COOPS: Collectively Honoring Individual Achievement

There was a surprise “gift” presented to Ed Callahan at his San Francisco retirement celebration after serving 15 years as CEO of Patelco. During this October 2002 event, a number of his peers and friends honored him by establishing the “Ed fund”.  All investments would become a component of the Community Investment Fund (CIF) of the National Credit Union Foundation.

The Fund’s name was a play on words.  For it honored Ed as a credit union leader and also recognized his early career in education and belief in lifelong learning.

The intent was that the earnings from these investments, split 50/50 between the credit union and the CIF, would provide a reliable source of income to support the Foundation’s education and grant programs.

This tradition of recognizing individual accomplishment by furthering cooperative enterprise is as old as the Herb Wegner dinner itself.

At this 15th Herb Wegner ceremony in 2003, this special effort was singled out for recognition.  The initiative had led to a tripling of investment balances in the CIF to $155 million just five months following the October launch.  The nine CEO’s who committed $10 million or more were recognized personally in the segment below introduced by co-chair John Annaloro, CEO of the NWCUA.

Peers Reinvesting in the System that Gave Them Opportunities

The lead donors and 24 other credit union CIF supporters were a coordinated effort to provide seed funding for cu startups and programs to promote individual financial independence.

It demonstrated the willingness of all segments of the cooperative system to support collective, not just individual, responsibilities. Simply running your own shop well and supporting local communities, was not the end all for these leaders.  In the tradition of Ed Filene and many other system leaders, they believed in “paying forward” part of the success they had enjoyed.

At the pinnacle and critical to the CIF’s success was US Central.  It managed the funds, helped collect donations via the corporate network, kept the bookwork and provided the best return available given investment limits on credit unions.  In addition to making a $10 million investment, the corporate also contributed $700,00 in direct donations to the fund.

This special role is acknowledged by Annaloro in this brief clip:

Leaders Insuring a Legacy—for the Cooperative System

The unique advantage of credit unions is cooperation–the capacity of leaders to join with each other for system benefit.   CUSO’s are one example driven by economics and scale.   The Ed fund is another example of this talent to work for common purpose.

These initiatives require leaders who have the instincts and will to make change happen.  When there are leaders there will be followers. No matter a credit union’s size or status, all members current and future, benefit when cooperatives share their success beyond their own firm’s boundaries.

(editor’s note)

These glimpses of past credit union events are done in the spirit of historian Will Durant who wrote:

we of this generation give too much time to news about the transient present, too little to the living past. We are choked with news, and starved of history. We know a thousand items about the day or yesterday, we learn the events and troubles and heartbreaks of a hundred peoples, the policies and pretensions of a dozen capitals, the victories and defeats of causes, armies, athletic teams. But how, without history, can we understand these events, discriminate their significance, sift out the large from the small, see the basic currents underlying surface movements and changes, and foresee the result sufficiently to guard against fatal error or the souring of unreasonable hopes?

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