All-In! Credit Unions on Path to Help Local Small Businesses, Economy

A floor vote has been promised in the U.S. Senate on legislation that would increase credit unions’ capacity to offer business lending. Credit union member business lending, or MBL, is currently capped at 12.25 percent of assets. The bill would raise the MBL cap to 27.5 percent of assets, giving small businesses access to an additional $13 billion.

Less than a week out from a national call to action led by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) to advocate on behalf of the legislation, Northwest credit unions are already making an impact by engaging members, media and the Senators themselves.

“What local credit unions and small businesses accomplish together over the next two weeks could be the difference between creating jobs and further stabilizing the economy, or not,” said Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) President Troy Stang.

Even before CUNA President Bill Cheney took his plea to YouTube, Mid-Oregon Credit Union in Bend had already secured column inches in its local newspaper touting the benefits that will come with increasing the MBL cap.

Jason Chaney of the Central Oregonian wrote about the push to increase business lending in the second paragraph, saying, “In doing so, credit unions anticipate creating 2,700 more jobs in Oregon and 140,000 nationwide….”

Last Friday Mid-Oregon placed a story in the Bend Bulletin that provided the same information early in the story.

According to NWCUA Director of Public Relations David Bennett, once the first media hits are registered, credit unions should track those stories online and consistently post on the story’s comment section.

“Camping a site, so to speak, to make sure accurate information and positive comments are always on top is pretty standard following story placement,” Bennett said. “Sharing those stories on Facebook, Twitter, on credit union websites—even in branch lobbies—is another important aspect of moving this to social media and spreading the word.”

Bennett added that every social media message on this topic should have an action item—in this case, asking people to call or write their Senator.

North Coast Credit Union in Bellingham, Wash., is engaging members directly on its website with a pop-up box that asks members for their help, explains why their help is needed, and then gives them a link to contact their Senators. Developed as a reaction to help fight phone scams, it has become part of the credit union’s repertoire of tactics when engaging members.

“The pop-up box worked well during our interchange activities; we had a good response,” said North Coast Credit Union President Terry Belcoe. “It will be interesting to see if our members react as well to this message.”

Not to be outdone, Spokane-area credit unions unified their position as a single community during a conference call yesterday. Working in solidarity, local leaders chose a four-part strategy that includes petitions and a letter drive.

“It would be counter-productive for every credit union to work individually on this effort, because it will surprise journalists who think of us as competitors. And because a good idea coming from any credit union should be shared with all the others.” Spokane Teachers Credit Union (STCU) Senior Writer and public relations expert Dan Hanson said. “While raising the MBL cap is important, (credit union leaders) recognize that the effort to get S. 2231 through the Senate is about more than this just this one issue. It will show that credit unions can mobilize to advocate for the movement and do what’s right for members.”

In addition to grassroots efforts and straight-up media pitching, many credit unions are also engaging editorial page editors and editorial boards to place information for elected officials and their constituents.

“Pitching to the editorial page comes with some risks, depending on what is being pitched and the general leanings of the outlet, but the rewards can be tremendous,” said Bennett. “Because most (traditional newspapers) are pro-business, editorial board meetings can be effective as long as arguments are well prepared and practiced. Those being interviewed should also be ready to be filmed, as many newspapers use these to fill their social media requirements.”

Bennett adds that op-eds and letters to the editor come with far less risk, but carry less weight to readers, generally, because they are not third-party endorsements and present one side of an issue.

“And again, always follow up on the website board posts from readers to make sure accurate information that supports the argument is always on top,” he said.

Visit the NWCUA website for more information and ways to get involved in the credit union push to provide support for local small businesses.


Questions? Contact a member of the Association’s Legislative Affairs team:

Jennifer Wagner, Vice President of Legislative Advocacy
Mark Minickiello, Vice President of Legislative Affairs
Stacy Augustine, Senior Vice President & General Counsel

Posted in Advocacy News, CUNA.