FAIRFAX, Va.-Running for a seat on the CUNA board, Joe Thomas is attempting to paint himself as an innovator and a modern thinker. As part of that, he's brought a new element to CUNA board elections: social media.

Thomas, who also serves as president of Fairfax County FCU here, is running against incumbent John Graham for the only contested seat on the CUNA board.

"I think there's an opportunity to present new ideas and innovation of new approaches credit unions can be using in today's environment," said Thomas. "A lot of credit unions are struggling to redefine and distinguish themselves as FIs in their local communities, and I think there are some opportunities that credit unions could be taking better advantage of."

Thomas was quick to clarify that "I don't want to give the impression that CUNA isn't trying to take new approaches," but he said that many times credit unions-particularly smaller ones-need an advocate, and he hopes to serve that role. Thomas specifically pointed to helping CUs find new forms of funding-including grants and other financial assistance-as well as increased technical assistance as an area where he will focus if elected.

Thomas said that he has been on Facebook for several years and that he views the social media aspect of his candidacy as just another way of getting the word out. Campaigns for CUNA board seats usually are made up of letter-writing campaigns, e-mail blasts and phone calls. Using social media to get the word out is still relatively unusual.


A Different Format

"My strategy was to get the information out in a different format," said Thomas. "I'm talking about innovation and new ideas, and I thought 'Why don't I practice what I preach by using some new methodology to get my name out there?'"

Thomas isn't abandoning old-school campaigning, but has also put a modern twist on it. He has sent a postcard to credit union CEOs in his district (which includes Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky) with information about his campaign, as well as a scanable QR code to download more information on his candidacy.

Having served in the Virginia/Washington D.C. metro area for nearly 20 years, Thomas said that he's a well-known figure to many in the region. But that may not be the case in other parts of the CUNA district. "I thought this would be an innovative way of getting my message out and getting my name in front of as many people as I can," he said.

Ballots have already been sent out and are due back by Jan. 4, with the final results set to be announced at CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference in February.

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