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E-advocacys dynamic growth reflected in CUNA efforts
WASHINGTON (10/11/11)--Members of the U.S. Congress are increasingly using email and social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to gauge public opinion and communicate with their constituents, and the total volume of electronic communications going into congressional offices has increased by as much as 1,000% over the last decade, the Congressional Management Foundation said in a recent report. The report, entitled How Citizen Advocacy is Changing Mail Operations on Capitol Hill, found that “the bulk of these communications sent to Capitol Hill are through advocacy campaigns.” The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is among those leading this charge, and has long been on the cutting edge of this communications shift. “Social media and email advocacy is still a relatively new medium, but in many ways it’s ready-made for credit unions to use in delivering our message to Congress. It fits perfectly with the grassroots and cooperative nature of credit unions... but it only works if we are willing to engage our credit union employees and members on key issues,” CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins said. CUNA’s Grassroots Action Center, which is hosted on cuna.org, alerts these credit union supporters of the most pressing issues for credit unions, and gives them the tools to contact their own elected officials on these issues. The site helps constituents search for contact info from their local legislators and provides them with background information and sample statements covering the issues in question. Contacting a member of Congress on a credit union issue is as easy as a few quick clicks. In a recent Action Alert campaign on the debit card interchange fee issue, CUNA sparked more than 500,000 credit union contacts to federal lawmakers before a vote that would have delayed the fee cap. The Action Center over two years, circulated more than a million grassroots contacts on the interchange issue and the impact of those contacts was seen directly. While the delay bill ultimately was defeated, support for it grew significantly as contacts increased and some original supporters of the interchange fee cap were swayed to support the legislation that would have required a second and slower look at the cap. The main target of CUNA’s current online advocacy efforts are House and Senate bills that would increase the credit union member business lending (MBL) cap to 27.5%, up from 12.25%. CUNA’s MBL push also incorporates use of Twitter and Facebook, and geographically targeted, web-based ads to drive traffic to CUNA’s own MBL direct advocacy page. Legislative Action Alerts can often be teamed up with CUNA’s Operation Comment Alerts, which—excluding the avalanche of interchange letters--has generated more than 15,000 comments to agencies such as the National Credit Union Administration, the Federal Reserve Board, the U.S. Treasury Department. Hawkins said Facebook and Twitter are also key parts of CUNA’s grassroots communication strategy. He added that he thinks the Action Center experience on interchange has opened a lot of credit union eyes to the benefits of the electronic systems and he believes it will translate to a good response for MBLs as well. (See the resource link below.)
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