CUNA's Renewal Doesn't Give Volunteers Their Due
Is it just me, or did anyone else notice the makeup of the CUNA "Renewal Project Steering Committee?" (Credit Union Times, Feb. 28. 1996) It seems to me that, if CUNA is serious about this "renewal," the powers that be have completely snubbed at least one potentially valuable resource i.e., the credit union volunteer. But, in my opinion, CUNA is not alone in this regard. The relegation of the volunteer to second class citizenship in the CU community, generally, has finally incited me to write this letter. Just look at the articles in most CU-related publications; scan this particular issue of Credit Union Times, and what do we see: "Pros," "CEOs," "CU Professionals," "Lobbyists," "League Presidents,""ACULE this, CUNA that, NAFCU, NASCUS," etc., etc. Where are the references to the traditional backbone of the CU movement: the volunteers, whose foundational labors over the years have created the job opportunities for these "professionals?" It seems that the only time volunteers get any positive recognition is when groups of professionals want to protect or to promote their piece of the action. Then they solicit "grass roots" support from CU volunteers and CU members. When it's all over, and the movement has been saved once again, the professionals take over, patting themselves on the back for a job well done. As a proud, 30-plus year, unpaid, veteran volunteer of the credit union trenches, I especially resent Anne Brinkerhoff's article about the "Many board members who have no idea what the employees of a credit union do." I think it is insulting to even facetiously suggest that a board would base a CEO's salary increase on how she dresses. I am sure that many other volunteers will agree with me. On the other hand, I would guess that there are some volunteers who believe that there are CEOs who have no idea of what employees of a credit union do, or haven't seen the inside of their own office in many moons. Similarly, I would imagine that there are some cynical CU insiders who believe that many credit union industry parasites have no idea of what the CU philosophy or movement is all about. But this letter is not intended to trade allegations; besides, I have too much respect for most of the CU CEOs and professionals I have known over the years. Volunteers are not in it for the money, personal promotion or professional adulation. We give of ourselves because of a firm belief in the philosophy of credit unionism, not for monetary gain or professional perks. As a group, I believe that we have devotion, loyalty and enthusiasm for the credit union movement and our fellow CU member/owners; not for what we can get out of it, beyond self-satisfaction through service-to-others. Is it any wonder that CUNA is not in tune with the movement? Is it any wonder that over the years we have seen a new noble class emerging in the credit union movement - that of the "professional." As some peripheral CU-related organizations are now constituted, in my opinion, there is an inherent conflict of interest between the perpetuation of the cooperative CU movement and perpetuation of a self-serving, sometimes profit motivated, organization. The volunteers can serve to balance the equation, provide non-monetary-based objectivity, represent the member/owners, and offer a non-professional point of view. To put it in perspective: how many banks, savings and loans and/or credit unions have failed in recent times because of the incompetency of the professionals, compared to the shortcomings of its volunteers? How many investment houses or brokers have been ruined by volunteers? How many financial advisors end up in court because of their volunteer activities? How many professionals have been ruined or have gone into bankruptcy because they bought investments they did not understand? How many CEOs on the steering committee are on unpaid leave from their primary jobs; how many are paying their own expenses; how many have divorced themselves and their own economic interests from that of their CU employer or trade organization? I am not advocating volunteer sainthood, rewards or undeserved credit. All I am saying is let's be fair about it. The credit union movement is not from the professionals, by the professionals, for the professionals; it is a cooperative effort between the representatives of all member/owners and professionals. In my opinion, most volunteers are unsung heroes, at their own choice. But, let's not totally ignore them either. Stan Kluckowski Treasurer SSA Baltimore Federal Credit Union Baltimore, Md.