Pre-Written Letters Make Political Advocacy Easy for Pacific Crest Federal Credit Union’s Members

When some members expressed discomfort with the online “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” campaign, Pacific Crest Federal Credit Union got creative and created a written-letter campaign, garnering 400 messages to Congress.

Credit unions across the country are still being urged to use email, Twitter, and Facebook to tell Congress, “Don’t Tax My CU!” But how can they enlist the help of members who don’t have Internet access or are leery of new technology?

That was the problem facing Janet Buckalew in August, when Pacific Crest Federal Credit Union wanted to make sure that lawmakers representing its members in southern Oregon and northern California understood the structure, value and impact of the credit union movement.

“We tried to do the online email campaign,” says Buckalew, Pacific Crest’s vice president of member advocacy and business development, “but many of our members were uncomfortable with that process.”

So Buckalew suggested a different approach: What if the credit union produced pre-written letters and all members had to do was sign their names?

Tellers could talk about the campaign during regular interactions with members, Buckalew reasoned, and then direct them to tables in the lobby of every branch where posters and brochures could explain the importance of the “Don’t Tax” message.

“Credit unions did not cause the financial crisis,” the letters said. “In fact, during the financial crisis, Americans benefitted from having credit unions in the marketplace for the same reason that credit unions were established in the first place—so that consumers and small businesses had a place to go when the banks wouldn’t, or couldn’t, lend.”

That message—and the ease of the letter-writing campaign—struck a chord.

In one month, “we got 400 letters,” Buckalew says. “It doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s a great response from our community.”

Oregon members signed 113 letters to Sen. Ron Wyden, 101 to Sen. Jeff Merkley and 110 to Rep. Greg Walden. California members signed 26 letters to Sen. Barbara Boxer, 23 to Sen. Diane Feinstein and 27 to Rep. Doug LaMalfa.

And then Buckalew and Pacific Crest President and CEO Kathie Philp hand-delivered them.

“Kathie and I split up,” Buckalew says. “I met with Sen. Wyden’s communication manager, who was very aware of the credit union issue and was impressed by the letters. Kathie met with a representative in Congressman Walden’s office, who talked with her for an hour about credit unions.”

Walden, Philp learned, is a friend to credit unions and has been for a long time. “The meeting went very well,” she says. “He read the letters, and made some comments about how some people don’t understand the value that credit unions bring.”

Overall, Buckalew says, the response from members, staff, and lawmakers was terrific.

“It was a great way to get started with political advocacy,” she says. “We would definitely do the written-letter campaign again.”

You’ll find a copy of the letter that Pacific Crest members sent to Rep. Greg Walden here. For more information about the campaign, contact Janet Buckalew at 541.850.7744 or jbuckalew@pacificcrestfcu.com.

 

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

Posted in Advocacy News, Federal.