WASHINGTON (3/4/14)--The one thing certain about the ongoing gridlock in the legislative hall of the U.S. Congress is that the voter disapproval it engenders is unsustainable. That is why advocacy groups like credit unions must be poised for an inevitable breakthrough, write Credit Union National Association Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan and Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins in a March 1 Credit Union Magazine article.
"Waiting to engage with Congress until it's ready to vote on a matter is an almost certain way to come out on the losing end," the CUNA legislative and political experts write.
This is why credit unions must stay engaged in the process the entire time--an advocacy marathon, so to speak.
CUNA has spent the last year making this point as often as possible: Advocacy is a marathon; it's not a sprint.
Donovan and Hawkins make it clear that CUNA and others have very low expectations in terms of bills addressing threats or opportunities credit unions face actually becoming law in the short-term.
"But make no mistake: The work Congress does on matters such as tax reform and housing finance reform this year will significantly influence the outcome of these issues in the next Congress," they warn.
Already some credit unions are running in the advocacy marathon, the writers say, but they underscore that all credit union advocates must join the race by contacting legislators, educating members about the cooperative difference, involving members in advocacy efforts--in short, uniting for the good of both credit unions and members.
Look at 2013, they advise, when roughly two-thirds of the 1.3 million communications sparked by CUNA and the state credit union association's "Dont Tax My Credit Union" advocacy blitaz were delivered by members of roughly 300 credit unions.
"Imagine our potential if 600 credit unions--or 900 or 1,000 or more--had engaged their members similarly!"
Why should credit unions engage members directly?
Consider the results of a groundbreaking research project CUNA conducted recently with two credit unions: CommunityAmerica CU, Lenexa, Kan., and University FCU, Austin, Texas. Researchers sent email communications to 70,000 members of these credit unions about the "Don't Tax My Credit Union" campaign and then surveyed 4,100 of those members about their attitudes toward advocacy and the credit unions in general.
More stunning and important: 86% of members who were contacted agree with the statement, 'In the future, I am likely to do a greater share of my personal banking with a credit union.'
"In other words," the article emphasizes, "the very process of educating members on the ownership structure of their credit union--and especially the value it delivers via more affordable loans, higher interest on deposits, and lower and fewer fees--increases those members' loyalty to the institution and willingness to engage it for more financial products and services."