Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 15

GO AHEAD. GOOGLE the words "association

advocacy" and see what pops up. I recently did
the same which resulted in over 87 million hits.
American Association for Justice, Muscular Dystrophy
Association, National CASA Association ... thousands
of associations that prominently include the word
"advocacy" on their websites.
But what does advocacy mean? Is it something
handled by your governmental relations (GR) team,
your entire staff, your association members, or some
combination thereof? How much, if any, of your
association's time should be spent on advocacy? And
finally, who is your audience?
These are some of the questions I explore on a daily
basis with clients and other work acquaintances and
honestly, it's a favorite part of what I do as an education
lobbyist. As a former public school teacher, I enjoy
giving people the tools and the confidence to achieve
things on their own and I know I've done my job well
when a client is able to advocate for themselves,
whether it be in their community or at the Capitol.
Before we go too far, I'll do my best to dispel the
stigma of the "L" word. Lobbyists are ordinary people
who work between an organization and elected officials.
Their value lies in their relationships and knowledge
that can help your issue move through the halls of
government. Elected officials are faced with myriad
tough decisions, and any lobbyist worth their salt will
honestly present all sides of an issue at face value, and
in so doing become a trusted source of information. I
don't own a yacht. I don't take senators on ski trips. I'm
just a school teacher who has taken her passion to
the statehouse.

I Don't Do "Advocacy," So Why
Should I Care?
So let's assume that your organization isn't
actively involved in advocacy or that you are not
the governmental relations/advocacy lead for your
organization. You're plugging along, doing great work,
and advocacy probably isn't at the front of your mind.
Why should this article be of interest to you?
It's become increasingly important for associations
to engage in advocacy on behalf of their members.
And for associations that are already doing some
advocacy, the work of the advocacy team is becoming
more challenging. Why is this? (And stay with me while
I become somewhat political for a moment!) On both
sides of the aisle, political leadership is shifting
more toward an "individual liberty" mindset
instead of making decisions based on the good
of the community. This is in stark contrast to the
mission of many of the associations you serve

- missions based around the concept that we are
stronger as a whole.
Most associations engage in some type of advocacy
within their own membership, or publicly at the local,
state, or federal level. It may be time to take a deeper look
at how you, your employees and members can play a role
in the advocacy process.

Taking the First Step
If your association currently does not engage in
advocacy, here are a few steps to lay the groundwork:
Define what advocacy will look like for your
organization:
* If advocacy is new for your group, decide who will take
the lead, how they will update the rest of team, and
what role your members will play. Assuming you'll be
advocating at the Capitol, who will be the "face" of the
organization during testimony or times of crisis?
* Decide whether your association needs the services
of a professional advocate or lobbyist. This person
may be someone in-house who advocates for your
association full time or they may be a contract lobbyist
who has a variety of clients.
* Be very clear about what you're advocating for. Stay
within your association's mission statement and work
with your board or GR committee to clearly define the
group's policy areas. In other words, don't try to save
the entire planet! Just work to improve your corner of it.
* Start small and increase your association's advocacy
footprint as your members' interest increases:
* Review your bylaws to see if there are any guidelines
regarding advocacy or prohibitions against lobbying.
Work with your board to change the bylaws, if needed.
Remember, 501c3s can lobby but there are specific
rules and guidelines you must follow.
* Let your members know that the organization is
jumping into the area of advocacy. Be clear about what
that means for your association in particular.
* Consider including an advocacy column in your
newsletter and/or a section on the association's
website. Include direct contact information for the
person(s) leading your advocacy efforts and keep your
policy issue areas visible for your members and for
the public.
* Expand your awareness by following political news
outlets and political reporters - Look up "Texas Capitol
Press Corps" for an excellent Twitter list created by
the Texas Tribune, watch committee hearings that are
broadcast online, or visit the Capitol in person - nearly
all proceedings are open to the public. Remember that
even reputable news sources can be politically biased,
so try to avoid echo chambers, read from multiple
sources, and decide on issues for yourself.
MAY/JUNE 2018

15



Association Leadership - May/June 2018

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Association Leadership - May/June 2018

Homepage
60-Second Solutions
Ask a Hotelier
Tech Talks Recap
What Every Association Professional Needs to Know About Advocacy
Are There Blind Spots in Your Sexual Harassment Policies?
Email Phishing in the New Wild West
Identifying Email Risks to Your Association
Harness the Power of Your Publication
Meetings Minute
Destination Planner
New Members
Index to Advertisers
Backpack to Briefcase
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - Intro
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - cover1
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - cover2
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 3
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 4
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 5
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 6
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - Homepage
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 60-Second Solutions
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 9
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - Ask a Hotelier
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 11
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - Tech Talks Recap
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 13
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - What Every Association Professional Needs to Know About Advocacy
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 15
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 16
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 17
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 18
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 19
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - Are There Blind Spots in Your Sexual Harassment Policies?
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 21
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - Identifying Email Risks to Your Association
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 23
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - Harness the Power of Your Publication
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - 25
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - Meetings Minute
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - Destination Planner
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - New Members
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - Index to Advertisers
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - Backpack to Briefcase
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - cover3
Association Leadership - May/June 2018 - cover4
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