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2016 was the most successful and exciting year to date for the Mountain West Credit Union Foundation. We saw growth and expansion within each of the Foundation’s programs and initiatives, including fundraising efforts that will allow us to do even more good in 2017.
In an effort to gain some insight about the Foundation’s impact in 2016, I sat down with the Foundation’s Chairman, Todd Pearson, President & CEO of Arizona Central Credit Union. Here is what he had to say about what the Foundation has accomplished so far and what’s in store for the future.
Q: As the Foundation Chairman, what do you believe is most important function of the Foundation?
Todd: Ultimately, the Foundation is here to support each and every Credit Union in our three state region, in whatever way we can. By nature, Credit Unions are cooperative institutions. The Foundation gives legs to that cooperative philosophy with programs that allows Credit Unions to support other Credit Unions in meaningful ways that make all of us stronger. Since the Foundation’s inception, we’ve accomplished this largely through Credit Union grants that support growth, expansion and long-term sustainability. But, over the past few years, the primary focus has been on the development and support of our leaders. This is where we are having the biggest impact and where the Foundation will continue to focus its efforts in 2017.
Q: What caused the Foundation to decide to concentrate on leadership development?
Todd: One thing we do in planning sessions is talk about what’s trending in our industry. As Credit Union leaders and Foundation board members, it’s important that we do all we can to keep our fingers on the pulse of the important issues affecting the industry at any given moment. In meeting after meeting, the issue at the top of everyone’s minds was leadership. All of us had noticed that the common age of Credit Union staff and management was getting older. Fewer and fewer young adults were choosing the Credit Union industry as their career of choice. We realized that if we were to ensure the viability of the future of our Credit Unions, we needed to focus on a solid succession plan. In other words, we needed to train the next generation of leaders. More than that, we needed to create support systems for those leaders that would set them up for continued growth and success.
Q: Do you feel that the Foundation’s leadership development programs have had an impact on the Credit Unions in our tri-sate area?
Todd: Absolutely. You know, there’s nothing that makes me feel better than hearing stories about graduates of our programs moving into bigger and better positions, and creating success after success. In 2016, we were able to offer more opportunities for growth, training and development to leaders than ever before. As more of our leaders move through our programs and apply what they’ve learned within their own Credit Unions, it creates a ripple effect that impacts all of us. The more opportunities for support we offer, the more successful our leaders become. Their success only deepens their commitment to their Credit Union, its members, and the industry as a whole. The impact these leaders are making is felt throughout their communities and in their desire to give back to the Foundation, thus expanding the work we are able to do. It’s a true win-win situation and the perfect example of people helping people. We really are stronger together. I see the truth of that every day.
Q: When you think back over the work the Foundation accomplished in 2016, what are you proudest of?
Todd: We can only do what we do through the help and support of the Credit Unions in our region. Our work is completely dependent on their generosity and involvement. Each year, we initiate three main fundraising efforts: A golf tournament during our Annual Meeting, the Star Gala, and the Fair Share program. The results of these fundraisers determines what we can accomplish within the next year. These fundraisers have gotten bigger and more successful by the year, and 2016 was no exception. I am particularly grateful for the increased participation in the Fair Share program, in which Credit Unions donate a few cents per member back to the Foundation. The generous contributions of 2016 will allow us to allocate even more funds for grants and scholarships that support initiatives vital to the growth and sustainability of the Credit Unions in our association.
Q: What does the future hold for the Foundation?
Todd: Leadership will continue to be the staple of the Foundation, for sure. The success of 2016 means even more opportunities for leaders to grow and thrive in 2018. We will also be able to offer more grant money than ever before to Credit Unions who need to improve important operational functions and launch growth initiatives. In 2017, our annual Star Gala, traditionally hosted in Denver, will be held in Arizona to allow for greater participation from the Credit Unions in that area.
Ultimately, we want to be able to expand the work of the Foundation beyond our tri-state area. Leadership development is crucial to the future of our entire industry. None of us work in a bubble. We are dependent on the future success and sustainability of the Credit Union movement as a whole. To that end, we are working hard to set in motion plans and initiatives that will have an impact on Credit Unions throughout the country.
Q: Is there anything you want Foundation members to know?
Todd: Speak up. Let us know how we can help, and what opportunities exist to give back and support our mission to promote leadership development and the long-term success of Credit Unions in their communities. We are in this together, and one of the ways we support each other is to communicate our needs. There is nothing we want more than to help you succeed.
To find out more about the Mountain West Credit Union Foundation and opportunities for grants, scholarships and leadership development, please visit the Foundation website.