Virtual 'Hike The Hill' Attendees Tout Why This Year was so Successful

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This year — more than ever — advocating for the credit union cause is critically important as the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues held its first-ever virtual Hike The Hill event, or “D.C. fly-in” as it’s known.

What was supposed to take place over two weeks was extended to four weeks as members of Congress and their staffs wanted to ensure the credit union message was received.

While 78 credit union executives from California and Nevada initially registered to participate, nearly 100 actually participated as the popularity of Zoom online meetings in our current age allowed for greater engagement.

The message that credit unions are essential, have been essential every step of the way, provide every possible service to their members, and ensure no member gets left behind was well received by members of Congress.

However, beating the advocacy drum must continue. “Credit unions have a tremendous lift ahead in Congress, and now is not the time to take our foot off the gas pedal,” said Jeremy Empol, vice president of federal government affairs for the Leagues.

As this was credit union leaders’ first time participating in a virtual fly-in, it’s best to have them tout their own personal experience! (Email Jeremy Empol for questions on how YOU can participate going forward.)

In their own words:

  • “The virtual Hike The Hill presented the benefit of increased participation with some new attendees since travel to D.C. wasn’t involved. The League’s team did a great job with scheduling these. Sessions that were done by conference call were only a little more challenging and stilted, as it was harder to get a sense of who was going to speak next. I give kudos to Linda Rossi, CEO of Ventura County Credit Union, for serving as a good coordinator, ensuring introductions were done at the beginning and in making sure all had a chance to participate during Representative Julia Brownley’s session. Video sessions worked very well and felt warm and connected. And everyone came with their own seat — no piling into chairs from the congressional aides’ offices. Once GAC returns, I can see the fall Hike The Hill remaining virtual given the time commitment of two East Coast trips.”Geri LaChance, CEO of SESLOC Federal Credit Union

  • “The virtual meetings were extremely effective. Both participants and legislators were engaged and quite happy to ‘see’ and hear each other. I found that it also helped to have everyone’s name included on their screens. The virtual format allowed me to participate in more meetings, and I could access information and statistics on my computer if I needed to. It felt comfortable to have previous in-person relationships, but it wasn’t a hinderance if those didn’t exist. While I would certainly prefer meeting in person, this is a great solution for today’s environment.” Marsha Mathias, Director of Government Relations for Kinecta Federal Credit Union

  • “I particularly thought the virtual format was beneficial because for the most part it felt like members of Congress were more mentally attune to our message and our faces on the screen. I think in person, the smallest combinations of distractions can diminish the effectiveness of our purpose. However — and this has been proven in other virtual areas since the pandemic — engagement is up when doing Zoom meetings. Something about it forces you to pay attention more. Also, the virtual method had members of Congress speaking more. Another thing I always share about talking to Congress, especially for first timers, is: It’s a lot easier and friendly that you might imagine. It’s always been very collaborative in my experience, and a great option for any credit union professional. I found that to be true during the virtual environment also!” Randy Icelow, CEO of Rolling F Credit Union

  • “Overall, the program went great. I think for some of the meetings it felt like we had no time, but I could see the engagement from the representative and the staff. I think everyone participating had a huge impact on how well the meeting turned out because they kept the conversation going. It was definitely a great experience to be a part of!” Marisol Zazueta, Community Affairs Representative for Rolling F Credit Union

  • Virtual video meetings with members of Congress may be one of the best outcomes from the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to credit union advocacy. The virtual — and by nature more informal — meeting allowed for more natural conversation and better dialogue. Members of Congress were approachable, and a stronger personal connection was made. The efficiency in the virtual model allowed credit union professionals the ability to participate in more meetings. I hope this medium of political meetings is embraced to keep in touch with members of Congress throughout the year, post COVID-19.” Carina Hollis, Vice President and General Counsel for Wescom Credit Union

  • "I absolutely love travelling to Washington, D.C. and visiting our elected officials, spending time with my colleagues, and advocating for the best industry in the world. This year, it was just not possible, but I do not feel that our voices were heard any less. As a matter of fact, I found that there was even more participation via the virtual visits than if we went in person. That means more stories, more experiences, and more passion was heard." Jennifer Denoo, CEO of Great Basin Federal Credit Union

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