Advocating for our industry is always important, but never more so than during a presidential election year. The current pandemic has further intensified the need for advocacy in the banking industry, with constant shifts in expectations and regulations surrounding government relief programs on top of all the “normal” regulatory pressures our industry faces. Wisconsin’s banks need grassroots advocacy, now and through the November elections.

What is grassroots advocacy? If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen and heard the term before, but may not know exactly what “grassroots advocacy” looks like. What I’ve learned is that lawmakers in Madison and Washington, D.C. often don't understand the ins and outs of banking—most of them aren’t bankers, after all!—and that means they need to hear about the impact of possible rules and laws from bankers. No one else can provide as credible insights and real-life examples.

Grassroots advocacy is a banker (maybe you) attending a virtual town hall with your elected officials and voicing concerns or simply providing perspective on an issue you feel strongly about, whether that’s PPP, regulatory burden, or tax parity with credit unions.

Grassroots advocacy is carving out the time for a one-day trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in a roundtable discussion with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on community banks. Thanks to Gerald Jacobson, president of Northwestern Bank, Chippewa Falls and a fellow WBA Board member for making the trek! (Read more).

Grassroots advocacy is attending fundraising events (in-person or virtual) and talking to politicians about how they can help your bank, your customers, and your community thrive with the laws they support.

Grassroots advocacy is picking up the phone and telling your local, state, and/or federal representatives to give them “boots on the ground” perspective of what’s happening in your local economy, and how much your bank is helping keep businesses and families going right now.

Grassroots advocacy is designating an up-and-comer at your bank to be the institution’s Advocacy Officer, a volunteer leadership role created to develop bankers’ careers and support the industry’s advocacy efforts at the same time.

Grassroots advocacy is remembering to tell WBA that your neighbor’s brother is a state Senator, or that your nephew is a staffer for a state Assemblywoman.

Grassroots advocacy is contributing $25, $50, $150, or more to support pro-banking candidates in upcoming elections.

Grassroots advocacy is sending an email to lawmakers in response to a WBA Action Alert.

Grassroots advocacy is you, defending our industry with your voice and with your dollars.

Kohler is President of Charter Bank, Eau Claire and WBA Chair.