Main Street Matters — Community Banker for a Day!
Hosting a member of Congress at your bank is an excellent opportunity to represent the entire community banking industry to your lawmaker and the greater Congress.
By personally walking your lawmakers and their legislative staff through the daily complexities and frustrations of community bank operation experienced in the current regulatory environment, you can help to frame their understanding of the urgent need to find solutions.
Use the instructions below as a guide to engage your lawmaker’s office and bring them into your bank.
Step 1 - Submit a Formal Request
Whether an event is scheduled in Washington or back home, your lawmaker’s Scheduler in the Washington office is likely the gatekeeper. You can identify your lawmaker’s Scheduler in the Find Your Legislators directory.
Many lawmakers provide an online “Meeting Request” form on their individual website that can be used in place of a faxed request. Visit www.house.gov or www.senate.gov to find your lawmaker’s individual site and determine if this is an option. If not, ICBA strongly recommends that you fax the request to your lawmaker’s office. It will be received and submitted for consideration much quicker than a mailed letter. After a reasonable amount of time to accommodate transmission, call the Scheduler to confirm receipt of the request.
Step 2 - Secure the Meeting
Over the coming days or weeks, the Scheduler will work with you to arrange a mutually agreeable time for the meeting to occur. Reaffirm to the Scheduler that you would like for your lawmaker to visit the bank, discuss how it operates in the current regulatory environment, and learn ways in which the lawmaker can actively help. The more specific you can be about who will be in attendance, what will be discussed, and why you would like to meet with the lawmaker, the more likely the request will be approved.
Step 3 - Notify ICBA and Your Community Banking Colleagues
As soon as you have confirmed a meeting with a lawmaker, or one of their staff, please e-mail all relevant details to Joshua Habursky. This will ensure you have all the support and resources you need; whether providing one-pagers on the current top issues affecting your community bank, data showing the community bank impact in the state or district, or having an ICBA lobbyist call in to the meeting to help discuss a technical policy question, ICBA will fully support your advocacy efforts. Finally, share the opportunity with your colleagues. There is strength (and influence) in numbers. Personally reach out to your fellow community bankers nearby and invite them to attend.
Step 4 - Use ICBA as a Follow-Up Resource
Hosting a meeting with your lawmaker is invaluable exposure for lawmakers to our unique issues, but it is equally invaluable to report back on the meeting's details to Joshua Habursky. For instance, perhaps the lawmaker requested specific information that could not be provided during the course of the meeting. Maybe he/she agreed to cosponsor a particular bill and ICBA should reach out to the lawmaker’s staffer to ensure that happens.
You are already reallocating time and attention from running your community bank to meet with your lawmaker. Pass the baton to ICBA and let us know what needs to be done to further promote the value of community banking to the lawmaker. Your role as a constituent community banker is to show-and-tell, so let ICBA tie up any loose ends afterward.
Step 5 - Fill out a Congressional Meeting Report Form
A Note on Meeting with Staff
Legislative staff members are often overlooked when a constituent is seeking to "meet with Congress." Some people construe a visit from a lawmaker's staff instead of the actual lawmaker as a slight to their interests. This is an enormous misconception.
Staffers may be familiar with banking in general, especially from a customer perspective, but the unique mechanics of a community bank might not be intuitive. A "Community Bank 101" can go far in creating a basic understanding, for instance, of how a loan is processed from origination to disbursement, or an explanation of the scale and structure of the staff at your bank and how the already limited resources available due to the size and scale of the bank are further encumbered by increasingly burdensome regulations.
Congressional staffers are a vital part of every member's office. Meeting with a lawmaker's banking or financial services staffer presents an excellent opportunity to initiate or nurture a relationship that allows for delving much deeper on substance and issues than most lawmakers have the time to devote. Meetings with staffers can generally be much broader in scope, and longer in length than the usual meeting with a Representative or Senator. The opportunity to demonstrate the "big picture" of how your bank impacts the community is only limited by time and your own creativity.