The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is the largest national trade association for credit unions at the state and federal levels. It also partners with state-level credit associations to ensure its presence across all 50 states. CUNA’s focus is advocating to remove legislative barriers and regulatory burdens from credit unions across the country and working to preserve and expand credit unions’ ability to serve their members.
Its most recent large-scale advocacy campaign drew record engagement from all over the country, sending more than 850,000 messages to Congress and growing CUNA’s supporter list by more than 235,000 new members.
The Battle Against a New IRS Provision
Late in the summer of 2021, an IRS provision surfaced in the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) that required credit unions and other financial institutions to report information on inflows and outflows of greater than $600. The proposal required depository institutions to report nontaxable activity, including the gross amount flowing into and out of accounts, to try and identify unreported taxable income, according to CUNA.
“This proposal would put credit unions and banks in the position of perpetrating an unprecedented invasion of privacy, in addition to creating a significant new compliance burden for credit unions,” said Ryan Donovan, chief advocacy officer at CUNA.
This provision prompted Kristen Prather, state director of grassroots programs at CUNA, and her team to leverage their digital advocacy platform of choice for the past eight years, VoterVoice, and launch a campaign mobilizing members and partners at the beginning of September.
“At first we thought they’d probably just get the $600 raised to a higher number,” she said. “But we had over 850,000 messages to Congress, which is huge for us. Back in 2013, when we had our ‘Don’t Tax’ campaign, it took us almost two years to hit those types of numbers.”
Building CUNA’s Most Successful Advocacy Campaign to Date
Prather and her team knew this issue was important to CUNA’s members and partners, so they took an all-hands-on-deck approach when building this campaign in VoterVoice.
“We did a lot of emails to our members, we placed the action alert in a lot of our news stories like our daily email publications, and we had messages go out from our chief advocacy officer to large groups of people,” Prather said. “We also started doing social media graphics for Twitter and Facebook mostly, and we found that those can be effective.”
In only two months, CUNA sent more than 3.6 million messages to credit unions across the country requesting their support, reaching an impressive 31.4 percent open rate. This is higher than the average open rate of 24 percent for advocacy emails sent during the first half of 2021, according to our 2021 Advocacy Benchmark Report.
CUNA’s members not only opened their emails, they were also inspired to take action and share this ask with their networks. In total, advocates across the country sent more than 850,000 messages to members of Congress.
The campaign also had an educational effect on members of Congress. “A lot of [Congress people] were like, ‘oh, yeah, I didn’t think of it this way; that would be really bad,’” she added. “To me, this is one of those [examples] that proves that advocacy works.”
Not only was the provision removed from the final BBBA, but CUNA also exponentially grew its supporter database in VoterVoice with 97 percent of those who took action being new to CUNA’s list. “We gained over 235,000 new advocates with this campaign,” Prather said. “That right there tells you volumes about what it means to our credit unions. Gaining hundreds of thousands of new advocates is not something that happens every day.”
The Power of Leveraging the Right Technology
A key element that made this campaign successful for CUNA was how easy it was for Prather’s team to set up and for supporters to engage using VoterVoice.
“VoterVoice is very easy to use and I can build stuff into the site so that it has the CUNA look and feel. It’s also really easy for my members,” Prather says. “I love the fact that I can work with the VoterVoice team and just say, ‘OK, we need to launch an alert on this regulatory comment call,’ and within 20 minutes, they’re like, ‘OK, it should be popping up on your screen now.”
CUNA also leverages VoterVoice as an added benefit to its credit union members who might want to launch a specific campaign for their state, for example. Prather is able to quickly set that action alert in VoterVoice for them and then allow them to take it from there while also providing members with detailed performance reports for each campaign.
CUNA trusts VoterVoice to engage with its supporters and get actionable insights to drive digital advocacy success.
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