#CrashtheGAC18: advocacy is in our DNA, says Haynes
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Posted by: Dustin Haynes, Heritage Trust FCU
Enjoy this Crash the GAC series where each of our five crashers from the Carolinas share the highlights from their experiences at CUNA’s 2018 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). This week, Heritage Trust FCU’s Dustin Haynes notes the importance of credit union advocacy while sharing tips on how to get more involved at the grassroots level.
The Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) is an incredible experience that provides credit union leadership from across the country with a platform to advocate the benefits of our not-for-profit structure and people-first principals through a unified voice. This year, over 5,000 executives, board members and crashers attended the GAC, officially making it the event’s best attended year to-date. As a crasher representing the Carolinas Credit Union League, I was provided with an incredible opportunity that helped reinforce the importance of our movement and emphasize the challenges we face as credit union advocates.
As credit union professionals in the Carolinas, we have the unique ability of advocating on behalf of more than 5.6 million members within our areas of service. Although that may sound like a daunting task, it’s actually much easier than it sounds. After all, we work for community based financial cooperatives that function at a grassroots level. You could say that advocacy is in our DNA.
Let’s not forget that what differentiates us from other industries is the innate drive we have to make a difference. Whether you’re based in a large metro area or a rural bedroom community we are all driven by one purpose: to help financially empower our members by providing the tools they need to achieve their goals. However, as our movement continues to grow, so does the target on our back from large for-profit entities that view us as a threat to their bottom-line. These organizations, with deep pockets, put a lot of time and energy into lobbying elected officials to pass legislation that negatively impacts credit unions.
That’s why it’s more important than ever for credit union advocates to stay informed on the key issues impacting our movement.
The GAC Crashers program plays an essential part in advancing our movement by energizing the next generation of credit union champions. Through this six-day program, I was joined by 77 young professionals from across the nation who all came together in Washington D.C. to embark on a life-changing experience. These credit union disruptors, from institutions big and small, united to learn about the issues facing our organizations, hiked the hill to meet with elected officials and connected with peers representing all 50 states.
Though we may all have a general knowledge on the issues we’re facing, the GAC really helps drive it home by putting together a jam-packed agenda of power punching topics that reinforce the need to get involved. As crashers, we also had the opportunity to attend the general sessions and hold exclusive, one-on-one conversations with key decision makers, including CUNA CEO Jim Nussle. Through these conversations, our group was able to dialogue on the issues impacting our membership and get an in-depth look at how we can help make a difference.
One such opportunity involved a look at CUNA’s member activation program that provides credit unions with plug-and-play content designed to share advocacy messages with their membership. This tool is especially important when attempting to bring awareness to key legislative issues likes S.2155 which was the hot button on Capitol Hill during our visit. The Campaign for Common Sense Regulation had long been a topic of conversation in credit union circles and the Senate successfully passing S.2155 helped to bring us closer to providing some much-needed regulatory relief to our institutions.
A few weeks have passed since this unbelievable experience and I can truthfully say that, if given the chance, I would do it all over again. The relationships built and the exposure to some of the heavy hitting issues facing credit unions has empowered me to be a better advocate. Though this journey only lasted six days, the lessons learned have had a long-lasting impact both personally and professionally.
As fellow credit union employees, I challenge you all to get involved in our movement and help build the next generation of champions. And there are many ways to do so from sharing your organization’s stories with peers and advocating the many ways our financial cooperatives work to empower the communities we call home, to supporting the Carolinas Credit Union League Capital Club which empowers our CU lobbyists with the resources they need to fight legislative battles on our behalf. Most importantly, I encourage you to consider signing up to represent your organization and the CCUL as a crasher at the 2019 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference.
- Dustin Haynes