Resolve to Take Grassroots Action in 2020

Jan 23, 2020

By John Coleman


How are your New Year’s resolutions going? Do they involve advocating for your community bank? They probably should, because your perspective as a community-based, taxpaying business is exceptionally helpful to the people who write and enforce the regulations you (and credit unions) must follow.

In this blog post, we’ll touch on our top priorities and give you the tactics you’ll need to help make them a reality.

This year, ICBA members have helped us identify top policy priorities that include:

  • modernize BSA/AML,
  • create a safe harbor for cannabis banking,
  • close the industrial loan company loophole,
  • and urge policymakers to Wake Up to the plethora of abuses and risky practices of tax-exempt credit unions.

If any of these affect your community bank, you must educate your legislators, regulators and their staffs. But don’t worry, ICBA has the tools to help.

The quickest and easiest way is to send them a letter on a top priority. Offices track all of these communications from constituents. While it can take a lot of letters to get noticed, they provide congressional offices with much-needed cover when justifying a decision.

With an abundance of letters, they can tell the media: “My office has gotten thousands of letters about the $2 billion credit unions cost taxpayers annually, so we decided to do something about it.”

But, like with any relationship, personalization moves them the most. According to surveys of hundreds of Capitol Hill staffers over the past decade by leading Washington think tank the Congressional Management Foundation, you need an in-person meeting with staff to have the most impact.

Your personal staff relationships are the key to getting an office to understand our policy positions.  Congressional staff draft legislation and make recommendations to the member. In-person meetings let staff put a face and a story to an issue.

To help you build solid relationships with Hill staff, ICBA created the Meetings on Main Street toolkit. It will show you how to set up a meeting in the district (at your place or theirs), what to do at a town hall, and how to make our "asks."

District events like these give you the chance to show (rather than just tell) congressional offices about the growing gaggle of people you must have to deal with excessively burdensome regulations, for example. Some offices even prefer district meetings.

“My member prefers to be out in the district meeting with constituents in their own venue," one district director told CMF. "He gains insight to their issues, challenges and needs by being present on the ground.”

Nevertheless, making the trek to their D.C. office—to their turf—is the most effective tactic of all. So, each spring, we train, empower and set up meetings for hundreds of community bankers like you as part of the ICBA Capital Summit. At this two-day event, you’ll hear from industry experts in advocacy, learn how to get an office to "yes," and then try your hand at convincing those offices.

There are many ways to get your policymakers’ attention, and your community bank needs you. So, how about another resolution this year: Take five actions to get your members of Congress to help community banks flourish. To get you started, visit one of the links above, review our Take Action: Be Heard advocacy page and sample op-eds on our Tell Your Story Toolkit, or contact me at john.coleman@icba.org.

John Coleman is ICBA director of advocacy.