Does it really make a difference if you write your lawmaker? Comment on a proposed rule? Post a pro-credit union message on your Facebook page? Tweet using “#DontTaxMyCU”?
Most definitely—now, more than ever.
You often hear me, along with other CUNA leaders, extol the value of “getting involved” on behalf of credit unions. We remark about the more than 96 million members. We note that 93% of the 40 million members who use a credit union as their primary financial institution say they really love their credit union.
And here’s another thing you’ve likely heard more times than you can count: “We’re the best-kept secret in financial services. If only we could get these millions of people to tell our story.”
Now’s the time to convince these members to help tell our story. Here’s why:
• We’re locked in a campaign to keep our tax exemption safe and secure, as Congress takes a very close—and serious—look at reforming the tax code.
• We’re fighting to enhance the credit union charter, so credit unions have more flexibility to serve their members with more business loans and with additional methods for building capital. These enhancements will allow credit unions to continue to meet the expectations of their growing memberships.
• We’re striving to lessen the regulatory burden that weighs down credit unions from most efficiently serving their members.
Fortunately, we have tools to make our voices heard loudly and forcefully. One of the best of all, especially for a “people-power” group like credit unions: social media (including Twitter and Facebook).
Look no further than our “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” initiative for proof. And, in particular, look to the “Don’t Tax Tuesday” social media blitz, which we sponsored on July 23 and Sept. 10.
The idea for this blitz initially came from some credit unions, who shared with our political affairs staff their idea of a one-day, overwhelming, and focused messaging onslaught, featuring our “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” message. The target: members of Congress on both sides of the Capitol.
Carrying out this social media barrage became a slam-dunk decision for us when we scheduled it just days before the deadline for senators to deliver their tax reform recommendations to leaders of the Senate Finance Committee.
The best news: Credit unions, and their supporters, immediately embraced the concept—logging on to Twitter and using “#DontTaxMyCU” in their direct tweets to members of Congress, and posting similar messages on their Facebook pages.
During the first Don't Tax Tuesday event, more than 2,100 tweets were sent directly to legislators urging “Don’t Tax My Credit Union.” And nearly 1.5 million Twitter and Facebook users heard our message through retweets, followers, and friends on the social media networks.
That created quite a buzz in Washington. More than once we heard from people across the nation’s capital remarking on the omnipresence of credit unions’ social media message, saying, for example, “Credit unions are really blowing up Twitter today.”
The bottom line: It worked. Congress heard our message.
Case in point: Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, responded to what he was seeing on Twitter with his own tweet: “I support credit unions as essential banking options to all Texans. Having worked with #creditunions for 3+ decades, I agree #DontTaxMyCU.”
You can’t ask for much more effective feedback than that.
We still have more ground to cover to protect our tax exemption, enhance our charter, and reduce the regulatory burden.
But when credit unions get involved—as they’ve shown they can—we can capture the attention of decision makers. We just have to make the effort—and forget about being “the best-kept secret.”
BILL CHENEY is CUNA’s president/CEO.