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Dominican CUs learn lobbying lessons

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (10/28/11)--Credit unions must approach legislators with a single, unified message. This is the message a Wisconsin Credit Union League (WCUL) contingent conveyed during a governmental affairs training program for 13 credit unions in the Dominican Republic.

A three-person Wisconsin Credit Union League (WCUL) delegation last week traveled to the Dominican Republic in a visit arranged through the World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program. Here, WCUL and AIRAC representatives examine farmer David Kreh's aji pepper crop. From left, WCUL President/CEO Brett Thompson; AIRAC President/CEO Virginio Gerardo and Business Manager Teresa Cruz; Kreh; and COOPCENTRAL's Regional Manager Francisco Cedano and Risk Manager Efrain Lugo. (Photo provided by the Wisconsin Credit Union League)
The three-person Wisconsin delegation last week traveled to the Caribbean island nation to provide education and visit credit unions serving agricultural members.

World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) arranged the visit through its International Partnerships Program, which first paired WCUL with the Asociación de Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Crédito (AIRAC), the country's credit union trade group, in 2007. Immediately following the visit, a delegation of 15 credit union volunteers and executives from the Dominican Republic visited WOCCU's Madison headquarters, WCUL's offices and credit unions in southern Wisconsin to study operations and other activities.

The Wisconsin delegation was encouraged by AIRAC's enthusiasm for the topics covered in the Oct. 18 workshop on lobbying techniques, according to WCUL President and CEO Brett Thompson.

"Crafting the right message is critical to any successful lobbying effort," said Thompson, who was accompanied by Tom Liebe, WCUL's governmental affairs vice president; Patricia Wesenberg, president/CEO of Central City CU in Marshfield, Wis., and board secretary for Credit Union National Association,; and Joshua Fetting, WOCCU International Partnerships officer. "We're pleased that our seminar was greeted with such an enthusiastic response," Thompson added

The one-day workshop attracted 35 attendees representing 13 of AIRAC's 15 member credit unions. Liebe and others urged participants to establish an advocacy position based on the benefits credit unions provide their members and to speak in a united voice when addressing government officials.

German Robles, assistant director of IDECOOP, the Dominican Republic's financial regulator, opened the workshop with his remarks.

In addition to the workshop, the delegation traveled to Las Matas de Farfán to visit COOPCENTRAL, a credit union serving the local agricultural community. The group also visited two farms growing aji peppers and other crops in operations funded by credit union loans.

Participation in the Dominican Republic workshop and the subsequent visit to Wisconsin offered extensive lessons in ways to make credit unions more successful, according to Alfredo Dorejo, president/CEO of Cooperativa Mamoncito, who was part of both activities.

"The lobbying workshop provided many tools we can use to more successfully lobby on behalf of credit unions," Dorejo said. "We also learned a little bit about public relations and the need to focus on member education to help our credit unions grow."

The Dominican Republic delegation visit, which ends this week, was arranged through the new WOCCU Customized Learning Program.
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