Jim Nussle

What 360-degree advocacy really means

To make a real impact, you must touch issues multiple times in different ways.

August 1, 2019

I talk a lot about our CUNA/league 360-degree advocacy approach, crediting it for our big wins in Washington and in state capitals across the country. But what does it really mean?

CUNA and leagues have been working together to advance credit union priorities for decades. When I joined CUNA five years ago, I was inspired by the deep-standing connections and processes in place.

I could see we had a system that could cover our advocacy needs from every angle.

That’s why we coined it “360-degree.” We can identify and attack any issue, from meetings on Capitol Hill to member action alerts.

We can’t underestimate the value of our 360-degree advocacy approach. To make a real impact, you must touch issues multiple times in different ways.

A letter to a congressional committee or an email from a constituent isn’t enough. But if we send letters, constituents make calls, credit union CEOs hike Capitol Hill, and leagues meet with district offices, we can’t be ignored.

Most industries can’t dream of this kind of cooperation. While our peers constantly compete with one another, we value our collective strength. We know that our success in the future depends on our ability to come together to achieve our goals.

The fact is, none of us can go it alone. It doesn’t matter how large your asset size or small the community you serve, we’re all connected in our movement—we have been for more than 100 years.

If we want to see another 100 years, we must pull together our strengths to defeat our challenges.

‘We need participation from across our movement to meet our goals.’

Our 360-degree advocacy approach ensures we’re all part of the process. CUNA and leagues coordinate on our efforts to connect with lawmakers and regulators.

That doesn’t mean we bureaucratize the process for the sake of signatures. Sometimes CUNA takes the lead and keeps leagues informed. Other times leagues initiate efforts and CUNA lends support.

It’s not about tangling the lines, it’s about keeping them open so we’re all calling from the same playbook.

And wow, have we scored big recently! The passage of S.2155 was huge for our industry, and it was a direct result of the years of cooperative advocacy efforts across our movement.

We’ve also cultivated a more hospitable regulatory environment for credit unions, an area we continue to press hard on. The list of our advocacy wins continues to grow, but we can’t take our hard work for granted.

We need to rally around our core message: the credit union difference. We can boil down any advocacy effort to this fact.

When folks in power understand our difference, they see our value and they want to protect our interests. The problem is that many don’t know us, or they think they know us—as kind of like a bank—but they really have no idea.

Each year, new classes of elected officials take office at every legislative level, so our credit union difference message will never become stale. It is and will always be the foundation by which we introduce ourselves and advocate on our issues to lawmakers.

So, what is a 360-degree advocacy approach? It’s cooperation in action.

It’s our greatest superpower at work to make sure credit unions can best serve their members. And it needs all of our support to reach its full potential.

If you’re not yet engaged in our 360-degree advocacy I encourage you to get involved. Sign up to receive The Nussle Report each Friday for a breakdown of what happened that week.

You’ll also stay informed through our weekly CUNA Advocacy Update. And get involved in our Member Activation Program to receive action alerts on our biggest priorities.

We need participation from across our movement to meet our goals.

JIM NUSSLE is president/CEO of CUNA.