Make a Difference and Advocate with Your State Lawmaker in the Convenience of Your Credit Union

From the founding of our country, in-person meetings with Senators and Representatives have been the most effective way for citizens to shape public policy. Even with the many and diverse communications venues now available, meetings still outweigh any other interaction between legislators and their constituents.

Part of a legislator’s job in a democracy is to serve credit union constituents by representing their interests in the legislature and by providing a direct link to government. The Association strives to advance an advocacy strategy and process within which all member credit unions can be engaged and all can benefit from such action. In an era when electronic communications can be overwhelming, face-to-face meetings with legislators add value to the advocacy process.

At every level, lawmakers want to hear from your credit union, their constituent, about important issues and the current legislative schedule of informal sessions is ideal to deliver this message locally. Today, two identical bills are pending in each chamber of the Massachusetts General Court that would modernize the state credit union act and action is needed now to enact the bill before the end of the session at year-end. Their text and status may be found at:

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/S2556

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H4612

Massachusetts credit unions have a prime opportunity to achieve meaningful legislative relief as the final months of the current state legislative session arrive. Engaging personally and locally with members of the General Court and their staff is the single most powerful grassroots advocacy tool on our side and the Association invites all members to participate in the simple 4 step plan below to achieve successful results:

Step 1: Request a District Meeting

To set up a meeting, contact the lawmaker’s office directly. The following link provides information to locate your legislator: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator

The best way to start is with a formal email or mail request and a follow-up call to their office at the State House. Email addresses may be found at:

https://malegislature.gov/Legislators/Members/Senate

https://malegislature.gov/Legislators/Members/House

When you contact a Member’s office, be sure to indicate that you are a constituent if your credit union’s main or branch office is located within the district or if you live in an area that the member represents. Equally important is to capitalize on relationships that your directors and staff may have with public officials. Include these groups in attendance at the meeting.

If your Senator(s) or Representative (s) is unavailable, then request a meeting with a member of their staff. Staffers communicate regularly with their Members and often have a deeper understanding of the specific issues under consideration, so meeting with staff is always worthwhile. The goal is to shine the light on the bills and create a buzz about their importance and need for action now.

A sample meeting request communication may be found HERE. In the communication, explain the purpose of the meeting, identify participants, and suggest possible meeting dates. Be flexible. The more flexible you are about the date, the more likely it is that your meeting can be included on the legislator's schedule. If you do not hear back from a member of your legislator's staff, then be persistent as well as polite. Sometimes requests are lost, so don't be afraid to follow-up by sending an e-mail or calling the office. Legislators' schedules change quickly, so confirming the details of the meeting the day before the event is always a good idea.

Step 2: Prepare For the Meeting

Before the meeting, review the bill. A list of resources, talking points and fact sheets that will assist in bringing your credit union up to speed may be found HERE. Also ensure that any materials will be on hand for reference at the meeting. Review the Member’s state website page, legislative history, personal website, social media, etc. It is always important to refresh your memory and know your audience before you meet. The Association is available to provide a personalized briefing for your credit union about the bill, help schedule or attend any meeting hosted by a member credit union.

Step 3: Meet with your Member and/or Staff and Tips

When meeting with your Senators, Representatives, or their staff, follow these tips:

• Tell your personal story: Sharing why your credit union or the members you represent are personally affected by a bill is a powerful way to advocate and educate members. Have you denied a member a loan due to a state limit? Have you searched to find ways to have geographically dispersed members participate in the governance of your credit union?  Such dialogue gives a face to a bill in ways that other tactics cannot. It also helps to demystify complex topics by illustrating how financial service problems affect real people. Members want to hear from constituents about how credit unions and their governing structure are impacting their lives and our local communities.

• Share key points about the issue: When you meet with your member, share 2-3 top points about the issue. These points should reflect your greatest concerns and provide information that will resonate with your Member based on his or her priorities and goals. Including data to back up your arguments, especially data about your credit union, will help make your points more compelling.

• Keep the size of the group manageable for effective communication. The local and cooperative nature of credit unions yields itself to inviting neighboring credit unions to join the discussion. Include 5-6 people, an ideal mix, to ensure that relevant, on-topic conversation is delivered within the meeting time.

Step 4: Close the Meeting with a Key Ask: “Pass H. 4612 and S. 2556 Now” and Follow-up

An effective meeting provides the Member with a clear request: vote “yes” on House 4612 and Senate 2556 and urge its passage this session.

Ask for the individual’s support and ask where they stand on the issue. Send an email or written note after the meeting to thank the Member and/or staff for meeting with you. Before ending the meeting, inquire about the best way to communicate with her/him: email, calls, texts, etc.

Over the coming weeks, you can follow-up regarding progress on your request and offer the Member and staff your assistance to advance the bill. After successfully raising the visibility of the bills, this dialogue often yields important intelligence information that can help clear holds and delays leading to successful passage.

Finally, please keep the Association informed of your progress in scheduling meetings and the results by sending an email to: govaff-events@ccua.org.

Thank you for your advocacy efforts. The Association stands ready to assist wherever helpful. Constituency work, including dealing with concerns and issues of credit unions, is an important component of all lawmakers' representative function, and one that will be remembered into the future.