Combining passion, energy, and knowledge is crucial for advocates at any level.
Passion without knowledge, for example, won’t carry the message as effectively in meetings with legislators. A thorough knowledge of your credit union and the industry is indispensable.
“I’d recommend doing a crash course, sort of Credit Union 101,” says Timothy Strong, community development manager at $4.2 billion asset Visions Federal Credit Union in Endicott, N.Y. “Study what a credit union is, what a cooperative is, and how we’re different. When you’re really comfortable with that, coming up with tangible examples and tying it back into the issues becomes a lot more natural.”
Strong, who attended the CUNA Young Professionals Advocacy Workshop in 2018, recommends mapping out meetings with lawmakers and their staffs in advance to ensure you make the most of limited time. But he also warns about being too scripted and inflexible.
‘It's important for us to advocate, strengthen our identity, and reinforce our message.’
Kendra Rubin, vice president of government affairs for the New York Credit Union Association, offers these advocacy tips for young professionals:
At the end of a meeting, Strong also suggests offering to act as resources on future issues or if questions arise—and to circle back to answer questions that may have arisen.
“I'm an older millennial, and we don't always follow up as well as we could. It’s really important to have that follow-up,” Strong says. “If you tell somebody you're going to get back to them, do it.”
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Effective, skilled advocacy by the upcoming generation of credit union leaders is the foundation for protecting the advances past generations have made and ensuring the movement continues to thrive.
“It’s important for us—credit union employees, members, volunteers—to advocate, strengthen our identity, and reinforce our message,” Strong says. “It’s vitally important for young people to get involved in that.”
Upcoming young professionals advocacy trainings will pull all these pieces together, says Adam Engelman, CUNA’s director of federal grassroots and programs.
“Credit unions are well known to policymakers as a grassroots powerhouse,” he says, “We strategically planned these advocacy trainings around the CUNA/league Hike the Hill program to allow attendees to not only learn about advocacy but to put it into action.”