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Capitol Eyes 8.26.21: Credit Union Advocacy Refresh Part 1

Cap Eyes 4.30.20
Aug 26, 2021
By Tom Harrington
  • Advocacy

Credit Union Advocacy Refresh: Part 1

This edition of Capitol Eyes will kick-off a three-part series aimed at helping Activists refresh your advocacy IQ. The next three editions will cover:

  • Critical importance of credit union advocacy | Today!
  • Advocacy landscape and key policymakers | Sept. 9
  • Credit union advocacy today: Priorities, best practices, and resources | Sept. 23

Let’s get started!

Before we can talk about how important advocacy is – let’s define what advocacy can do.

Credit union advocacy aims to create a more favorable operating environment for credit unions to serve their members through the removal of regulatory barriers and expansion of credit union powers and opportunities.

Policymakers in both Madison and Washington, D.C. write laws or rules and make decisions that directly impact your job, your credit union, and the members you serve. Advocacy is engaging to ensure those decisions consider and ultimately benefit credit unions.

For example, credit unions would not exist if not for the Federal Credit Union Act of 1934 and Wisconsin bills passed by legislators and signed into law, establishing credit union charters.

If you don't have a seat at the table, you're probably on the menu!

If credit unions aren't advocating for our own priorities, then who will?

Today in Wisconsin, there are 763 groups registered to advocate and persuade legislators to support their positions and priorities. Conversations on topics that affect credit unions or members are happening every day, whether we are a part of the discussion or not.

Credit unions are the experts on credit unions. If we don't engage, The Movement is left vulnerable to decisions being made by policymakers not knowing our unique perspective if we don't engage!

You're already an 'Activist' - a credit union advocate. But what does that mean?

You don't need to be "political" or even interested in politics and policymaking.

You DO need to:

  1. Care about your job,
  2. Have a basic awareness of how politics and public perception affect your ability to serve members and do your job supporting them, and
  3. Are willing to talk about how you serve members and their communities.

Your participation - at any level - is critical to ensure policymakers understand and appreciate The Credit Union Difference and the real life impact your credit union has on their constituents.

Looking for opportunities to contribute more as an Activist? Check out the Advocacy Toolkit on the Activist Program page of The League's website.

Advocacy Gets Results! Saver's Sweepstakes: A Case Study

Before 2017, credit unions in other states were kicking off prize-linked savings accounts to better incentivize members to save money. Wisconsin credit unions wanted the ability to do the same.

The League and Activists met with allies in the state legislature to explain interest in making the programs permissible under state law.  (Then-)Representative Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) and Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) saw the value and authored a bill to do just that. 

Activists illustrated support from the industry by attending the public hearings in Madison. Activists from Glacier Hills Credit Union, Summit Credit Union, WESTconsin Credit Union, The League, and Filene Research Institute all shared how the bill would benefit Wisconsinites while testifying in front of the Committees.  

Thanks to grassroots messages from Activists to their legislators, many understood credit unions’ support for the bill and were willing to vote in favor.  The bill passed the state legislature unanimously and then was signed into law by Governor Walker. 

With the state laws now in line to permit prize-linked savings accounts, Wisconsin credit unions are able to offer Saver’s Sweepstakes

Advocacy is a team effort! Consider spreading the word!

Invite a colleague to become an Activist >>

Check out the next Capitol Eyes for a look at the current landscape of credit union advocacy, as well as some of the key policymakers Activists engage with. 

Activists Set Up Meetings with Their Legislators

Earlier this month, Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers) toured Capital Credit Unions' Operation Center and adjacent branch. 

During the tour, Activists Lisa Hintz and President/CEO Tom Young got to know the Representative, share an overview of the credit union, and express support for AB 46 / SB 19 which would empower credit unions to better prevent financial elder abuse.

Legislators are always looking for opportunities to connect with constituents and businesses in the district! Establishing relationships with policymakers bolsters their understanding and appreciation for credit unions' role in their communities.

Consider setting up a tour of a branch or planning fundraiser this fall! 
Interested but not sure how to start? Reach out to Tom.

Let Legislators Know Where Credit Unions Stand on Various Issues From Home, Too!
Go to the Grassroots Action Center on The League's website to send pre-written, editable letters to your legislators on bills credit unions are actively working on.

Office Yoga - Move Your Body to Support The Credit Union Movement

Schedule this break in your work day to unwind during two office yoga fundraisers.

All donations go to WCULAF, Wisconsin credit unions' state level political action committee.

Chair Yoga, Wednesday, September 7 | 8:00 AM - 8:30 AM ($20)
Grab your chair, get up and stretch! This session will help to start your day off right,  including gentle breathing and stretching exercises to combat the effects of sitting. No yoga mat, sweat, floor work or change of clothes needed. 

Eye Yoga, Thursday, September 8 | 11:30 AM - 12:00 PM ($20)
In an era where vision is increasingly fixed on screens, it is important to remember that the health of your eyes is in your hands! In this session, you will practice exercises to improve eyesight and discover how to strengthen your vision naturally with yoga.

Learn more and register >>

Register for Virtual Hike the Hill 2021 | September 28 - 29

Hike the Hill is going virtual again! During this year's Hike the Hill, legislators will able to speak with members of the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation as well as with board members from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

Meetings will take place over Zoom.

View meeting schedule and registration >>

About The Author

Tom Harrington is the Political & Grassroots Specialist for The Wisconsin Credit Union League.