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In 1844, a small group of weavers from Rochdale, England created the blueprint for how their newly-formed cooperative would operate and serve the local community. These values, known as the Seven Cooperative Principles, serve as the operating guidebook for credit unions and cooperatives throughout the world. This blog was created to honor that legacy and to showcase the everyday efforts of credit unions in the Carolinas that embody the cooperative mission and purpose.


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Guest Post: the top ten things I learned at CU Principles and Philosophy

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Monday, November 17, 2014
Updated: Friday, November 14, 2014

This year I was given the opportunity to attend the 2014 Principles and Philosophy Conference in Winston-Salem, NC, through a scholarship given to me by CUaware. Forty-eight others joined me for the day conference and if I could speak for everyone, this was one of the most enlightening and engaging "un”-conferences I’ve ever been to.

What do I mean by "un”-conference? We’ve all been to conferences near and far and many of them have the same set-up: General Session, Breakout Sessions, Break, General Session, Lunch, Breakout Sessions, General Session, Happy Hour, and Dinner. I’m not saying that format is bad or wrong, but those that organized the Principles and Philosophy Conference did not follow that model. We were in one room, primarily, for 2.5 days of discussion, training, and learning. Another attribute that made this conference truly unique is that the 46 of us did most of the talking. Our fearless leaders and moderators Lois Kitsch of National Credit Union Foundation and Larry Blanchard of CUNA Mutual Group, in addition to Patrick Livingston, Brandon McAdams and others, led the discussion, but it was primarily left up to the small groups we had at our table to learn from one another, share our ideas and experiences, and grow from that discussion.

So what did I learn from October 28th-30th at the Principles and Philosophy Conference? As David Letterman does every night on his late-night show, here are the The Top Ten Things I learned at the Principles & Philosophy Conference.

10. Each credit union needs to provide ice cream 24/7. I suppose those of us who attended the conference will truly understand how  awesome it is to have ice-cream within arms or a stroll’s reach at all times, but at the Graylyn Center (the original estate of tobacco tycoon Bowman Gray Sr. and Nathalie Lyons Gray) they provide ice cream in the lodging and main meeting areas throughout the estate. While I realize providing a limitless supply of ice cream to your employees would take a mighty hit to the annual budget, one can dream and in this dream, there’s a limitless supply of ice cream. If you need proof of why it’s awesome, read the guest testimonials here:

9. We’ve come a long way as a movement… From the Rochdale Weavers in England,  an early cooperative founded in 1844, to Alphonse Desjardins starting the 1st US Credit Union in New Hampshire (it still stands today), our movement has had many heroes along the way: Edward Filene, Dora Maxwell (who started 120 credit unions in 6 months!), and many, many others. They each had the vision and the passion to provide our movement with the motivation and the validation to continue to serve our members…

8…And our principles are still the same. The principles that guided the Rochdale Weavers in 1844 are still the same principles that we as financial cooperatives use today: Democratic Member Control, Voluntary Membership, Members’ Economic Participation, Autonomy and Independence, Education-Training-and-Information, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, and Concern for Community. If just one of those were to go away, the very foundation on which we function would be broken. While it’s good to inform out members of these, it is vital that our fellow employees know these principles. If we cannot state the principles we stand for, then how can we expect our members to know the difference in what we do?

7. Everyone has a story. It’s very easy to view our members as numbers. Other financial institutions do. You remove the risk of getting too involved and too emotional in that person’s life, so viewing them based solely on what number they represent based upon their financial behavior or history keeps you as the employee removed. But that’s not us, is it? Whether it’s a member who’s been with you for 1 month or a member that’s been with you for so long their account number is only two digits, every single one of them has a story. We are the movement that says "Yes” and "Let’s find a way.” A fellow conference attendee David Lenoir told us his story of trials and tribulations in his life and how his credit union saved his life. By hearing the story from our members and hear how we can help, we truly embody our motto of "people helping people.”

6. The competition is fierce. ApplePay. Walmart. Best Buy. Big Banks. Auto Dealers… One thing (among many) that we learned from our session reviewing "The Not for Profit, But for Service” Learning Map® is that there are a lot of entities trying to do what we do. So how do we differentiate ourselves? How do we stand apart? And the answers all lie within the cooperative principles. Easier said than done, of course, but the plan is there for us. It is up to us to put it into action and compete.

5. How to be a cooperative. Lois and Larry did an excellent job of telling us what a cooperative is and showing us different types of cooperatives throughout the country and world. Then they posed the question, "Are you acting like the cooperative you claim to be?” It was a tough question and we each had to take a hard look at our credit unions and see if and how we were acting out the cooperative principles for credit unions. You’ve heard the Aristotle quote "The whole is more than the sum of its parts." Well, in order for us to truly act out the cooperative principles, active participation is essential, from the member to the CEO.

4. Empathy. While this may tie in a lot with #7, I felt it was worthy enough to say it again but in a different way. I want to be more compassionate in what I do and this conference showed me that being empathetic can be a sound business decision for our credit union is based upon the cooperative principles "Concern for Community.” I was able to learn through our small group discussions and through many life stories how to make empathy a part of my business model.

3. We’re all in this together. Troy Hall, COO of SC Federal Credit Union and mentor of mine, frequently comments on the fact that we say we’re cooperatives but we do a poor job cooperating with one another. Chuck Purvis, CEO of Coastal Federal Credit Union, expressed to us that we are losing 1 credit union a day and barely gaining 1 per year (we had that one credit union with us with Alex Moore of Community Works FCU in Greenville, SC). I learned that is essential that we try to help one another and communicate our successes and failures. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small, medium, or large credit union, we all need to communicate better and work together for the good of the movement and our members.

2. We are activists. Listening to Larry Blanchard and the fight he wages for our movement was very motivating. He has been behind so many huge pieces of legislation that has kept our movement progressing, particularly, HR 1151, also known as the Credit Union Membership Access Act. He urged us that it is vital that we stay in tune to the hot topics of the day in Washington, Raleigh, and Columbia and to let our representatives know what we think and how we feel. Lois discussed with us the international struggle we as a movement face to start credit unions in war-torn or impoverished countries. The fight for our movement is waged daily and it is up to us to mobilize the grassroots and stand for our current and future members.

1. It’s still all about the member. We can have all the latest products and services, but if we are not meeting the needs of the member, than what are we doing as a movement?  Our members trust us with their finances and their security. It is our role to sustain that trust by listening to their needs and meeting them head on. Without the member, there is no financial cooperative.

Like I said at the very beginning, this was the best "un”-conference I’ve ever been to. It was not easy choosing only 10 things that I learned. In closing, EVERY Credit Union professional could benefit from attending this conference. Whether you’re new to the Credit Union movement, a young professional, or an "experienced” professional, you will walk away with a better understanding of why we do what we do. I appreciate CUaware choosing me to attend this conference and helping me better understand the cooperative principles of the credit union.

Born in Orangeburg, SC on February 14, 1984, Will grew up in Florence. He graduated from Clemson University in 2006 with a BA in History. Will worked in political campaigns for five years in Washington, DC; Denver, Colorado, and Greenville, SC before joining the credit union ranks.

Will has been the business development officer for Palmetto First FCU in Florence for the past three years. He coordinates the credit union's community involvement and financial education efforts. In addition to his service to credit unions, Will sits on the Chamber of Commerce executive committee, Parks & Beautification Commission Member for the City of Florence, and is the 2013 Palmetto Protégé. Will also serves on the  CUaware board of directors. Married since 2012, Will and his wife Lindsay welcomed Geneva, their first child, in September.


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Protégé winners share insights at Raleigh CUaware event

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Sunday, November 16, 2014
Updated: Friday, November 14, 2014

Principle Five: Education, training, and information. Credit unions provide financial education to their members as well as the communities they serve.

Principle Six: Cooperation among cooperatives. Credit unions work together to improve services to members and build sustainable communities.

Tarheel Chapter contestants Jenn Moore (Local Government FCU) and John Day
(Coastal FCU) recalled their experience of preparing for the CUaware Protégé
competition. To see more photos from this event, please click here

Protégé contestants shared their experiences about competing in the program at the Tarheel Chapter meeting of CUaware Thursday evening, November 13 in Raleigh. Tarheel Chapter Protégé Jenn Moore (Local Government FCU) and Protégé Contestant John Day (Coastal FCU) made the presentation before 20 people who gathered at Coastal FCU's Crabtree Branch. 

Moore and Day were joined by CUaware Protégé winner Micah Smith (SC Telco FCU) and Northwest Chapter Protégé Jon Hamby (Members CU). "We heard a good range of perspectives about lessons learned and the experience of preparing for the Protégé competition," shared Moore

The annual CUaware Protégé competition gives credit union young professionals an opportunity to increase their knowledge of credit unions while honing their public speaking skills. Chapter contestants complete a written examination and prepare a presentation for their chapter competition. Chapter level winners then compete for the opportunity to be the CUaware Protégé at the Carolinas CU League Leadership Conference.  

Protégé winners and two runners-up receive scholarships for professional development events, including one year of tuition to attend the CUNA Management School. (For a list of FAQs about the 2014 Protégé competition, please click here.)      

Chapter-level winners also get paired with a credit union mentor for one year. The mentor works with the Protégé to establish goals that are based on the career track and interests of the Protégé. "The Protégé Mentor program is one that we are very excited about and one that we hope to expand beyond the Protégé program in the year ahead," shared CCUL Director of Cooperative Initiatives, Jeff Hardin. 

Troy Hall (SC FCU) initially suggested and developed the mentor program as a means of enhancing the value of the Protégé program and CUaware by giving credit union young professionals a powerful career development opportunity. For more information about the CUaware Protégé Mentor program, please click here.

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Cooperative Council hosting Co-op Dynamics workshop December 3

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, November 05, 2014

(Editor's note: the registration deadline for people who do not need overnight accommodations is Monday, November 24.)

The Cooperative Council of North Carolina invites credit union staff and volunteers to attend its annual Co-op Dynamics workshop in Cary December 3 from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm. The event takes place at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Cary.

The Council says its annual workshop specifically designed for co-op employees, members and directors to learn everything they need to know about cooperatives. Attendees learn everything from the seven cooperative principles and the history of how cooperatives began to the importance of their role as employees and members.

This seminar allows employees of various cooperatives from across the state to network and enjoy time together while learning about the cooperative business structure. Co-op Dynamics is especially great for newer employees, new board members or anyone wanting a “refresher” course on cooperatives.

The workshop registration fee is $175. For people wishing to stay overnight, lodging is available at a cost of $260 for single occupancy or $220 for doubles (this price covers both lodging and conference registration).

For more information on the workshop or to register, please click here.

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Staff learn history and principles of credit unions

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Monday, November 03, 2014
Updated: Friday, October 31, 2014

A record 49 credit union staff attended the 2014 Principles and Philosophy
Conference in Winston-Salem. An additional group of volunteers guided the
class through the conference experience. For more photos of the conference,
please click here.

A total of 49 credit union staff from North Carolina and South Carolina attended the Principles and Philosophy Conference in Winston-Salem, NC October 28-30, 2014. Now in its fifth year, the conference educates credit union staff about the history of the cooperative and credit union movements, shares the competitive advantages of credit unions, and offers attendees a chance to learn about the changes in the financial services industry. The Graylyn International Conference Center was the site of the event.

The conference is a collaborative effort that Credit Union Development Educators (CUDEs) from North Carolina and South Carolina produce each year. Lois Kitsch, national program director for the National Credit Union Foundation, and Larry Blanchard, public affairs consultant for CUNA Mutual Group, served as co-facilitators of the conference.

Pictured (from left): Larry Blanchard (CUNA Mutual
Group), Patrick Livingston & Brandon McAdams
(Coastal Federal Credit Union), and Lois Kitsch
(National Credit Union Foundation). Blanchard and
Kitsch co-facilitated the conference, while Livingston
and McAdams co-chaired the volunteer committee that
produced the conference.

Attendees began their conference experience by learning about the history of the cooperative and credit union movements, as well as recent growth trends in credit unions in response to consumer demand and changes in the American workplace. This segment also gave each attendee the opportunity to share their credit union's origin story and evolution through the years.

The conference kick-off also included a scavenger hunt exercise aimed at educating attendees about the history of Graylyn, as well as introductory information about the Seven Cooperative Principles of Credit Unions. "The opening day is always critical to the learning experience since we're laying out the learning objectives and building the foundation for the conference experience," shared Patrick Livingston, the conference co-chair.

Blanchard and Kitsch built upon that foundation on Wednesday into Thursday by examining the cooperative principles and their importance to credit unions in the marketplace, as well as the social responsibility of credit unions. The class also had extensive small group work that was facilitated by CUDE mentors at each table. 

"These core principles are vital for staff to understand because they differentiate credit unions in the marketplace," said Brandon McAdams, who joined Livingston as the conference co-chair. "From day-to-day interactions with members by front-line staff, to business decisions made by senior management and volunteer boards, a working knowledge and application of the cooperative principles can truly elevate service delivery."

McAdams and Livingston were assisted prior to and during the conference by Ashley Ruffin, the chair of the 2013 conference. Their cooperative efforts were aided by a gifted group of CUDEs representing credit unions of all sizes in South Carolina and North Carolina.

“The League is simply thrilled by the success of this conference and the impact it is having on professionals and their credit unions,” said Carolinas Credit Union League President/CEO John Radebaugh. “We can’t thank the CUDEs in both states enough for the work they do to impact the credit union movement.”

View more conference photos »

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Cooperative spotlight: Cabot Creamery Cooperative

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Tuesday, October 21, 2014

(Editor's note: cooperative spotlight provides local and national co-ops the opportunity to introduce themselves to the credit union movement in the Carolinas. These posts are intended to forge connections between credit unions and the larger cooperative movement. Please contact Jeff Hardin to share a co-op you would like to see profiled.) 

Principle Six: Cooperation Among Cooperatives. Credit unions work together to improve services to members and build sustainable communities.

By Roberta McDonald, SVP, Marketing. Cabot Creamery Cooperative believes that co-ops should work together; this principle has defined all we have been living since our cooperative was formed in 1919. The 1,200 farm families who make up our co-op embrace the ideals of community, democracy and local ownership, and we support the places where our families and consumers live and do business. Our owners serve on school boards and select boards. They volunteer in many ways – as firefighters, planning commission members and environmental cleanup participants, among other needed roles.

We understand that our co-op doesn’t work alone, so we partner with other cooperatives, such as credit unions, food and electric co-ops with whom we share these principles and values in many of our promotions. We have collaborated with national co-ops, like the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), as well as local co-ops and credit unions. Examples include hosting the first-ever 2012 Vermont State Cooperative Summit to bring together cooperative members to let statewide candidates to share their intentions and appreciation for cooperatives before elections. In the summer of 2014, Cabot hosted members of NCBA and the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Virginia Credit Union Association to discuss how cooperatives can work together to achieve their goals. This celebration was part of Cabot’s 2014 Community Tour, which traveled from Florida to New York to celebrate the communities that local co-ops serve.

We hope you’ll partner with us! As a credit union, there are many different ways to connect with your local cooperatives. Create a lobby sign identifying other co-ops in your area. Highlight a local co-op in your member newsletter. Include samples from a local food co-op in your drive thru envelope to give your members a special surprise. Have your credit union featured in a print ad for your local electrical co-op…the possibilities are endless. When you cross market with other co-ops, everyone wins.

Through Cabot’s co-op to co-op program, we put our Principle Six into action. We reach out to other cooperatives to help them improve their wellness, market themselves more effectively or support one of their member events with cheese samples or gift boxes. Other ways Cabot can support your credit unions includes:

  • Free cheddar for events and meetings

  • Cheddar gift boxes as door prizes or raffle prizes

  • Coupons with your organization’s logo to use as membership incentives or recognition, perhaps for use in mailings or at drive-thrus with a cheese sample

  • Share our Health/Education/Volunteer resources with members as content for e-blasts including health tips and recipes, handouts, and our ‘Lunch and Learn’ program

  • Share Cabot’s Coop For Community Scout Patch Program

  • Add Cabot’s Growing Health & Wealth Kits to your own financial literacy programs for kids

  • Encourage your members to use our Reward Volunteers app, which lets volunteers log their hours and win prizes for themselves and the organization that they serve

  • Request Cabot’s Farmers’ Gratitude Grille, our mobile food truck that feeds volunteers all along the East Coast to join your next big community volunteering program

We invite you to come cooperate with Cabot and watch our co-ops thrive!

For more information on cooperation among co-ops, contact Liz McSpiritt at

For additional information about any of Cabot’s programs, please visit

Roberta MacDonald is nearing 40 years of consumer product and trade marketing experience, the last 25 of which she has spent as SVP of Marketing for Cabot Creamery Cooperative of Vermont. Roberta previously served as the state's first Marketing Director, a position created for her by Governor Kunin in 1984. She has been recognized with many awards for design, promotions, and high-impact public relations programs, including Cookies for Good and the Cabot Reward Volunteers iPhone app. Prior to moving to Vermont, Roberta provided marketing consulting and/or staff services for leading organizations and enterprises, including the San Francisco Opera, the National Endowment for the Arts, American Express, Information Industry Association, NYU, CBS, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Roberta is a long-time champion of the Baby Boomer generation and what it can continue to offer in the industry and beyond. In her free time, she is an adept, compassionate facilitator of conversations on death and dying and volunteers for hospice services in Burlington, Vermont.

Tags:  Cabot  Cooperative Spotlight  Prnciple Six 

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