Each month I receive a listing of the Don’t Tax My Credit Union advocacy efforts by each state. League Director of Government Affairs, Chris Abeel, and I discuss these numbers and consider the next steps as we continue to explore ways to engage the credit union community in the campaign.
The numbers are good. New Jersey’s credit union advocates have stepped up and produced significant numbers of contacts to our congressional delegation. In fact, we are well on our way to logging more lawmaker contacts than on any other issue in recent memory. The tally of grassroots campaign contacts has or will soon exceed those in support of H.R.1151, MBL reform, and municipal deposits.
When I look at the comparative numbers to other states, however, I am concerned. New Jersey is 26th in total lawmaker contacts logged through mutual League and CUNA reporting. These would be in the form of e-mails through the CUNA Grassroots Action Center, postcards (as distributed through the League), toll-free calls, and Twitter messages directly to members of Congress. There are certainly contacts that take place outside these measures and perhaps those would move us up a few slots, but the overall positioning on the page compels me to bring this to your attention.
There is another correlation here and to some extent, it justifies where we stand. New Jersey sits at 28th in terms of number of members. So, theoretically, we are mobilizing in the Don’t Tax My Credit Union fight to a level relative or perhaps even slightly better than other states in those terms.
Herein lies the concern: New Jersey is the 11th most populace state and has the 9th most credit unions of any state. To me, this says there is tremendous opportunity to engage consumers and band together for a louder voice both here and in Washington. Our consumer advocacy, in many terms, goes hand-in-hand with our political advocacy. The Don’t Tax My Credit Union initiative presents an opportunity to share the message of why credit unions are different and positioned to be the best financial partner to consumers.
In my last blog post, I touched on the need to take it upon ourselves to proudly share our credit union message whenever the opportunity presents itself. This includes making sure staff and board members are equipped to share the “elevator pitch” of why credit unions, as not-for-profit, cooperative financial institutions, are a unique and present value in addition to low rates and fewer fees. It also means they should be aware of the tools available to them for political advocacy.
It sounds simplistic, but in the highly operational and compliance intensive environment that is the reality of day-to-day credit union life, taking time to discuss the structural difference and social good of our efforts may take a back seat to “getting things done.” If you are already doing this, fantastic. If you are not, I encourage you to take the time to engage your personnel in this conversation. If our boards and internal teams are passionate about the credit union difference, they can ignite the sort of grassroots effort that will move us all forward.
Here at the League, we will continue to look for additional opportunities to boost credit unions’ voice. In addition to efforts to defend credit unions’ tax exemption, we continue to see significant growth in awareness through one of those opportunities—the Banking You Can Trust campaign.
From all reports and metrics available, word of mouth advertising is still the best way to communicate a message. This includes social media and is the basis of viral campaigns. How incredible could it be if a few more people from each credit union staff or board followed @bankingyoutrust on Twitter or shared the www.bankingyoucantrust.com Web site on Facebook and from there had even one friend do the same? I believe those rankings in the 20’s would trend upwards. The pace at which that happens is truly up to each and every one of us.