Develop advocacy 'muscle memory'
Linda Armyn on building advocacy into your credit union’s DNA.
Linda Armyn is a prime example of a credit union executive who lives and breathes advocacy.
Armyn, senior vice president of corporate affairs for $8.4 billion asset Bethpage (N.Y.) Federal Credit Union, says credit union leaders must develop advocacy “muscle memory.”
“If it's something you do only once or twice a year, it doesn't work because you don't build relationships or the ‘muscle memory,’ and it doesn’t become second nature,” she says.
This advocacy muscle memory is not just a job duty, it’s part of Bethpage Federal’s DNA.
“I provide regular updates to our board and executive team, so when I need to ask them for help with a call to action, they're familiar with what we've been working on,” she says. “We work closely with our league and with CUNA.”
That involvement doesn’t end at the executive level.
“We build advocacy into people’s jobs,” Armyn says. “Of course, our community relations people are out there engaging locally, and government relations and advocacy goes hand in hand with community building. So when they meet with community members, they’re also meeting with local legislators and staff, asking how we can work together to improve the community.
“It’s not always a legislative discussion,” she continues. “Sometimes it’s about how we can partner to help a community that’s plagued with graffiti or bring food to a certain organization or community.”
Bethpage has also developed an internal advocacy group based on the “Crasher” model originated by the Filene Research Group, which initially invited young credit union professionals to “crash” CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) and has since spread to other events.
Bethpage doesn’t define its group by age, however.
“We invite everyone to join, from teller to executive, back office to facilities,” Armyn says. “We’ll bring in speakers, such as Gigi Hyland [executive director] of the National Credit Union Foundation. We’ll send people to events including the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University, which addresses political and global affairs and brings in speakers from a wide political spectrum. Of course, we send a contingent to GAC every year.”
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Armyn says the overarching goal feeds the credit union’s advocacy muscle memory.
“I'm trying to expose staff to thought leaders so they can form their own thoughts and opinions,” she says. “We keep everything bipartisan and topical, and we try to expose the advocacy group to what they wouldn't normally see in their day-to-day jobs. That way, when we ask them to come to a GAC or another meeting, they've been exposed to some thoughtful conversations.”
Then, of course, there’s Armyn, who works tirelessly on credit union advocacy.
“I lead our credit union’s participation in CUNA’s Member Activation Program and GAC,” she says. “I serve on multiple committees with CUNA, and I also work with our league.
“We work on messaging with our representatives locally,” Armyn continues. “The special events should be the exception. You have to work with legislators behind the scenes. That’s where we form relationships.”
Learn more: Living the advocacy lifestyle