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Keynoter Jeff Rendel Discusses Building Influential Relationships with Elected Officials
Friday, April 10, 2015 6:40 AM

Jeff Rendel

Annual Meeting keynoter Jeff Rendel led yesterday's morning session, "Protect Your Capital at the Capitol," urging credit union leaders to defend their institution's well-being by developing and upholding political influence in state capitals as well as in Washington, DC.

Influence, Rendel says, is much more than writing a timely comment letter or inundating a lawmaker's phone system at a critical juncture in the legislative process. Since it takes time to build genuine influence with elected officials, credit unions need to forge relationships early in a lawmaker's career, when possible, and they need to be consistent with the time, effort, and resources they devote to nurturing that relationship over the long haul.

From his experience as a lobbyist, Rendel said lawmakers have a handful of people they consult with initially, and those people stand to make the most influence. He asks, are you on your lawmaker's speed dial? He also suggested that credit unions should pursue relationships with Congressional staffers like the scheduler, legislative aide, and chief of staff.

Rendel said credit unions need to invest in the careers of those who invest in credit union issues because in politics, two rules apply:  getting elected and getting re-elected. Both take time and money. That's why credit unions need to include governmental relations in their strategic plans and annual budget allocations.

He recommended designating a key contact at the credit union—a senior-level executive or volunteer whose job is to represent the organization to government leaders. One great way to do that is by getting involved with Cornerstone's CU: ROAR campaign.

Rendel urged credit unions to build trust with "face time," including "Hike @ Home" campaigns where credit unions meet legislators in their state capitols; in-district meetings; and community events.

He praised the effective use of tools like Project Zip Code when speaking to lawmakers about the member-constituents in a lawmaker's district. The numbers can make an enormous impact in the mind of a legislator when it comes to votes in the next election, he said.

Legislators and regulators will pass and implement laws and regulations that help or hinder credit unions. Credit unions that recognize the need to have a leading voice in any action to protect their credit unions’ capital will be the most successful at building those all-important influential relationships.