TACOMA, Wash. (11/18/13)--In Tacoma, Wash., Harborstone CU has set out to prove that credit unions must stand up for themselves so they don't lose their tax status and go out of business. How? By taking advocacy on the road, with a state lawmaker.
During October and November, the credit union's Governmental Affairs Roadshow stopped at every one of Harborstone's 17 branches in Washington. Its goal: Make sure that every employee, at every branch, understands the structure, value and impact of the credit union movement (Anthem Recap Nov. 15).
"We believe that every credit union employee should be able to fully articulate the importance of credit unions, understand the reasons why credit unions have an income tax exemption, and expertly explain these ideas to our membership," Vicky Nelson, Harborstone's business sales and services manager, told the Northwest Credit Union Association.
She and Harborstone President/CEO Phil Jones developed the idea to motivate employees to become advocates.
State Rep. Steve Kirby (D-29), who is chairman of the House Business and Financial Services Committee and a business sales and service specialist at Harborstone, agreed to talk to employees about his role in the legislature and how he supports credit unions.
Nelson also recruited NWCUA's vice president for legislative affairs, Mark Minickiello, to discuss "the big picture" of governmental affairs and the grassroots efforts of the national "Don't Tax My Credit Union" campaign.
During the 30-minute Roadshows, Nelson addresses:
|Washington State Rep. Steve Kirby, who is also a business sales and service specialist at Harborstone CU, Tacoma, Wash., and Vicky Nelson, Harborstone's business sales and services manager, head out for a Governmental Affairs Roadshow that stops at all 17 branches of the credit union to make sure every employee understands the structure, value and impact of the credit union movement. (Photo provided by the Northwest Credit Union Association)
The Roadshow "is an important part of our ongoing advocacy efforts to first educate ourselves to understand what a credit union is and the reasons credit unions have an income-tax exemption," Nelson said. "Only then will we be able to fully articulate the importance to members."
Beyond the Roadshow, Harborstone provides articles with basic questions, and devotes a website page to its advocacy theme, "Protect your financial right to choose." It also posts educational messages once a week to Facebook and Twitter.
"Rarely do you see this level of engagement by a credit union," said NWCUA's Minickiello. "I'm asked a few times a year to speak to boards of directors or management of a credit union...but never...to visit branches and educate frontline staff." It is even rarer to get the opportunity for frontline staff to hear from a professional credit union advocate and a sitting legislator.
The difference between credit unions and banks;
Why it's important for the credit union to participate in advocacy;
What lobbyists are, what they do, and why developing and maintaining relationships with credit union friendly legislators, including the need for campaign contributions, is important;
What the acronyms PAC and CULAC mean; and
Why it is crucial to nurture informed and educated communication about governmental affairs between Harborstone employees and members.