How to supercharge your advocacy

Brad Bolton of Community Spirit Bank offers his tips on effective lobbying for community banks.

By William Atkinson

When it comes to staying in touch with members of Congress, there are probably few people in the industry other than full-time lobbyists who are as committed to the concept as Brad Bolton, president and CEO of $143 million-asset Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, Ala. We asked him how he does it—and why.

Why is it important for community bankers to communicate with their members of Congress?

Bolton: The importance of having our voice heard in Washington has never been more important. ICBA does an excellent job of getting information out to members, and also making it easy for us to get involved in grassroots efforts of going straight to our delegation of congressmen and senators.

How do you communicate with your senators and representatives?

Bolton: I use Twitter to reach out to my delegation at least once a week, and sometimes daily. It is very easy to click on the links in the ICBA NewsWatch Today newsletter that talk about the pertinent issues, then tag your representatives through Twitter. For years, representatives have responded to mailed letters and email. Now they are responding to Twitter, too.

Have you expanded beyond your personal efforts?

Bolton: If community banks get regulatory relief, everyone wins: the banks, our employees and our customers. As a result, we also send messages to our board of directors and all of our employees, encouraging them to click on these ICBA links, too. I also encourage as many of our customers as possible to follow me on Twitter and get involved. One message might be, “Click here to sign this message.”

Have you seen any results yet?

Bolton: Representatives are definitely paying attention. They are responding to our Twitter messages. In addition, we already have at least one U.S. representative who signed on to S.2155 [Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act], and I think that was a direct result of the impact of ICBA, our state association and our grassroots efforts of community bankers throughout the state reaching out to their members of Congress.

Do you have any recommendations for other community bankers?

Bolton: I strongly encourage all community bankers to “tag” their members of Congress. They have staff who monitor all of these messages. Community bankers should also engage everyone that they can in these grassroots advocacy efforts: the executives, their boards, their employees and even their customers. ICBA does an excellent job of fighting for community banks on a daily basis, but it takes each of us in our respective communities to stay engaged, monitor developments and then get the word out.

William Atkinson is a writer in Illinois.