CUNA, League, and credit union leaders walked young professionals through the ins and outs of being an advocate this week during CUNA’s Young Professionals Advocacy Workshop. The three-day virtual workshop featured discussions on every aspect of advocacy, including a simulated meeting and panel of Congressional staffers.
CUNA Chief Political Officer Richard Gose told those in attendance that despite holding many roles and positions within the credit union movements, they all needed to be also be advocates.
“We’re all advocates, we were born advocates. When a baby cries, its advocating for something,” Gose said. “We can’t let barriers like ‘I don’t know enough’ or ‘I don’t have experience’ to hold us back from our important advocacy work. CUNA and the Leagues are here to help with that through workshops like this. Everybody counts, and your opinion matters. Advocate.”
Adam Engelman, CUNA director of federal grassroots and programs, ran the workshop and said young professionals
“Young professionals know their credit union, and know their members, but according to our pre-workshop surveys, around 70% of those in attendance had never engaged in advocacy,” Engelman said. “Someone even said advocacy isn’t even in the top 10 things they do for work, and that’s something we want to change. Advocacy isn’t just for the C-suite staff, we want to give tips and tools to get more people involved, show them what advocacy is, how to get better, how the process works.”
Attendees learned how to best utilize data, social media in their advocacy work, and organizations like state Leagues and the American Association of Credit Union Leagues can provide resources and information.
“We don’t need you to feel like an expert on all the ins and outs of a piece of legislation, that’s what CUNA and League advocacy staff are working on every day,” Engelman said. “What we need from credit unions are stories, any stories when you can talk about a member and maybe how a piece of legislation can help you serve that member, that’s what makes an impact.”
Young professionals in attendance had a wide variety of experiences, with some having participated in annual trips to the state capitol, with others excited and nervous to start advocating for the first time.
Jennifer Seber, consumer lending operations manager for USF FCU, said the training, “provided tools for us to become successful advocates from understanding the inner workings of political offices to crafting our own impactful stories based on our daily interactions.
“I look forward to bringing these tools back to my various YP groups and encourage others to use this platform as a way to keep the Credit Union difference thriving in our communities,” she added.
Hannah Mahaffey, director of community engagement for Greenville FCU, said she’s relatively new to her advocacy role, and the workshop was a great experience.
“My biggest takeaway from the workshop was the importance of sharing stories with our lawmakers. As someone that is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the credit union and can’t rattle off data and statistics as quickly as others can, I found it very helpful and reassuring to learn that lawmakers love hearing member success stories,” she said. “It was also incredibly helpful to hear from staffers who provided tips for successful meetings with representatives.”
Alex King, internal communication specialist with Wings Financial CU, is a new credit union employee, and he found the training helpful.
“This workshop was a great introduction into how anyone can be an advocate for credit unions. It doesn’t take years of experience or an in-depth knowledge on how legislation is passed to get involved,” King said. “You can be an advocate simply by sharing stories about the difference your credit union has made in your community. With the tips and tools provided throughout this workshop, I feel confident advocating for the credit union mission.”
Ashley Hook, marketing coordinator for Rogue CU, said she was glad to know there are advocacy resources to help.
“My biggest takeaway was how many people there are to help guide you through becoming an advocate for the credit union movement. There are so many more resources than I had ever realized and am so glad I know about them now,” she said. “Also, I realized there are a lot of others, like me, that didn’t have as much experience with speaking to legislators and this being their first introduction to advocating for credit unions – the breakrooms really helped with finding that relatability. I have known about the credit union movement but never to the extent that this training provided, which I am very thankful for.”
Gose pointed those in attendance to the Advancing Communities website, designed by CUNA and Leagues as a tool to capture stories of the credit union difference and to share those stories with policymakers.