While much of what happens on the advocacy front is in the halls of Congress, in meeting rooms, and in rounds of communication and compromise, there are ways to deepen relationships and impact decisions in alternative settings as well. Taking advantage of those creates greater credibility as well as vastly increasing member touchpoints with decision makers.
The reality is the advocacy mission never rests and the Congressional summer recess is no exception. In fact, it presents prime opportunities for more personalized contact with lawmakers.
At GoWest Credit Union Association, we take a 360-degree approach to advocacy. Across our six-state footprint, credit union advocates actively engage with policymakers throughout the year. Whether its lawmakers, regulators, or other critical decision makers, we are creating interactions through fundraising events, special gatherings, ribbon-cuttings/grand openings, conferences, and even smaller Hike the Hill-type gatherings to amplify the credit union voice in the conversation.
Some recent examples include:
Arizona CUs host Senator Sinema
A group of Arizona credit union leaders joined the GoWest advocacy team for an in-person meeting in Phoenix with Senator Kyrsten Sinema. In addition to thanking the Senator for her leadership and sponsorship of the Credit Union Board Modernization Act, advocates praised her support of the SAFE Banking Act, which if passed, will help to ensure the safety of employees and customers of local cannabis businesses. Sen. Sinema was also asked to oppose S. 1838- the so-called Credit Card Competition Act, which would be costly for consumers and the financial institutions serving them, while providing a windfall for mega-retailers.
A promise fulfilled with NCUA Board Member Rodney Hood
When National Credit Union Association Board Member Rodney Hood met with GoWest Credit Union Association attendees at the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference last spring, he made one promise: he would accept an invitation from Blue Federal Credit Union’s Chief Credit and Risk Officer Jason Buchanan to personally visit the region. Hood made good on the promise. On Aug. 7, Wyoming and Colorado credit unions welcomed him for an engaging thought leadership discussion.
Held at Blue Federal Credit Union’s headquarters in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the meeting focused on several key themes, including liquidity, interest rate risk, cybersecurity, and opportunities the Central Lending Facility can provide for small credit unions.
Expanding a community event
Ent Credit Union opened a new branch in Greeley, Colorado and had a ribbon cutting event. Their community-focused gathering was the perfect opportunity to engage in advocacy by inviting State Representative Mary Young to attend and speak.
Rep. Young welcomed Ent to the community and praised the amazing philanthropic and economic impact that Ent is already having in Greeley.
Smaller, focused Hill visits
In June, GoWest led a group of over 20 credit union leaders from across its region to Washington, D.C. for a legislative and regulatory “Hike the Hill.” This more intimate setting allowed for deeper conversations around issues of importance to credit unions.
The group had nearly 40 meetings on Capitol Hill with our collective Congressional delegation. These advocates delivered the message that credit unions are safe and secure for members and that they remain consumers’ best financial partner now more than ever. They also made important asks around data security, interchange, and charter enhancement opportunities.
Advocates also attended the June meeting of the NCUA board and spent time with senior NCUA leadership, including board Chairman Todd Harper. Several leaders met with CFPB Director Rohit Chopra, leaders at FHFA leading the FHLB review, and Noel Poyo, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community and Economic Development for the U.S. Treasury.
Extra-special event in Wyoming
Wyoming credit union advocates recently spent quality time with State Senators Ogden Driskill and Eric Barlow, and House Majority Floor Whip Chip Neiman. Credit union leaders were special guests at the Campstool Ranch, located at the base of the famed Devils’ Tower — the nation’s first national monument. The ranch has been owned and operated since 1910 by the family of Wyoming Senate President Ogden Driskill. The Driskills graciously hosted the credit union advocates and were joined by Wyoming Senator Eric Barlow.
Hosting lawmakers and staff
When lawmakers are back in their home states holding meetings in their districts, credit unions step up to host conversations across the region. In Washington, five credit unions gathered for an extended roundtable discussion with Congressman Derek Kilmer to dive deeply into important issues, provide updates on the impact of Washington credit unions, and hear the congressman’s expectations for upcoming budget debates and issues.
Oregon credit union advocates are hard at work ensuring that the August recess was a time well spent connecting with elected officials and staff to message the critical issues for our institutions. A group of credit union leaders participated in the Eastern Oregon Open hosted by Congressman Cliff Bentz where advocates had an opportunity to provide insight into several pressing issues on Capitol Hill. Additional upcoming meetings with Congresswomen Suzanne Bonamici, Andrea Salinas, and Val Hoyle will continue to communicate the credit union difference and the impact credit unions are making in the Beaver State.
Later this month, Idaho credit union leaders will join Governor Brad Little and host of other state and federal leaders at the Idaho Governor’s Cup. This event and program support academic scholarships for Idaho seniors that will be attending Idaho colleges or universities, as we work to bolster the “go-on” effort and retain talented students in the state. Idaho credit unions have supported this program for several years and utilize the time to connect with Idaho legislators, statewide elected officials, and members of the congressional delegation regarding the impact credit unions are making for the citizens of Idaho.
In addition, credit unions across the region have hosted several Congressional staff members as they make the rounds in their states during the August recess. These meetings present the opportunity to hold conversations about key issues to credit unions, and to share the stories of how credit unions are serving their constituents and making positive impacts in their individual communities. During the Summer recess, GoWest advocates met with ten members of Congress staff across the GoWest footprint.
Worth the effort
While these different types of events and meetings can require extra lift to accomplish, in the end, it is very much worth the effort. Being intentional and unafraid to veer off the “beaten path” can open up new avenues of communication, build and deepen relationships, and ultimately, accomplish advocacy goals that protect our members and the millions of people who choose credit unions as their financial services providers.