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Winning on Kindness: How to Bring the Credit Union Mission to Life

CU FORWARD Day

I could certainly use a little more kindness in the world right now. What about you?

On this episode, we’re joined by two guests from the Minnesota Credit Union Network, President & CEO Mark Cummins and Director of Engagement Ben Hering, to talk about CU FORWARD, a statewide day of kindness, during which credit unions of all sizes come together to participate in fundraising events, community service projects, and other volunteer opportunities.

CU FORWARD Day emerged from three simple questions:

  1. How do we spread kindness?
  2. How can credit unions come together and do more than lobby for tax breaks?
  3. How can we grow the credit union movement and respond to the pressing challenges of our time?

CU FORWARD Day, which is coming up on Monday, October 12, now touches tens of thousands of people. Though it will no doubt look a little different in the midst of COVID-19, it also might be more important now than ever. In a year when credit union members have lost jobs, juggled childcare needs, contended with police brutality and civil unrest, and struggled to protect their own health and the health of their loved ones, one simple act of kindness can go a long way.

Interested in bringing CU FORWARD to your community? Email Ben about making this happen in your region. 

 

Key takeaways

  1. Credit unions focus a lot on the how and the what, but this is a way to take the WHY behind CUs — people helping people — and bring it to life for employees and community members in a memorable and tangible way.
  2. If marketing is all about storytelling, this is a story generating machine.
  3. Credit unions spreading kindness can can strengthen trust in our communities, connect people who don’t normally meet, and make our society and democracy stronger.

Read the full transcript here:

Cameron Madill:
Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Remarkable Credit Union podcast. We created our podcast to help credit union leaders and marketers think outside of the box, about technology, community impact and marketing. Each episode we bring on expert guests from inside and outside of the industry for conversations about innovation. Our goal is to challenge your preconceptions about business as usual, and provide you with actionable takeaways that you can use to grow your membership, improve the financial health of your cooperative and magnify the positive impact in your community. Today’s big question. How can credit unions come together and do more than lobby for tax breaks to grow the movement, respond to the pressing challenges of our time and create more kindness in the world. Today I am very excited to welcome two special guests. This is also in my first post paternity leave podcast. So there’s lots of wisdom I’m hoping they can share with me about being a dad because clearly I know nothing about how to do this.

Cameron Madill:
So first of all, I’d like to introduce Ben Hering. Ben is the director of engagement at the Minnesota Credit Union Network. He’s a graduate of the i3 program through Filene. Two hobbies, which I learned about quite a while [inaudible 00:01:12], he is an avid trumpet player and rock climber. But as you can imagine, both of those are not exactly COVID friendly, so we are going to focus on his pertinent point right now as he has a new pug puppy. So we’re hoping he will send photos around of that. And there are now a two pug family. Actually, Ben, perhaps you can give me advice about parenting of a different kind that way. And then also excited to welcome Mark Cummins. Mark is the president and the CEO of the Minnesota Credit Union Network, is a native of Colorado and he was recruited into Minnesota, and he was the CEO of a credit union in downtown Denver previously.

Cameron Madill:
And Mark is very passionate about family and kids, and he is currently coming up on his 37th year of marriage, Ben and Mark. Thanks for joining us today.

Mark Cummins:
Pleasure to be here.

Ben Hering:
Yeah. Thanks for having us.

Cameron Madill:
So I would love to … this is such a cool program and we actually spoke last year, which was when I first started learning about it, but it was in the midst of 2020, the year that is just constantly changing and keeping us on our toes, which we’ll get to in a little bit, but let’s go back to the story of origin. How did the idea of CU Forward Day, which is kind of the big idea we’re talking about today, how did CU Forward Day come to be?

Mark Cummins:
Well, let me jump in and then I’ll hand it over to Ben, but CU Forward Day really started out as [inaudible 00:02:23] created by Affinity Plus Credit Union here in St. Paul, and really as an opportunity to engage their staff and just spread kindness throughout the communities that they serve. And then one of our CEO retreats, Dave Larson, the CEO of Affinity Plus … I was going to say challenged, but really I think just made the opportunity available to other credit unions in attendance if they wanted to participate. And a number of folks volunteered and it kind of grew from there of these additional credit unions became, it became more [inaudible 00:03:00] for us at the network as the trade association, to be the coordinator of the event in order to really help encourage a variety of other credit unions to become involved as well.

Mark Cummins:
So it’s been exciting. It’s been exciting to watch it grow from one credit union and the work that they did. And we always need to be sure we give Affinity Plus a lot of credit for this because they really were the founder of this particular activity. And then to see it grow to a dozen now to nearly 60 organizations credit unions and some of our partners that also participate in it. And Ben is a former employee of Affinity Plus as well and was involved in it in the credit union level.

Ben Hering:
Yeah. So one thing that I thought was really unique about this concept was that it actually stemmed out of the credit union Affinity Plus thinking about how might they get out into their community and impact the members that are within those communities in a big way, on a day that is typically historically been reserved for a federal bank holiday.

Ben Hering:
And so CU Forward Day lands on the second Monday of October each year starting back in 2013 and really is an opportunity for credit unions to come together to do really one simple thing, which is to spread kindness and really on this day credit union employees, members, our partners, system partners, and nonprofits and organizations throughout Minnesota have been coming together to really commit random acts of kindness in some ways, but also some intentional ways. And just generally trying to say thank you to those in our community who deserve it most. And an outcome is really to showcase credit unions and what we do in the financial sector.

Ben Hering:
I think it showcases our uniqueness and it showcases what it means to be a not-for-profit cooperative. As we look back, I think it’s something that … as Mark mentioned, we have almost 60 organizations who have committed to participating in last year’s event and we’re hopeful that we can gain even more traction. And as this concept grows, we’ve actually been seeing it take hold in new and other States as well. And so excited to watch the concept grow and then to see credit unions really latch on to this idea of collaboration in a new way.

Cameron Madill:
Yeah. So I love the concept. Back in December 2019, which feels like many thousands of years ago, I remember we sat down, we built a strategic plan for 2020, and then Mark came along and we sort of figuratively basically had to light it on fire and re-do everything. So I’m curious, how are you all? I’m sure you had a very exciting plan for 2020. How are you thinking CU Forward Day will look this year, given that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic? And I imagine at least a lot of the random acts of kindness or intentional acts of kindness, as you said, Ben, were predicated on being able to approach a stranger and do something nice for them without them recoiling in fear that you might be about to infect them.

Ben Hering:
Yeah, I’ll jump in. And then I know Mark has some great stories as well. But as you can imagine, it’s something that we’re having to evolve with the considerations around the pandemic. And so one thing that we’ve found is even in the uniqueness of this year and all the challenges that 2020 has brought with it, credit unions has really been stepping up to continue to support our communities, to give back to organizations, local businesses and nonprofits members in our communities. And we’re hopeful that this will be another way for us to showcase the difference that credit unions can make in our state and maybe even throughout the country in coming together and doing stuff like this. So Mark, [crosstalk 00:07:02] you speak to the #CUisforyou story and how that came about.

Mark Cummins:
Yeah. I think one of the really unique things about this is that this is really something that we want to do. And when I say we, it’s really the collective, we credit unions overall, this kind of the random acts of kindness are intentional pieces of it, if you will, are really I think intrinsic to our nature, we don’t give ourselves credit that very often. And we talked a lot about new principles [inaudible 00:07:36] cooperatives … cooperation amongst cooperatives, I should say. And we usually beat ourselves up about that instead of giving ourselves credit for the cooperation that in fact we do do. And it is widespread. It could always be more so that way as with anything. It’s a self-defined characteristic, but it is something I see, especially in the most difficult times, that cooperation just happens intrinsically. Ben mentioned one of that, but I want to back up just a little bit before that because we talked about COVID and how that’s really kind of shaken our plans and thoughts for 2020.

Mark Cummins:
But for us when COVID was hitting and we were all trying to figure out how we deal with this and what it means for our organizations, and how we run our credit unions, how we serve our members, how do we protect both through those environments and continue to provide services to them.

Mark Cummins:
We started just having actually daily conference calls with all of our CEOs in Minnesota participating in that and people freely sharing their thoughts and ideas, their plans that they had made, their policies that they put together, the interpretations of the governor’s orders that we’re also trying so desperately to implement and follow. I just want to … again, that idea of cooperation amongst cooperatives is incredibly displayed at that point in time with people freely sharing what they were doing, what they were concerned about, even where they could find PPP or PPE equipment and keep things going that way. So it was astonishing to witness, and be a part of that and watch the freedom of what people both had to share, and the questions of what they needed and the assistance that was rapidly available to each other in order to, as a movement, to help get ourselves to this point where we can talk now and not so much internally, but then look at how we translate that to an external audience to show the case.

Mark Cummins:
Again, those things that we do. The CU for you element was really again, started by credit unions to … even through this incredible disruption that they were seeing to challenge each other to do things for their community. And they would start by shooting a really simple video of their plan to help an agency, or an organization or some unit within their community. And then to challenge specifically another CEO to do the same, and to see it grow, and spread it and kind of do it in a fun but also meaningful sort of way. Kind of backed almost to the old ice bucket challenge, if you will, from that. And it was really gratifying to watch. And Ben did a really nice job frankly of capturing that and doing some work on social to help promote it and to recognize the folks that really stepped up to really make a difference.

Cameron Madill:
So yeah, I love all the cooperation that I have been seeing. I know particularly here in the Northwest, there was a similar setup of not just CEO, I think, but kind of broader, anyone in the credit union could join these I think-

Cameron Madill:
… anyone in the credit union can join these, I think they were daily at first and then three times a week and two times a week and it was this incredible example, Mark, of what you talked about of cooperation among cooperatives. This hashtag I think is really powerful because it seems like one of the things that the pandemic has done is that for people who have the luxury of working from home, but maybe really for everyone, it just seems like people’s worlds have constricted. I’m thinking of that core purpose statement of credit unions, people helping people. I’d love to hear, I guess, in light, Mark, what have you said about the cooperation among cooperatives, cooperative principle number six and the people helping people mission, in light of Covid, black lives matter, just the incredibly uneven state of the economy. You already touched on a few, are there any other ways that you see the principles of cooperation among cooperatives being embodied [inaudible 00:00:53]?

Mark Cummins:
Well, sure. One of the things… I’m sorry, I’m getting a siren.

Cameron Madill:
I forgot to say that in your introduction, I believe you mentioned Mark, your office is located right by… What’s it like a hospital and a dispatch center, so you have constant relaxing noises in the background all day long.

Mark Cummins:
I’m accustomed to them, but I also recognize how disruptive that can be in these kind of situations. My apologies. For that, I guess that’s just another example of people helping people right there.

Cameron Madill:
No kidding.

Mark Cummins:
Watching folks that go unrecognized so often. You hit something we feel at times that here, to a certain extent those events, that for a period of time, we were the epicenter here in Minneapolis, social disruption. Seeing with human effects of how disruptive that is within rise, but just as importantly, getting our eyes opened, if you will, to a segment of our population that has been so marginalized and underserved for so long that you become accustomed to the way things are, not the way that things should be. This has been a great opportunity for us to recognize that we have an opportunity to change things and to move those things positively.

Mark Cummins:
I think we have seen our credit unions really embrace that idea in a number of ways, from giving their employees opportunities to volunteer in a variety of areas, whether it was clean up or other areas to do that. Plus we have one of our credit unions, we have a pool actually of over $200,000 available and divvied it up amongst all of their branches to determine how they could take a segment of that and they could decide within their communities how that could best work for them. It would come say roughly to about $5,000 per branch to make a determination of what’s meaningful in their community, around their branch, right now and put it to work. It’s just two examples of extremes from their empowering individualistic thing for that human need to go out and help and make a difference and improve our communities on a hands on basis to do something and then from an institutional perspective of how we can make a difference using the collective resources that are available to us.

Cameron Madill:
I guess I’d love to expand on that a little bit. Yeah. What has been the degree of conversation around, I guess the George Floyd’s murder and black lives matter? It just seemed like you guys were literally the epicenter? The entire world was watching and it’s also a complicated multifaceted issue that is evolving and individual beliefs and perspectives, I’m sure, are evolving all over the place as well. Has that been a big part of the conversation among your member credit unions or is it more something that’s being, I guess not discussed or sort of left to individual institutions, but not addressed collectively?

Mark Cummins:
I think it’s kind of all of those things really. It’s a very complicated situation to get your head wrapped around and it’s also very difficult. The conversations around it can be quite difficult for people to feel confident and free to say what they need to say and have that environment. I think within our industry we are lucky on an internal basis within institutions to have mechanisms that provide that. It’s a little more difficult between institutions to have those conversations to deal with that, collectively. Ben’s been active. He’s been a part of a panel, it was the AACC and has done some work in that area too.

Cameron Madill:
That’s the African American credit union association, correct?

Mark Cummins:
Credit coalition, yes, that’s correct.

Cameron Madill:
Yep. Okay. We’ve touched on some very heavy topics, this is 200, but I’d love to know, maybe Ben especially since you came from Affinity and you’ve been leading a lot of the storytelling. One of the things that made me really proud to work with credit unions when you originally reached out and I was just pondering this concept, is just this whole notion of kindness. I think service gets talked a lot about, but service is clearly a value of the banking sector as well. I wondered is kindness really a value of the banking sector? It seems like a really powerful emotion and something that is contagious and something that may be can also be learned. I’d love to know what are maybe personally, some of your favorite examples from past see four days of credit union kindness that you saw.

Ben Hering:
Yeah. I think to your question about is this unique to credit unions? I think in a way we’re certainly, service organizations and service oriented businesses, however, what I feel is different about a credit union in our movement is really the people that we attract and thus how we go about operating as businesses being run by those people. As we’re talking about different ways in which we’re evolving, not only our kindness campaign, but also as businesses, people are at the forefront and credit union people are just different and are so creative. I’ve seen so many amazing things come out of the ideation and implementation and actual facilitation of a number of these different ideas that come out as far as how might we spread kindness and create an impact positively in our communities.

Ben Hering:
As we’re looking at this evolution, a lot of things we’re looking doing are virtual in nature, maybe doing virtual fundraising drives or trying to put together remote project volunteerism, like putting together and packing different gift bags or kindness boxes, if you will, to send out to organizations that need them. Certainly there’s always going to be that need, that desire to have the tangibility of in-person give back and the feeling that you get, that intrinsic feeling that you get from actually being able to do something in person is something that is going to be really hard to walk away from, so we’re providing some of those opportunities. In the past we’ve done some really great things.

Ben Hering:
It’s certainly a visual representation of our collaboration when we can come together as a large group, but as you can imagine, that type of thing is harder to do now. I think some of those one on one, a bit more random acts of kindness, I think are going to propel us into this year, which are going out and doing some meaningful give back in regards to doing something that is going to give someone a good feeling and it help them to have a great day. Something as simple as putting a gift card by a gas tank and paying for someone’s gas in that way or maybe buying food for the person who’s behind you in a drive through lane. Doing some of those things that are surprising and really giving someone that genuine feeling of just positivity and that… It’s hard to explain it. It’s hard to fully describe that feeling and I think we’ve seen that come through and that’s some of the most powerful stories from these initiatives and these acts have come about.

Ben Hering:
We had a credit union member unsolicitedly, on their own, post an emotional story about how their credit union, it turned out, had paid for her groceries. What had happened was a credit union employee was given dollars from their credit union to just go out and spread kindness and that was the only directive. This employee along with a few others went to their local market and had seen this woman who had children with her and was struggling to get her groceries through the line and decided to go up and silently pay for her groceries. This member actually turned out to be a member of that credit union, oddly enough and she posted a lovely thank you note on Facebook and that was something that a lot of people ended up seeing. It’s those personal interactions that I think really highlight the goodness that we can do as credit unions on this day.

Mark Cummins:
I think that’s one of the really unique things about this particular day, if you will, on doing this. It’s just the creativity and the simplicity of a lot of it. Ben’s absolutely right. That is absolutely my favorite story out of it, just because the posting that was done by the recipient was just so personal and so emotional and it was in the moment and it just encapsulated what this is really intended to do. I think a big part for us as credit unions is whether we do this on a organized fashion like this and intentional to do things on a given day or whether we do it all the time, a lot of it is done because that’s part of our value system that we have as not-for-profit cooperatives and we do that. The part that we don’t do well through that, is we do a great job at helping people, what we could be better at is telling our story around that. Allowing those events to become part of the narrative of who we are to a broader world. I think that we’re starting to both become better at as a collective of credit unions overall is feeling confident to say… I’ll put it out there too. This is kind of a Midwestern value. You don’t take credit for doing good.

Mark Cummins:
… this was kind of a Midwestern value. You don’t take credit for doing good. You just do good. And the credit for it.

Cameron Madill:
It’s like not pure if you take credit. Or something-

Mark Cummins:
Exactly. It doesn’t count if you take credit somehow. And the purity of that thought process is wonderful, but that’s part of what we can do as an organization is allow others to do those things and just share them with us so that we can amplify what that is. Because the values that we have, I think are the values that the public is looking for. They don’t expect that. And if you don’t make that available for people to discover it through a variety of channels of how they do that, then we’re missing that opportunity, not to advertise for Credit Unions, but to give that opportunity to just exhibit the value statement that exists within the Credit Union world, and that it’s real.

Mark Cummins:
It’s not being done because we’re regulated to do it until we have to do it. It’s being done because it’s intrinsic to who we are. And to put that invitation out to say, this is who we are. We invite you to become a part of this. This value that you might be looking for that truly puts you ahead of the dollars, you as an individual

Cameron Madill:
Mark, it sounds to me like, you’re almost saying that this is an invitation for people to join an alternate view of society. Because I think kindness is certainly not going to be the dominant emotion that you see in national politics or media, for example. And I’m curious to know, why do you think kindness matters to the Credit Union movement?

Mark Cummins:
Well, the part in your question that concerns me is that we so often view ourselves or even project ourselves as an alternative, when I don’t think we should. I think we’re not an alternative, we’re part of the mainstream. You just don’t know a lot about us necessarily. And we’re seeing a lot of things that are happening on a national basis to help change that and make that apparent. But I don’t think that we should view ourselves as an alternative. I think we should project ourselves as this is where you should be. This was the way the world can be. You can be successful, you can be part of it and you should be part of it. And you can help perpetuate improvements within your own community by doing business with organizations that put your community ahead of the organization.

Mark Cummins:
Certainly as cooperatives, the only way you can do those kinds of things is to have a strong cooperative. And so there’s things you need to do as a business in order to ensure that. You can’t really have a mission if you don’t have a margin. If you don’t have a mission as a cooperative, you really can’t have a margin. And so it’s that ying and yang to find that balance. And a big part for us to do in participating in this is to remind ourselves that we are mainstream financial institutions.

Mark Cummins:
We do, but we do it in a way that’s different from what people have preconceived financial institutions to do, and to behave.

Ben Hering:
Just a jump on to what Mark was discussing there too, is the idea of a cooperative financial institution, I think is hard for the general population to understand. I know that I continually have to educate and remind myself of what that truly means. And I think that it’s activities and initiatives like this that can start to help others and folks in the communities that maybe don’t know as much about Credit Unions to at least have that conversation and to see in a quick way, what that difference looks like or potential difference might look like.

Ben Hering:
And then to Mark’s point, if we can attract, especially as we look at our younger generations and their desire to connect more genuinely with brands and want to be connected to organizations that are doing positive things in their community, we can then begin to showcase in a way that we operate as a business through our financial products and services that difference. And so it’s kind of an introduction to what it means to be a cooperative financial institution. And certainly one question that always resonates with me, and it’s something I’ve heard so many times is, “Well, if Credit Unions are so great, then why isn’t everyone a member?”

Cameron Madill:
Yeah. That’s a really great point that it’s like a doorway and I think it’s like that classic framing of as humans, we connect around the why not around the how or the what. But I think there is a tendency to jump right into the how and the what, when we’re trying to explain something to somebody who doesn’t know very much. But I’d love to know what are your hopes for this years, See You Forward Day, because it will be a very different format as you talked about. And if it were to exceed your expectations, what would that impact look like?

Mark Cummins:
For me, that we can get the same number or more to participate this year. Because a lot of it has been predicated upon personal involvement in that human desire to get out and do something personally and be engaged and have that tangible feel of doing something for the good. And if we can’t get as much engagement in other unique ways, I think that would just be an incredible showcase of people’s desire to help, to be kind and to make a difference.

Ben Hering:
And this is entirely Credit Union driven. So as we look at Credit Union Give Back, it’s Credit Unions that are really catalyzing propelling, the creativity and the uniqueness of the actions. And it’s those employees, especially the ones in the community that are the ones that are most proximate are the ones who are coming up with what that kind of that intangible, “What do in this moment?”

Ben Hering:
And so as we look at kind of these more sporadic and random acts of kindness, I think that along with getting more and more organizations to join in with us in this day, having those stories that are truly genuine in nature and organic is going to showcase what we could potentially do as part of this day. And so even just that one story of that member, if we can impact one person enough to incentivize, not necessarily even incentivize, but to inspire someone to want to post without any sort of setup or anything. Because that’s the feeling that they got from their Credit Union was so impactful to them during that day. I think that that’s a major win as well, and really kind of showcases again, what it is that we do that we can have that personal connection that I don’t think you usually get with financial institutions.

Cameron Madill:
So I’m curious Ben, as you mentioned this, this is kind of a bottom up movement in many ways, starting from employees at Affinity Plus and spreading now throughout the state of Minnesota. And it sounds like some other states are following suit. Do you guys have hopes to go national one of these days? Is 2020 actually a big opportunity to expand this idea?

Ben Hering:
That’s a great idea. And as we’ve mentioned, so we now have a full on campaign happening in Illinois that was a group that we kind of partnered with. So the Illinois State Credit Union League has launched the See You Kind Initiative, which went off with a bang last year and they did such fantastic work with their Credit Unions throughout their state. And then we’ve seen some of these little buddings of groups in different other states, I should say that have been latching on to this concept. And so I know folks down in Mississippi, especially if their young professionals down there at flash shop this concept. And so I would have to defer to Mark on if we’re going to go full steam ahead with national. But I think what our perspective has been is to provide any Credit Union and organization in our industry, in the Credit Union industry, with the tools and resources to be able to do these types of things and showcase their business model in this type of way.

Ben Hering:
And if that takes a life of its own, then so be it. Mark, what don’t you think?

Mark Cummins:
I agree. I think this is, as we’ve talked about this as being something that is really sort of a bottom up activity to do to really make a difference. We showcased at a couple of different events, where we get together as cooperatives and share what we’re doing and some of that unique things that perhaps others are not. That’s where Illinois picked that up and engaged with us on it. I think it is one of those areas where you have to have the want to do it and see this as an activity that will be something that engages your community, engages your Credit Union, and then it can grow from there.

Mark Cummins:
If we try to do it as the Minnesota Credit Union Network, pushing this out to other areas, I don’t think that’s a successful model for this type of activity. Part about sharing the story and here’s the power of it and what we have seen, and if you’d like to participate, here. Here’s the tools that we use, they’re completely available to you to use in whatever way that you want. And when we look at, even within Minnesota, where we collectively refer to this forwarding an individual basis and individual Credit Unions, they have different needs that are more reflective of their values and their institution. We have Highway Credit Union that uses the moniker, Pave it Forward. Affinity Plus still does Plus It Forward. We’re not wants to dictate how, we’re just wants to set the table and then to invite and encourage. And I think that’s the power and the success because it’s the individual’s decision, whether it’s the employee or the Credit Union to engage.

Cameron Madill:
Well, I love this idea when I heard it and I love, love, love it even more today, because I think the world in a sense is crying out for kindness and cooperation. So I hope it is a gigantic success this year. I hope we can get some people who are listening to say, “How can I do something like this locally?” If they’re in different regions. If someone is interested in learning more about the model Mark and Ben, can they reach out to you guys directly? What’s their path forward to using some of the intellectual property that you guys have developed about what works and what doesn’t?

Mark Cummins:
Yeah, they’re certainly welcome to do that, but Ben really is our coordinator here for Minnesota and you kind of hate pushing somebody into that role. But I think Ben would be very willing to do that.

Cameron Madill:
[inaudible 00:32:51]

Ben Hering:
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been in conversations with a handful of states and Credit Unions who are looking at doing these, these types of initiatives and-

Ben Hering:
… doing these types of initiatives and trying to figure out what this concept might look like for them. And I love having these conversations, because again, I think it really gets to the root and gets to the heart of what credit unions do. So by all means, please reach out. I’d be happy to discuss more about what that might look like for you.

Cameron Madill:
Very cool. Well, I mean, I know from your background, Ben, you’re an innovation guy, so I hoped as much. All right, let’s do some quick rapid fire questions. Now I believe Ben in particular might be a little bit prepared from past episodes. So I may be about to get you guys to permanently unfriend me on every social network. I’ve got some new ones. So Ben, talented trumpeter, rock climber. Those are not good activities right now. He’s also, you can’t really tell, it’s on a podcast, very well dressed, but possibly Ben has lowered his standards like me to the point where he’s just wearing shorts all the time, because we’re mostly working remote.

Cameron Madill:
So Ben, what is your favorite COVID activity?

Ben Hering:
I have found a renewed passion for painting. That’s certainly something that I can do by myself and in my free time. And so I used to do a lot of visual art and so I’ve been gravitating toward painting lately.

Cameron Madill:
All right. True renaissance man. All right. Mark, to put you on the spot because you are the president and CEO, what is one thing that Ben does not know about you?

Mark Cummins:
He probably doesn’t realize that I was a All Star baseball player when I was in high school. How’s that sound?

Ben Hering:
Hey, I didn’t know that.

Mark Cummins:
See? There you go.

Cameron Madill:
You guys are a talented bunch. All right. Ben, if you could be one person for a day, I’m thinking like experientially, and it could be someone who’s passed away, but if you want it to be like a famous actor or athlete, just that thinker, to be that person for one day, a genius of some sort, who would that be?

Ben Hering:
Duke Ellington. For those, if that rings a bell or like, “I’ve heard that name before,” pretty much the pioneer of American jazz, especially big band jazz in the 1920s and someone that I’ve always looked to for inspiration. He was certainly innovative in his own right. And someone, as a trumpet player, that I’ve listened to very, very frequently. So Duke Ellington.

Cameron Madill:
Excellent answer. I approve as a fellow jazz musician. Mark, what is your favorite kind of ice cream?

Mark Cummins:
Chocolate by far. If I get a blizzard, it’s a Butterfinger blizzard. That’s kind of like heaven right there.

Cameron Madill:
And Ben, if you had to wear a tee shirt with one word on it for the rest of your life, what would that word be?

Ben Hering:
You asked me this last time.

Cameron Madill:
So we’ll see if you have the same answer. Right. We’re testing you.

Ben Hering:
Yeah. Yeah. I remember my answer from last time and I’m probably thinking too much about this, but I’m thinking thoughtfulness.

Cameron Madill:
That sounds like a good word.

Ben Hering:
Or maybe even just think. I think the word think rounds it out succinctly.

Cameron Madill:
I like it. All right. Mark. What’s a song you’re embarrassed to admit that you like?

Mark Cummins:
Oh my gosh, it has to just come down to one? [inaudible 00:36:11] One of those things that goes back so far back, but there’s a song called Love Grows by Edison Lighthouse that if anybody can find that, you would understand it’s just sort of bubble gum pop at the time.

Cameron Madill:
All right.

Mark Cummins:
If it ever comes up, I stop everything and listen to the whole song.

Cameron Madill:
Well, having a three month old, my musical taste is degrading by the day. So the simpler and more bouncy, the better. Well, gentlemen, it’s been a real pleasure having you both. Is there anything you’d like to reiterate or anything you didn’t get to that you’d like to leave our audience with?

Mark Cummins:
Kindness is not unique to the credit union world, but it’s intrinsic to all of us. We all appreciate kindness when it’s exhibited to us. And the unfortunate part of today’s world, when we see kindness, we take notice because it seems so unexpected and you wonder if it’s disingenuous or if someone’s taking advantage of it. And I think the only way that we change that is to be kind and participate in kindness and do kindness for other people.

Ben Hering:
We need to remember, or I think it’s helpful to remember, how far just a simple thank you can go. It doesn’t have to be complex in nature. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. I think even just a simple card or just a tangible way to show someone that you are thankful for them and/or what it is that they do can go a long way in creating kind of a new and better world. So think of the ways in which you might incorporate more thank yous into your day.

Cameron Madill:
Thoughtfulness at its best. All right, Ben and Mark, thanks so much for joining.

Ben Hering:
Thank you.

Mark Cummins:
Pleasure. Thank you.

Cameron Madill:
All right. Another enjoyable episode. Thanks for joining us. First, my key takeaways. First thing that really grabbed me was just this question that I think has animated this whole effort. How do we spread kindness? And how from this single question came an event that’s touched tens of thousands of people across multiple states. My second takeaway was that as we discussed, credit unions focus a lot on the how and the what. Explaining what a credit union is, what a cooperative is is kind of difficult. But this is a really powerful way to take into account or engage folks around the why behind the credit union, people helping people, and really bring that to life for employees and community members in a memorable and tangible way.

Cameron Madill:
The next thing that really impressed me is just this notion, which I think is very popular. If marketing is all about storytelling, then this is a story generating machine. And I thought that example of paying for someone’s groceries was just such a neat example of how something like this can really just spread and become memorable, become remarkable.

Cameron Madill:
My next takeaway was that credit unions spreading kindness can be a really big message. It can strengthen trust in our communities. It can connect to people who normally don’t meet and it can make our society and our democracy stronger. And I think that point that when I perhaps mislabeled a credit union as an alternate model for society, that maybe as Mark said, that really just is how society works and this is a chance to connect people to who they really want to be and how they really want to interact with their neighbors and communities.

Cameron Madill:
And then lastly, just that this is actually not all that much of a lift to make it happen and that Ben and Mark said they would be delighted to help you make this happen in your region. You’re going to reach out to Ben at email. His email is Bherring, B-H-E-R-I-N-G @mnncun.org.

Cameron Madill:
All right. Thanks so much for joining us today for another great episode. You can join us next time for a conversation about something that I don’t know yet, because I have been on paternity leave, but you can bet it’s going to be really great. And until the next time, I wish you the best of luck in making your credit union remarkable.

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