Successful GAC Marks the Return to In-Person Advocacy

Last week marked a significant milestone for the League’s advocacy efforts: the return to in-person advocacy events. Fifty-eight credit union representatives from Maine traveled to Washington, DC, for the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). While the number of Maine attendees was lower than normal, it is was not surprising given the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic. What is important to note is the work that these 2022 GAC attendees accomplished. They demonstrated the value of in-person advocacy and marked its comeback!

One of the cornerstones of the credit union movement is the effective use of in-person advocacy. While other business associations, including our banking counterparts, engage in similar advocacy efforts, they cannot duplicate the power wielded by the credit union movement. While other business associations and industries bring in their often highly paid CEOs, senior staff, key shareholders, or investors, the credit union movement brings in their volunteer board members, their loan officers, or a member who directly benefited by their relationship with their credit union. We all know the credit union mantra of People Helping People, but in terms of advocacy, it is Credit Union People Helping Credit Unions. Our elected officials know when they speak to Maine credit union advocates, they are speaking directly to the communities those credit unions represent.

The pandemic has challenged our traditional advocacy efforts. We haven’t been able to feature our superstars like we normally do. Those superstars are our people. Luckily in Maine, we have an abundance of good political capital in the form of strong relationships with our elected officials, both at the state and federal levels. Those reserves, along with the tremendous work Maine credit unions have done to assist their members through the economic challenges of the pandemic, have allowed our advocacy efforts to remain very impactful despite not being able to engage directly face to face. As society continues to open and restrictions and mandates lift, it is time to start reengaging directly with our elected officials and regulatory agencies.

In the coming months, more in-person advocacy events will be happening. For example, we are planning an advocacy breakout session at the League Convention in May. We also will return to Hike the Hill in our nation’s capital and resume the legislator job shadowing program at the State House in Augusta next session.

The pandemic has allowed us to explore innovative ways of utilizing technology, such as holding virtual meetings to engage remotely. These options will continue to be available in the future however, nothing replaces in-person advocacy with fellow credit union representatives from across our state and nation. And thanks to the 2022 GAC attendees, we have proven that the return of in-person events is not only possible, it can be done successfully.

I hope you’ll consider joining us at a future advocacy event. I’m excited about what we can accomplish together to advance Maine credit unions!