A four-step guide to setting up a meeting with your legislator—and how ICBA can help.
The August congressional recess presents a prime opportunity for a local meeting with your legislator. Hosting a member of Congress at your bank is an excellent opportunity to educate them about the unique and important role of community banking in your area and across the nation. By personally walking your lawmakers and their legislative staff through the daily complexities and frustrations community bankers experience in the current regulatory environment, you can help to frame their understanding of the issues and motivate them to find solutions. Here’s how.
Check out ICBA’s full guide to hosting a legislator at your bank at bit.ly/meeting
1. Submit a formal request
The earlier you can get on your legislator’s calendar, the better. Many provide an online “Meeting Request” form on their individual websites, which is their preferred method for scheduling a visit or meeting. Visit your legislators’ websites and look under the “Contact” section to determine if there is a preferred method of setting up a meeting or bank visit. If a meeting submission form does not exist on the website, fax the request to your lawmaker’s office. It will be received and submitted for consideration much more quickly than a mailed letter. When you make your request, be sure to include your name and contact information (including congressional district), and mention any specific issues that you would like to discuss, such as regulatory relief. After you submit your request, call the lawmaker’s scheduler to confirm it was received. Keep in mind that persistence is key, and you may have to follow up a few times to successfully schedule a bank visit or meeting. Contacting the office early and with all the necessary details will increase the likelihood of confirming a visit or meeting.
2. Secure the meeting
The scheduler will work with you to arrange a mutually agreeable meeting time. Reaffirm to the scheduler that you would like for your lawmaker to visit your bank, discuss how it operates in the current regulatory environment and learn ways in which the lawmaker can 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.
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 email all relevant details to Joshua Habursky, ICBA’s director of advocacy (firstname.lastname@example.org). He can help ensure that you are well-prepared for your meeting. Whether providing one-pagers on the current top issues affecting your community bank, offering data on the community banking 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. Reach out personally to your fellow community bankers and state association leaders and invite them to attend.
4. Use ICBA as a follow-up resource
Hosting a meeting with your lawmaker helps them understand community banking’s unique issues. It’s equally vital to report back on the meeting’s details to ICBA. Perhaps the lawmaker requested information that you could not provide during the meeting. Maybe he or she agreed to co-sponsor a bill and ICBA should reach out to the lawmaker’s staff to ensure that happens. Report the full details of your meeting at icba.org/meetingfollowup.
Words from the wise
First National Bank of South Carolina, a $200 million-asset community bank in Holly Hill, S.C., held an August 2017 recess meeting with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.). Here are insights from bank president John L. Wiggins III, who is also president of Independent Banks of South Carolina.
What was the biggest benefit to your bank in meeting with your legislators during the August recess?
Wiggins: Being able to talk about the various over-burdening regulations that affect community banks, more so than the regional and megabanks. We feel like our legislators were in agreement when it was suggested that community banks, based on asset size, should be given exemptions to these regulations.
What advice would you give to other community banks thinking about meeting with a legislator during the August recess?
Wiggins: Even if you are only able to be with them for 20 or 30 minutes, it’s important to talk about how community banks in their districts are, in many cases, the only bank in rural areas. That the cost of complying with bank regulations is more costly to community banks than the larger banks. And that community banks participate in and support their communities. Thank them for their support of community banks!