League Pushes CU Difference At MyCUIsMe.com Website

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LYNCHBURG, Va.-Explaining the credit union difference to consumers, members, and elected officials has strengthened its political advocacy campaign over the last six years, according to the Virginia Credit Union League.

Since 2004, the league has operated www.mycuisme.com, a website that shares what credit unions are about functionally and philosophically, and is used to generate messages from members to this state's elected officials on matters affecting credit unions. "We have generated 23,603 advocacy messages through mycuisme since it was introduced," shared Lewis Wood, VCUL's VP of public relations and communications, who said advocacy messages would have been much less effective without the website's information about the CU difference.

"It is always good to educate members about what they are fighting for," noted Wood. "We launched the site to address the threat of CU taxation. We thought if members were going to talk to this state's officials, they should understand the structural and philosophical differences between credit unions and banks."

Mycuisme has a section that explains what a credit union is, and then an area that addresses the CU difference, making side-by-side comparisons on the business structure and operating philosophies of banks and CUs. At the top of the comparisons is the fact that each member is also an owner of the credit union, and that banks have customers who have "no voice in how the bank is operated. Banks are owned by small groups of investors who expect a certain return on their investments," the website explains.

Wood said mycuisme was launched because the league needed a way to mobilize Virginia CUs and members to support legislation beneficial to credit unions and to combat potential laws that could harm the movement. "Credit unions and their members have really stepped up and supported us," Wood said.

The league utilizes the site by first sending out a legislative alert via fax and e-mail to credit union volunteers and CEOs. The alert summarizes the legislative issue, why the league and CUs need support, and then provides a link to mycuisme for more information and to help members send messages to lawmakers. "Credit unions will often place a PC in their lobby and ask members to go online on the spot," Wood said.

Once members reach mycuisme, they receive talking points to help shape their letter, and when they key in their zip code a list of the elected officials in the member's district appears along with e-mail addresses to reach them. Wood said members send the message directly from mycuisme.

"Member response is generally very good," Wood said. "The big fight we had in the General Assembly earlier this year, with that banker-introduced bill, generated great numbers-2,405 advocacy messages through our website."

Wood added that the issues over the new interchange rules produced 5,315 messages, and the fight over CU taxation around the time the website was launched drew 9,397 member messages.

Wood said that having the website has helped the league generate a database of almost 6,000 members it sends the legislative alerts directly to. That list, and mycuisme, will prove useful if the issue of eliminating CU taxation gains momentum as the government looks for ways to drive revenue, Wood acknowledged.

Explaining the credit union difference on the mycuisme website has also helped attract media attention to credit unions, explained Wood. "We've had reporters Google information about credit unions and get our site. Then they call us for more details."

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