In today’s interconnected and globalized world, one would be hard pressed to find an association in the United States that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) engage with its members’ elected representatives. It seems that nearly every day Congress discusses an issue that is ‘mission critical’ to many industries and professions. It is therefore imperative that trade or membership associations engage in a healthy amount of advocacy prior to and during these debates. Otherwise they risk ending up on the wrong side of resulting public policy. As they say in Washington “either you’re at the table, or on the menu.”
The question of how best to educate lawmakers and policymakers about your membership’s positions on particular issues could be a challenge – especially without active advocacy programs.
You may often find yourselves asking:
- Where do we even begin the process to educate influential Members of Congress?
- Do we need to improve our social media presence?
- Should we conduct Congressional visits?
- Do we need to draft op-eds? How do we get them placed?
- Should we hire a policy expert or advocate to help us?
The short answer to all of these questions is yes – keeping in mind the budgetary and resource limitations of your association.
However, what can often be overlooked when considering available resources is the most effective tool any trade association or non-profit has in its advocacy arsenal – its members.
A high profile lobbyist might be able to get you a meeting with influential staff on Capitol Hill or in the administration, but not every association can afford a high profile lobbyist. And more importantly, a lobbyist may not be the most effective level to pull when working towards your advocacy goals. Many organizations forget that their most effective advocates can often be within their membership, including volunteer leadership and members who are recognized as leaders in their fields.
Why, you might ask? Well, first and foremost, volunteer leaders and other members are citizens and constituents themselves. As constituents, their Members of Congress want to hear from them; and as leaders in their fields, their voices can be very powerful. Congressional staff consistently report that hearing from constituents on an issue is one of the single most influential factors for Members of Congress.
By focusing on leveraging the power of their members, associations can make great strides towards achieving their advocacy goals. This will not only help to stretch their resources further, but will also result in increased member engagement and broader support of the organization’s advocacy goals.
To learn more about how to leverage your members to achieve your advocacy goals with MCI USA, contact Alison Teitelbaum at Alison.email@example.com.