Don’t Miss Your Chance to Crash the GAC

Evergreen CU’s Ed Budway and his fellow GAC crashers.

Young credit union professionals and emerging leaders once again have the opportunity to “crash” CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington, DC, but timing is running out to apply. If you would like to represent Maine, and join the Cooperative Trust as it brings together 50 young credit union employees for this event, submit your application by December 2.

Following GAC, Crashers will have the chance to take what they discussed back to their communities and credit unions. Ed Budway, Marketing Manager for Evergreen CU, shared his experience as a Crasher, noting the value and importance of taking part in this advocacy event.

“It was eye-opening and inspiring!” described Budway. “The conference itself was huge, and many higher-level employees from credit unions around the country were in attendance. The political atmosphere was energetic and positive, and the speakers were top-notch. Former President George Bush was one of our guest speakers the year I went, and they typically swap parties each year for adequate representation. I helped to commence the conference as a Maine representative, walking with the Maine flag into the main conference hall. As Crashers, we attended most of the ‘regular’ conference, as well as some side events with speakers like Jim Nussle. The sheer size, production value, and array of political subjects were all extremely impressive, and the optimistic energy from all involved was infectious.”

Budway explained how he had the opportunity to join the Maine political delegation as they “Hiked the Hill.” He was thrilled to speak with legislators about recent bills and laws that affected credit unions.

“Our lawmakers absolutely hear from credit unions,” Budway said.

Crash the GAC is a fantastic chance for younger credit union professionals and leaders to learn more about the credit union movement; spark new ideas and conversations with both legislators and other professionals across the country; and form valuable, lifelong relationships.

“Crashing is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” reflected Budway. “The perspective change—in addition to everything else—is the primary reason to go. I now understand that individual credit unions are not alone in their efforts to serve their members. We’re all working in tandem, and we support each other at state and national levels.”

The conference brings unique people from vastly different credit unions and locations across the country together, and Budway remembers the excitement of engaging with so many like-minded individuals who shared the same passion for the credit union movement. He explained how regular attendees of the conference enjoyed seeing young Crashers present, immersing themselves further in the credit union world. With such a mix of people, Budway found the after-hours networking events to be extremely fun, too.

“Thanks to the people, lectures, and conversations, I went from viewing my credit union as a small business in a small state to knowing we’re part of a massive, countrywide movement with a unified mission: helping people,” Budway explained.

This valuable experience offers full days of activities, and Budway was there for all of it!

“If you do aim to crash, be aware that you’ll likely be sleep deprived and be on the move the entire time,” shared Budway. “Each day was booked from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm or later, and I typically stayed up past that talking with my roommate. I’m not sure if they still do it, but yes—each crasher bunked with a roommate the year I went. It was fun learning about a credit union counterpart from another state and in a different role. I was lucky to room with a completely different professional with about twice as much credit union experience. We periodically catch up even today!”

From forming new connections to bettering the understanding of how legislation affects credit unions, Crash the GAC is a robust opportunity to grow within the credit union industry. Knowing the hand governmental affairs plays in credit union operations and regulations only enhances the ways in which credit unions can serve their members and their communities.

“Advocacy is extremely important for credit unions” explained Budway. “The political battleground is constantly changing, and new rules and regulations are often slipped into unrelated bills. Sometimes, our competitors may lobby for specific regulations affecting credit unions. We’re always at threat of being overregulated, and credit union employees may want to observe which candidates are helpful or hurtful to our cause. I’m personally very interested in credit union advocacy and have been since my GAC Crasher experience. I’m always happy to join our delegation in hiking the hill.”

Taking part in this conference allows participants to grow personally and professionally while strengthening communities back in their home states.

“Anyone who is considering a long-term career in credit unions should absolutely attend,” encouraged Budway. “If you’re on the fence or getting more into your credit union, definitely give it a shot. It could convince you to stick around!”

Crashing the GAC is an opportunity open to employees at any level within the credit union – not just management or senior leadership. It’s a time to share your thoughts and have your voice be heard while listening to the ideas and insights of those around you.

“Any and all credit union employees are eligible to be a Crasher,” said Budway. “As far as I know, the Crasher selection process aims to bring together a diverse crowd of credit union professionals. A wide mix of roles and careers is absolutely considered. Typically, people under 40 years old are their choice group, but ‘young at heart’ professionals are also welcome to apply.”

Budway outlined the application process, noting that it was not too long or complicated.

“You do have to submit a video of yourself,” explained Budway. “The video should convey to CUNA who you are, why you want to crash, why you should be selected, and more (in one minute or less). High-production value isn’t required. Some Crashers are selected via a simple selfie-style video. Others have been admitted with a more creative, edited attempt.”