Since 2001, credit unions in the state of Alabama have been part of a consumer advocacy council called CU-Vote. Founded by the Alabama Credit Union League, it offers credit unions a turnkey solution to educate members to support and mobilize for their credit unions in situations in which grassroots activity is needed —from elections to potential taxation issues.
Member awareness in Alabama on such issues as credit unions’ tax exemption and not-for-profit status has increased by 65% from 2002-2005, as measured by member polling. The program has also contributed to credit unions’ political effectiveness in Alabama; 11 of the 12 candidates for statewide elected offices attended a recent CU-Vote chapter meeting. Nearly every elected official in the state filled out a questionnaire that CU-Vote compiled into a voters’ guide so members would know where their candidates stood on credit union-related issues.
Part of the success of CU-Vote has been the depth of commitment of Alabama credit unions. CU-Vote is currently being used by 65 Alabama credit unions representing 1.3 million members—40% of the total voting population.
Combine this localized effort with some of CUNA’s national efforts with Project Zip Code and it is clear that elected officials, both on the state and national levels, are becoming aware of the power of the credit union movement.
The Future of Credit Union Support
While the 2006 midterm elections are primarily focused on other topics, issues like charter conversions and non-profit tax-exempt status can quickly become hotbed political fodder. It is easy to imagine a time when the membership may be called upon to speak up about these and other critical developments. Tactics could include writing Congress to oppose taxation, or voting on a proposed charter conversion. With 87.1 million members across the nation, the benefits in mobilizing an informed, passionate voting block reinforce the vitality and importance of America’s credit union system. At a time when many credit unions struggle to differentiate themselves from banks, CU-Vote gives the industry a powerful new messaging tool.
Navy Federal ($26 billion in Vienna, VA) will be the first credit union outside the state of Alabama to adopt the CU-Vote program starting in the first quarter of 2007. For more information on how your credit union can evaluate and adopt CU-Vote, please contact Jon Jeffreys. (800)-446 7453