Chizmadia would like more board members to participate in advocacy, especially younger people.
CUNA is working to find the next generation of credit union advocates, and has developed Young Professional Advocacy Workshops that address advocacy basics and the importance of building relationships with state and federal lawmakers. They also include interactive advocacy role playing.
Engelman believes this training has helped board members understand the importance of advocacy and their role as credit union leaders.
“If we don’t tell our story, someone else will,” Engelman says. “And they might not be doing it with good intentions.”
Directors don’t need to be experts on legislative and regulatory issues affecting credit unions, he adds. CUNA and the leagues can explain how legislation may affect credit unions and how advocates can make a difference.
Successful advocacy is about getting involved in different organizations, reaching out, and talking to people within the industry, Chizmadia says. It’s about building relationships with other directors, members, credit union professionals, senators, and representatives.
“You have to keep working at it and treat lawmakers like normal people,” he says. “I grew up in a semipolitical family. We’d have lawmakers from all over come over and we’d talk. If I needed something, I’d just pick up the phone and call.”
Communication shouldn’t just take place with lawmakers; it must occur between credit union advocates.
MAP plays a key role in disseminating information, providing advocates with social media resources that resonate with members.
Chizmadia connects with fellow advocates to discuss national and regional issues, creating a network of passionate credit union leaders.
Increased communication was crucial in March 2021 during the CUNA GAC, which was fully virtual due to the pandemic. While this made it impossible to meet in person with lawmakers, it became easier for volunteers to let their voices be heard.
“Logistically, it’s so much easier to attend a meeting with your lawmaker via Zoom than flying to D.C.,” Engelman says. “We’re getting higher attendance with Zoom meetings in general, and more volunteers have been participating in these calls.”
Chizmadia and his associates in the advocacy army are ready to advocate on behalf of what they believe in.
“You can’t rest on your laurels because every time you turn around there’s an issue that may affect the industry,” he says. “If you want something to happen, jump in there and do it.”
Adam Engelman, CUNA’s director of federal and grassroots programs, identifies five issues that will take center stage in the months ahead:
This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Credit Union Magazine. Subscribe here.