Gigi Hyland Takes Reins at NCUF
The former NCUA board member, CUNA and credit union executive took over as executive director in August 2013 after the retirement of Bucky Sebastian.
Hyland said she hasn’t yet met with the NCUF Board to discuss the next specific steps the foundation will take, but added that she has spent her first six weeks in the position meeting with the foundation’s stakeholders—credit union executives, league executives, and staff from the foundation and other philanthropies—listening to their opinions about the foundation’s goals.
There are principles underlying everything the foundation does, Hyland said, including financial accountability, helping credit unions have an impact on their members’ financial lives and reminding credit unions of their purpose.
As an example of how those principles have driven the foundation’s actions in the past, Hyland noted the gradual shift in the way the foundation makes grants, moving from disbursing smaller amounts of money to fund individual credit union projects several times per year to making larger grants on an annual basis, funding projects with a potential to change how credit unions serve their members.
This shift involved the principle of financial accountability because larger projects have to include an element of how to measure impact, Hyland said. But it also included the principle of developing products and services that have an impact on members’ lives and, in doing so, helped remind credit unions of what it means to serve their members.
“It’s not the products and services themselves,” Hyland said, “it’s what those products and services allow the members to do.”
Hyland pointed to Life Simulation events that are part of the foundation’s Real Solutions program. In these events, credit union executives go through an exercise where they assume the roles of lower income families. During the three-hour activity, the executives become more aware of the daily realities facing many American families and experience the power that having trusted, affordable and easily accessible financial products and services can have, Hyland said.
“They experience the frustration and powerless you can feel from trying to live life on a lower income and this helps them see their members in a new light,” she added.
Hyland also acknowledged the foundation continues to face a significantly more challenging income environment than it has in the past.