CU Tax Letters Stack Up at Congress’ Door

By Heather Anderson, Credit Union Times

As of June 10, more than 1,500 credit unions–about one in four–were actively participating in CUNA’s three-week-old Don’t Tax My Credit Union initiative, according to Richard Gose, senior vice president of political affairs.

That has produced more than 65,000 messages to Congress through a CUNA website created specifically for the campaign. Some credit unions have promoted the site to their members, using Facebook, Twitter, website banner ads and direct mail advertising, Gose said. Others have used the promotional website to send letters to members of Congress from executives and volunteers.  That site has received more than 185,000 page views from more than 92,000 unique visitors, he said, directed from credit unions and ads placed by CUNA in social media.

The $4.2 billion Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union has already generated more than 6,600 letters to Congress through the CUNA online generator, said Public Relations Manager Nate Muniz. The Harrisburg, Pa.-based credit union sent an email to the 200,000 members with current email addresses on file, Muniz said, explaining the issue, providing a link to the website and asking them to use the site to send a letter to their members of Congress.

The email produced a 44% open rate, Muniz said, the second highest ever for the 400,000-member credit union.

“We’re finding that members are interested in the issue and appreciate the opportunity to participate,” he said. That connection is especially important for PSECU, he added, because the credit union has no branches and no face-to-face contact with members.

In addition to the email, PSECU has also promoted the cause through social media–on its main Facebook page and its Twitter account–as well as in a banner ad on its website and in an on-hold message.

“The message we posted on our main Facebook page had more than 1,000 views,” he said. “So word is definitely getting out through that channel as well.”

Congress is listening, said CUNA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs John Magill. He said he recently attended a congressional event with about 25 elected officials, and some told him the campaign is already making an impression.

Grassroots participation from credit union members is important not only because lawmakers are influenced by voters, but also because many new faces on Capitol Hill are not familiar with the power of the credit union movement.  Only about 30% of the current Congress was in office in 1998, when credit unions scored their most recently major legislative victory with H.R. 1151, the Credit Union Member Access Act, Gose said. Sending that powerful grassroots message regarding tax status will have a positive residual effect when credit unions ask for other legislative priorities like a higher member business lending cap or supplemental capital authority, he added.

Magill said a tax reform bill may be introduced later this summer, but credit unions should wait until then to get involved.

“We’re a small part of a huge bill,” Magill said. “This isn’t an up or down vote like H.R. 1151. We could get lost in the white noise and chaos, so we want to have our voice heard now.”

Muniz said the credit union was among the first out of the gate to participate in the campaign, because the leadership feels it is the greatest threat to credit unions and their continued viability. He also said he’s disappointed to hear that only 25% of credit unions have taken the action to support the campaign.

“Maybe they’re still developing their message and just haven’t gotten there yet,” he said.

That’s the case at the $9.8 billion SchoolsFirst FCU. Marketing Specialist Jenny Alonzo said the Santa Ana, Calif.-based credit union hasn’t yet launched its communication efforts yet but will participate by asking members for their support.

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