October 12, 2015
“[…] And to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Laid out in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, this line empowers American citizens to lobby Congress and advocate for interests most important to them before their Federal officials. Over time, citizens have banded together to advocate for issues of mutual interest and increase their likelihood of success. This focus on advocacy is reflected in the mission statements of many organizations, particularly trade associations and professional societies that grew out of less formal coalitions formed to influence a particular issue. Perhaps more important today than ever, advocacy is a key activity your organization can execute with the help of its members.
For many organizations, an advocacy program can start with something as simple as endorsing a coalition effort or signing on to a letter. While this can be effective in its own right, it is not enough to attract new members or ensure your organization’s unique issues are on the minds of policymakers.
At Kellen, we recommend starting small and building your advocacy program into one that engages and empowers your members through results. This process often starts when an organization wants to advocate for or against federal or state policies. At this stage, association staff needs to be able to determine the potential impact of regulation or legislation on its members and effectively communicate that impact. Even if all of the membership is not actively engaged with the issue, part of the responsibility of association staff is to inform all members about the potential impacts and encourage them to communicate their concerns.
Letters, phone calls, and visits from the right constituents with the proper messaging can make all the difference to policymakers in either supporting or opposing a policy of importance. Elected officials want to hear how changes will affect businesses and citizens in their districts and state. This direct contact between constituent and elected representatives is exactly what the First Amendment is about, and what the association can help facilitate by informing, engaging, and empowering your membership.
Effectively run advocacy programs utilize the existing membership network to harness grassroots support. They also create a platform to attract potential new members. Has your organization considered how advocacy or Capitol Hill engagement can build engagement? Contact Kellen’s advocacy team to learn more about starting the process.