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CUNA Chief Political Officer Discusses Turning Members into Advocates
Monday, February 22, 2016 6:30 AM

By Richard Gose, Chief Political Officer, Credit Union National Association

How do you turn any credit union member into a loyal credit union advocate? It's the age-old question for all of us in the movement. While there's no silver bullet, Credit Union National Association has pioneered some influential ways to significantly move the needle.

It all starts with communication and helping members understand what they are a part of. CUs are member-owned, not-for-profit, community-based financial cooperatives, and the successful ones actively engage their membership, keeping them informed about the issues facing the institutions, and involving them when necessary.

Promote Action

Our research shows that educated members become not only fiercely loyal, but increasingly willing to get involved in grassroots advocacy when asked. Two CUNA programs can promote action while educating members.

CUNA's innovative Member Activation Program (MAP) leverages the loyalty that members have for their credit union to provide information and mobilize them to take grassroots action, contacting public officials in support of credit union advocacy priorities. Not only does the program resonate with longtime members who understand the credit union difference, it uses grassroots advocacy to build a stronger bond among newer members.

We've also learned that recruiting members for advocacy action is good for business. In fact, 82 percent of members who receive advocacy outreach from their credit union want to do more business with their credit union. In its first year, more than 80 credit unions contacted 3 million credit union members on campaigns including "Stop the Data Breaches" and "Strong Credit Unions, Strong Middle Class."

CUNA's Project Zip Code is a secure program that counts credit union members and matches them by congressional district, state legislative district, and county. These numbers are uploaded to CUNA's Project Zip Code website and combined with data from credit unions nationwide to aid in federal and state advocacy efforts. And it's useful to credit unions interested in ATM expansion or shared branching. In fact, we've most recently used this data to calculate the cost of the regulatory burden by congressional districts, giving us valuable information to take to Capitol Hill during CUNA GAC this week.

Strong Voice

These tools, well utilized by CUNA's membership, are making a difference in our advocacy work. The voice of your credit union through your members is stronger on Capitol Hill and in the state legislatures because programs like these help us unite and unify nearly 105 million members.

Make sure you're communicating the power of credit unions through Project Zip Code. Use this data to help tell your story. It helps members of Congress know how many credit union members they represent—hard data that helps demonstrate the power of the credit union movement. And make sure to use this information not just in our nation's Capital, but for all of your credit union advocacy efforts including MAP. MAP demonstrates not only that we have identified members, but actually encourages members to communicate with lawmakers through petitions, email and social media.

If you haven't gotten involved with Project Zip Code or MAP yet, now's the time. The more credit unions that participate in Project Zip Code, the stronger and more accurate our membership count will be for all lawmakers. And while MAP is still young, the future looks bright. With nearly 300 credit unions participating in its first year, the program looks to continue to grow in 2016. Your involvement in these influential programs will help the credit union movement continue to be a grassroots powerhouse.