Building Engagement Around Advocacy? Try a Member Community

To expand the reach of its government relations work, the Credit Union National Association launched an online community to discuss it.

Associations can often struggle to communicate their advocacy efforts to members, and different member groups can have different types of engagement in advocacy. By creating a dedicated online group, the Credit Union National Association is hoping to improve and expand connections across the association.

Last week, CUNA announced the creation of the Member Activation Program Community, a discussion forum “where credit union industry professionals can freely discuss advocacy matters affecting credit unions, communications, advocacy best practices for credit unions and exchange ideas and resources.”

We really want it to be a place for peer-to-peer interaction.

CUNA Grassroots Manager Adam Engelman said the new site was sparked by discussions in the past two years about connecting two internal groups: the Political and Grassroots Network (PGN), a small group of CUNA members who are highly engaged in advocacy, and the Member Activation Program (MAP), which communicates advocacy news to members of CUNA credit unions.

“We decided to combine the two groups to provide this community where we can provide the latest content to MAP credit unions, where they can go out to their members and educate them on these issues, but at the same time having our PGN members educating their peers on these issues as well,” he said.

Engelman says CUNA hopes the forum will help MAP members become better educated on advocacy issues, while also helping the smaller PGN group become better informed about challenges that credit unions face on the ground level around those issues. Members of the groups, totaling about 1,300 people, were already opted into the forum, and Engelman says he hasn’t seen substantial drop-outs in the first week.

The forum is part of a larger effort by CUNA to better spread the word about advocacy in recent years, including in-person advocacy training for specific member groups, such as young professionals. And it’s been responding to members asking for more advocacy help. “We’d heard feedback from our members that they wanted some type of platform,” Engelman said. “They didn’t provide specifics. They just wanted a situation where they can network.”

To that end, Engelman said that in the short term CUNA will measure the success of the new forum less in terms of number of members than in the quality of the conversation it generates.

“Some of the best ideas come out of these individual credit unions,” he said. “We had a small credit union that created this really nifty talking-points document to educate members on an issue, and that idea had never come into our thought process. We really want it to be a place for peer-to-peer interaction, where folks can go and feel it’s a safe space to learn and ask questions.”

(CamiloTorres/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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