Spokane Gears Up for Tax Effort with a “Love Letter” Campaign

Editor’s note: The Spokane credit union community successfully messaged congress and the media with one united voice during the MBL campaign last year. Spokane Teachers Credit Union (STCU) is inviting neighboring credit unions to take a similar approach to the tax issue, with a positive message to congress. This article, presented in STCU’s own voice, details the plan. Eugene’s credit union community has already started a collaborative effort and their results will be shared in future Anthem articles.

Representatives from 10 Eastern Washington credit unions attended a “summit” on June 21 to discuss strategies for working together on the tax exemption issue.

The event was hosted by Tom Johnson, president/CEO of STCU, to tap into the same cooperative energy that provided good results last year in Spokane during the effort to raise the cap on MBL lending. During that 2012 effort, Spokane-based credit unions collected more than 5,000 signatures in two weeks, allowing CEOs to present thick binders of petitions and MBL letters to congressional staffers during meetings in Spokane. In addition, a joint press release issued on behalf of 10 Spokane-based credit unions resulted in television and newspaper coverage.

This year, when contemplating how STCU would approach the threat to tax exemption, Johnson and his staff decided to keep the message as upbeat as possible. That reflects Johnson’s desire to maintain the positive relationship between credit unions and community banks in Spokane, and is also a reflection of STCU’s brand. (STCU’s vision statement: “To be the most loved and valued financial relationship on earth.”)

The result, which Johnson shared June 21 and offered as a resource to other credit unions, is a campaign asking STCU members to “Write us a love letter.” Johnson has asked his staff to get involved in three ways:

  • Between July 15 and July 26, frontline staff in STCU’s 16 branch locations will ask members to sign a petition, stating, “We love our not-for-profit credit union!”
  • STCU Community Relations Manager Traci McGlathery said the credit union learned during the MBL cap campaign that petitions have limited use if their language is too specific. For instance, last year’s petitions were addressed to Sens. Murray and Cantwell and specifically cited Senate Bill 2231, which made them awkward to present to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, whom credit unions were hoping would support the issue.
  • This year’s petitions are addressed to no one and make no mention of pending legislation or discussions in Congress. Instead, the petitions include a short summary of the benefits provided by credit unions, ending with this request: “Help preserve tax-exempt credit unions. It’s good for consumers and communities.”
  • Throughout July, Johnson is encouraging every STCU back-office employee to obtain at least one letter to members of Congress from credit union supporters, saying that they love their credit union just the way it is. These “love letters” can be hand-written or typed, and as short or as long as the writer desires. The writers are asked not to mail the letters, but to deliver them to an STCU employee or an STCU branch location (they may also call for pick-up).
  • Johnson also is encouraging staff to write their own letters. In fact, letter-writing parties are planned in the cafeteria at STCU headquarters, where employees will find an assortment of stationery and other materials.

STCU staff members have been told about the plans on the company intranet site, in STCU’s daily e-newsletter for employees and in direct emails from Johnson. Now, McGlathery and STCU Senior Communications Officer Dan Hansen are visiting each branch for staff meetings, to answer questions and offer encouragement. They’re providing talking points and other materials, including a short sheet of letter-writing tips that can be used by employees or printed out for other members.

Meanwhile, members are learning about the campaign through STCU’s summer newsletter, and on STCU’s website and on its social platforms. When the petition drive starts on July 15, the “Write us a love letter” message will appear on plasma screens and other branch materials. Word-of-mouth is expected to be the biggest driver for the letter-writing effort.

At the Spokane meeting on June 21, Johnson provided logo-free versions of STCU petitions and some collateral materials that other Spokane credit unions can adapt for their own use.

The goal, said McGlathery, is to have all the petitions and letters put together in binders by the time members of Congress start their summer recess on August 5. STCU is working with congressional staffers, hoping that Johnson and other Spokane CEOs have the opportunity to meet with U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, as well as Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers before they return to Washington, D.C. in early September.


Questions? Contact Lynn Heider: 503.350.2225, lheider@nwcua.org.

Posted in Around the NW, NWCUA.