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Tax-status Preservation Efforts Continue At Leagues, CUs
MADISON, Wis. (7/8/13)--The Credit Union National Association and state leagues and associations across the country are urging credit unions to engage their members in preserving the tax status of credit unions. Credit unions, in turn, are doing their part, including asking for "love letters."
 
In Washington state, Spokane Teachers CU invited nine other credit unions from the region to a June 21 "summit" to discuss strategies for working together on the tax status issue. The group aims to tap into the same cooperative energy that provided results last year in Spokane on the issue of raising credit unions' member business lending cap, said the Northwest Credit Union Association (Anthem Recap June 28). Last year Spokane credit unions collected 5,000 member signatures in two weeks for that effort.
 
This time around, STCU President/CEO Tim Johnson and his staff decided to keep the message positive to fit in with its vision statement, "To be the most loved and valued financial relationship on earth." The result: a campaign asking members to "Write us a love letter." Between July 15 and July 26, frontline staff at STCU's 16 branches will ask members to sign a petition that says, "We love our not-for-profit credit union!"
 
The credit union will keep the message more general because too specific language may not work in all situations, STCU told NWCUA.  This year's petition is addressed to no one specifically and makes no mention of pending legislation or congressional discussions. Instead, it will include a short summary of the benefits provided by credit unions, ending with this request: "Help preserve tax-exempt credit unions. It's good for consumers and communities."
 
The credit union also is encouraging back-office employees to obtain at least one letter to members of Congress from credit union supporters, saying they love their credit union just the way it is. Writers are asked to deliver their letter--typed or handwritten and  short or long--to an employee or a branch. Or they can call the credit union to pick up the letter.
 
To encourage staff to write their own letters, the credit union is staging letter-writing parties in its headquarters' cafeteria. STCU has informed staff about the campaign through the company's intranet site, its daily e-newsletter for employees and direct e-mails from Johnson. Now its Community Relations and Communications staff are visiting each branch for staff meetings, providing talking points and other materials including letter-writing tips that can be used by both employees and members.
 
STCU  also is educating members about the effort  through its summer member newsletter , on its website and in its social media platforms. When the petition drive begins June 15, the "Write us a love letter" message will appear on plasma screens and other branch materials. Word of mouth is expected to be the biggest driver for the effort.
 
During the June 21 meeting, STCU provided other credit unions with logo-free versions of its petitions and collateral materials that can be adapted to fit other credit unions.  The goal is to put all petitions and letters together in binders by the time Congress starts its summer recess on Aug. 5.
 
NWCUA also reported that Northwest credit unions are rolling out internal and external campaigns to support the "Don't Tax My Credit Union" campaign. Oregon Community CU in Eugene is leading that charge, producing more than 1,800 contacts to Congress in the past few weeks, while Red Canoe CU in Longview, Wash., leads with 497 contacts--the result of one e=-mail "ask" to its members (Anthem Recap June 28).

Examples in other states:
  • Michigan credit union supporters made nearly 3,600 contacts with their lawmakers in Congress, said the Michigan Credit Union League, citing statistics from the Credit Union National Association (Michigan Monitor July 1). The league said Michigan had 3,582 contacts, mostly through the website CUNA set up for the "Don't Tax My Credit Union!" campaign at donttaxmycreditunion.org.
  • Maine credit unions have generated nearly 1,000 e-mails and letters to senators in the past two weeks telling them "Don't Tax My Credit Union," said the Maine Credit Union League Friday (Weekly Update July 5). It encouraged those who have not responded yet to the Call to Action to do so.
  • Last week the Association of Vermont Credit Unions said it was "putting the final touches on a letter to all credit union CEOs and board chairs urging them to reach out to members," said AVCU's newsletter, Newslines Express (June 28). It pointed credit unions to CUNA's Tax Status Advocacy Toolkit.
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