Illinois credit unions engaged nearly every member of the state’s Congressional delegation over the past few weeks, using video technology in place of the standard August recess visits. Illinois Credit Union League President/CEO Tom Kane said that even though the pandemic made normal visits impossible, it also made it even more important for credit unions to engage with policymakers.
“The advocacy process is critical for the overall success of credit unions in a rapidly changing legislative and regulatory landscape. Once we realized our usual in-person visits with legislators in Washington, D.C. could not take place, the Illinois League quickly pivoted to scheduling Zoom calls with our 18 representatives,” Kane said. “These ‘Hike at Home’ virtual meetings have given many credit union staff who were unable to travel to D.C. in the past, including young professionals, the opportunity to experience firsthand the importance of engaging with their representatives.”
Nora Hickey, residential loan sales manager at DuPage CU, Naperville, Ill., had previously done in-person visits before, and said it was extra important to engage with legislators and staff via a screen.
“I would advise other credit unions to absolutely still reach out and engage their lawmakers during this time using virtual visits. This was a great opportunity to share important information and insight that is affecting our members every day and to express our needs in order to be able to continue to serve our members and community in a way that is truly helpful,” she said. “This is also a great opportunity for credit unions to use assets they may not have been able to use post pandemic – not everyone is able to fly and/or travel.”
Kim Alongi, indirect lending manager at DuPage, said League and CUNA resources helped her prepare in advance for the conversation.
“The Illinois Credit Union League did an amazing job providing participants with the data on how many members are in each Congressional District through Project Zip Code and how Illinois credit unions directly impact constituents’ finances,” she said. “I also made a list of how my credit union has benefited our members throughout this pandemic.”
She added that preparation was extra important to make sure the meeting stayed on track.
“Being that the lawmakers and their staffs time is in such demand, our agenda really helped us stay on task,” Alongi said. “Preparation for the meeting is imperative, and following up with staffers to ensure policy issues are explained is just as important.”
With the pandemic affecting every community in the country, Hickey said she wanted to share how credit unions are helping those communities recover.
As a credit union, when something good or bad happens, our members turn to us and we need to make sure that we are always prepared to help them through the tough times just as well as we help them through the good times,” she said. “We need solutions that work and having this open dialogue is a tremendous opportunity to make sure Congress is hearing what their constituents really need to get through these unprecedented times.”