Donor Spotlight – Interview with Heidi Miller, Synergy Credit Union.
For long-time donor and volunteer, Heidi Miller, her passion for CDF Canada runs so deep, that her final comment at the close of our interview was “I could go on and on about CDF Canada”! To package up all her experiences into a short story was a challenge, but we think the highlights capture the spirit she was trying to convey.
Over the past 10+ years, Heidi, currently with Synergy Credit Union based in Saskatchewan, and formerly with Interior Savings in British Columbia, eagerly travelled to Africa on three separate occasions, to mentor others in the credit union system. “I truly believe in this organization and have been so fortunate to see first-hand the difference CDF Canada makes in the lives of others,” said Heidi, when we asked what her motivations for doing were. Not only is she generous with her time, but also her money, having been a monthly-donor for over a decade. Heidi spoke to us not only about the importance of giving at a personal level, but also the value it brings to business at a corporate level.
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A dream position
“I was also lucky enough to be chosen to be one of the facilitators for the WMP (Women’s Mentorship Program) in Ottawa when the ladies first arrive to Canada and that is a dream volunteer position for me!”, Heidi told us, when speaking about the various volunteer positions she’s held. Heidi has done it all, from participating in the Credit Union Management Coaching Program, in Africa, to partnering up with the women’s who come to Canada for training through CDF Canada’s WMP – where not only did she help coach the women coming from developing countries, but also personally hosted nine of them in her home over the years. There is no question that Heidi’s first-hand experience with CDF Canada has led to her continued giving, seeing with her own eyes the impact being made in people’s lives around the world.
With a hand up, not out
Heidi had just returned from her first, life-changing trip to Africa volunteering with CDF Canada, when she became hooked on the cause and began her monthly giving. “I was so inspired seeing the real difference CDF Canada was making in the lives of others that it inspired me to give back,” Heidi said. “I did so, so CDF Canada could continue to do great things for others with a hand up, not a hand out.”
Her favourite thing about the co-operative model is the universal Principle #6 – co-operation among co-operatives. “The co-op family is a big one and the true spirit of a co-op is to help others and make your community a better place,” said Heidi, recalling how her employer, Synergy Credit Union, made volunteering possible for her, and before that, at Interior Savings. “My employer is a firm believer in helping others and making our communities better,” Heidi continued, “This philosophy completely resonates with me, and thanks to them (and my previous employer), I was able I to gain this valuable experience.”
Corporate support of CDF Canada makes good dollars and sense!
At CDF Canada, we’ve always believed that the credit union and co-operative communities are our best allies. Hearing it from Heidi however, reinforced what we’ve always believed. “When Canadian credit unions actively participate in the programs that CDF Canada offers, like the WMP, it gives them a first-hand account of the difference they are able to make,” says Heidi. Doing so allows corporate donors to really see the connection between their gifts and just how far their donations go. Moreover, and in alignment with their co-operative values, she tells us how “credit unions have an opportunity to be a good steward and leader – something every credit union strives to be – A LEADER!”
Which makes a lot of sense when you consider that credit unions are responsible to their members, who are their shareholders. “It gives credit unions (and other co-operatives) an opportunity to show the value of the donations they are making (after all it’s really their member’s money they are investing),” Heidi continues, “CDF canada keeps accurate statistics and provides updates on their programs that can show the direct value of financial donations.” And while it may not be the primary motivator for credit unions to donate, CDF Canada programs certainly provide a multitude of high profile public relation opportunities in their communities, to extend the value proposition as a credit union, versus the big banks.
Memories to last a lifetime
In the spirit of co-ops helping co-ops, and taking a collaborative approach, it’s no surprise that one of Heidi’s best memories was of a time she partnered with another credit union coach, Damien Brady, from Ireland. Together, they visited the Sunyani Municipal Teacher’s Co-operative Credit Union (SMTCCU) in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana, to help mentor them. The credit union had only one request, but it was a big one. They asked if Heidi and Damien could help them complete their vision of building a water hole for their community, so the residents could have access to clean drinking water.
“Whoa, that was a big ask and not something we were expecting,” said Heidi. “It was at that moment I realized this experience was going to be something so much bigger.” She and worked very hard that week, coming up with as many suggestions as they could, to help SMTCCU realize their goal. And guess what, they did! Three years later Heidi was back as a CDF Canada volunteer and decided to stop and say hello to her old friends in Sunyani. “They took me on a little excursion and I was floored to see the water hole they had built, THEY DID IT!!!”, Heidi exclaimed. Not only had they built the water hole for their community, but they allowed members of their credit union to get their daily personal use of water for free – an incredible member perk. The credit union also found a way to monetize the initiative, by selling water commercially to others. And if that’s not enough impact with the profits from the water, they were able to build a hostel to house up to 10 students a year, going to school in the community.
Donations of money and time
“Wow….WOW, that was an amazing moment for me and one I will cherish for the rest of my days!” Heidi told us. “When Canadian credit unions also allow their staff to volunteer their time to CDF Programs, they quickly realize the benefits on staff morale!”. Staff, like Heidi, find it rewarding to learn about other cultures and the global credit union movement. It gives them a good feeling to be helping others in the co-operative sector and they feel like they are contributing to something bigger – which of course they are! “This also helps the employees gain experience in coaching and mentoring and builds a great team atmosphere, as everyone is involved in the same cause.”
Deep down we all want to make a difference in this world
When we asked Heidi to describe CDF Canada in one word, she added with a smile, “Well, it would have to be two words – life changing!”. If she could say one thing to anyone considering getting involved with CDF Canada, it would be this, “Deep down we all want to make a difference in this world,” said Heidi, “I have seen first-hand the difference CDF Canada has made not only in one person’s life but in whole communities. If you really want to make a lasting difference in this world, CDF Canada should be your charity of choice.”