipient of the 2017 Herb Wegner Memorial Outstanding Program Award.

The Cooperative Trust’s award will be one of three Herb Wegner Memorial Awards presented at a special dinner hosted by the Foundation at the Marriott Marquis Washington on February 27th, 2017 in conjunction with the Credit Union National Association’s 2017 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). Registration for dinner tickets and sponsorships will be available within the next month on the Foundation website (

“I can say that as many of my peers prepare to exit the credit union movement, we have wondered who will follow these former leaders and ensure that Filene and Bergengren’s desire of credit union philosophy remains strong into the future,” said John Gregoire, Chair of the Foundation’s Wegner Awards Selection Committee and President of The ProCon Group. “We were initially taken back by the term ‘crashers’ only to find this has become a group comprised of incredible energy, valuable insight and truly future leaders. They are without question a ‘thunder punch’ to the credit union movement.”

An Inside Track to Powerful Professional Experiences
The Cooperative Trust’s most significant initiative is the Crash program, which provides scholarships for young credit union professionals to attend the industry’s biggest events. Nicknamed “Crashers,” recipients of the Crash scholarships take part NCUFDinner-Herb Wegner Award Vertical_no flamein a specially designed curriculum of sessions and activities at these events and get to network with the more experienced professionals in attendance.

Currently, between 12 and 15 Crash events are held per year, with attendees from all 50 states participating in the program in each of the last three years. For Crash the GAC, The Cooperative Trust’s biggest event, more than 150 young professionals have been able to attend CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference each year since 2010.

Research conducted by the Filene Research Institute reveals that Crash programs have a demonstrably positive effect on their participants. For example, 95% of participants in Crash the GAC said the experience increased their interest in furthering their career in the credit union industry, while 90% said it made them more likely to tell their members about the good credit unions do. With this increased enthusiasm, Crashers help convince more consumers in their age group to join credit unions, enhancing the long-term viability of the entire movement.

Crash events not only stoke enthusiasm for young professionals’ enthusiasm for credit unions but also for further professional development. Crash events are often treated as a precursor for the Foundation’s Credit Union Development Education (CUDE) program, where professionals master the movement’s core principles and learn how to spread the credit union message.

“I ‘Crashed’ the GAC in 2011 [when] I was the Chief Financial Officer at Mazuma,” said Brandon Michaels, president/CEO of Mazuma CU in Overland Park, Kans. “The experience reignited my passion for the industry and jump-started my quest to becoming one of the youngest CEOs of a midsize-large credit unions in the country. I can say that, without a shadow of a doubt, my involvement in The Cooperative Trust positively impacted my candidacy for President/CEO.”

Mentoring the Movement’s Future Leaders
Crash events are only one part of The Cooperative Trust’s professional development efforts; the organization also facilitates mentorship opportunities that connect young professionals to senior leaders. The Cooperative Trust leverages its extensive network of credit union veterans, who volunteer countless hours each year to share their wisdom and experience during special sessions and events for young adult members.

Since they were introduced at Crash the GAC, these mentorship events have become one of The Cooperative Trust’s most popular offerings to members. Representatives from a wide range of credit union and financial services organizations currently participate in their mentorship programs, including staff from CUNA, CUNA Mutual Group, the World Council of Credit Unions and Fiserv, among others.

The model of mentorship provided by The Cooperative Trust has also inspired credit union groups across the country to pursue their own similar programs. In 2014, GAC Crasher Nick Fugal encouraged the Idaho Credit Union League to create their own professional development organization, Climb Idaho, which creates mentorship opportunities for young credit union professionals.

“None of [Climb Idaho’s] events were more telling than our CEO Roundtable… where [24 young professionals] were able to socialize, ask candid questions and receive honest professional advice and feedback from key industry leaders,” said Brian Rich, marketing coordinator at Icon CU in Boise, Idaho. “Simply put, none of this would have been possible without The Cooperative Trust.”

A Force for Strengthening Industry-Wide Cooperation
Through both their events and mentorship sessions, The Cooperative Trust unifies the credit union system by fostering collaboration between credit union professionals, organizations and vendors. For events like Crash the GAC, CUNA supplies scholarships, CUNA Mutual Group provides expert speakers, and representatives from Fiserv and PSCU attend to facilitate positive learning experiences for attendees.

Many members of The Cooperative Trust team up for volunteer projects to benefit credit union members and their communities. These projects range from painting houses and working charity races to the TruCircle project, a peer-to-peer lending solution for underserved communities.

The Cooperative Trust also unifies credit unions through their online portal, where users share their ideas, experiences and perspectives and collaborate on projects. The platform allows Crashers to stay in touch with each after their events have ended, forming bonds that will allow them to continue to grow, evolve and advance for the rest of their careers.

“My favorite part of Crashing was the connections I made,” said Marissa Weidenfeller, marketing specialist at Fort Community Credit Union. “Whenever I have a question I reach out to my friends I made at the Crash event. Our entire group is so supportive of each other; we all live in difference states, but we still stay in contact and lend a helping hand whenever we can.”

About National Credit Union Foundation

The National Credit Union Foundation (the Foundation) is the charitable arm of the U.S. credit union movement and works as a catalyst to improve people’s financial lives through credit unions. Through grants and programs, the Foundation is strengthening financial well-being, igniting passion, and instilling knowledge about the credit union difference, and uniting resources to help credit union people during disaster. Donations to the Foundation ultimately enable credit unions to help their members reach life-changing goals and achieve financial freedom.

About the Herb Wegner Memorial Awards

The awards are named in honor of the late Credit Union National Association CEO Herb Wegner, whose tireless dedication, innovative ideas and deeds truly revolutionized the ways that credit unions serve their communities.  The awards that bear Wegner’s name recognize his spirit of “innovative, creative, risk-taking” leadership. View past award recipients here.


Danielle Brown

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