Help Your Association’s Grassroots Advocacy Efforts with Member and Employee Education Programs

My trade association co-workers and I hardly saw our lobbyist colleagues when Congress or the State Legislature was in session. We might have envied their lofty status with members, but we sure didn’t envy the long hours they worked. 

Sadly, we never thought about how we could have helped them achieve their goals. But looking back, the education team could have helped deliver programs that educated and created more effective grassroots advocates among our members and industry employees. 

Why your education team should care about helping your association’s grassroots advocacy efforts

Advance the mission. I know you have enough to do, but the reason to make an effort is right there in your association’s mission. Usually, an association mission mentions improving the business environment, tackling an industry crisis, or something aspirational along those lines. 

If you can tie your accomplishments to those strategic goals, you’ll get extra credit at performance review time. But that’s not all. 

Put more revenue in everyone’s pockets. Your lobbyist colleagues fight laws and regulations that make it harder for members to prosper. And they propose laws and regulations that create better business conditions for members. 

When members do better and make more money, they have more money to spend on membership dues, sponsorships, educational events and programs, and other products and services. They’re less stressed and more likely to dedicate time to the association that helps them succeed.

Attract new eyes to your education programs. Have you been trying to convince industry managers and executives to support their employees’ professional development? The higher-ups may not pay attention to your education program promotions, but they pay attention to advocacy.

If they see your association teaching their employees how to be industry advocates, they may be more willing to find out how else your education programs can help them achieve business goals. Employees who watch advocacy videos or download tip sheets might explore your website to see what else you’re offering. 

Earn goodwill all around. Your team earns the goodwill of industry employers, especially when you track their employees’ participation and let them know how much you appreciate their support. 

But you’ll earn even more appreciation from your colleagues on the advocacy team. In many associations, lobbyists have the ear of executives and board members, so they’re good people to have on your side.

How to increase participation in grassroots advocacy

Start by helping your advocacy colleagues train the members and industry employees who plan to participate in your annual fly-in, Hill Day, Congressional visit day, or state lobby day, either virtually or in person. If your efforts are successful, expand your programs to encourage year-round grassroots advocacy.

Fly-ins and state lobby days

Prepare participants to be persuasive spokespeople for industry causes when they visit their reps and senators. Host a variety of short educational programs on your learning management system (LMS). Nothing should take longer than five minutes to complete. For example, help them learn about: 

•    Benefits of pending legislation or regulations
•    Costs of existing or pending legislation or regulations
•    Emerging issues

Share this information in videos, one-pagers, and talking points. To help participants retain the main points, include quizzes in videos so they can test their knowledge and feel confident about making their case. Schedule a discussion of these issues on your podcast or in a live online town hall with Q&A.

Combine your lobby day with an Awareness Week. This bigger promotion gets more association departments involved and is likely to spread your message beyond your regular audience. Highlight one advocacy action members can take each day to educate themselves or others. Share resources and templates for each day.

view of a capital dome where your association's grassroots advocacy efforts take place

Year-round grassroots advocacy

Many associations host an advocacy hub on their website that’s powered by their grassroots advocacy software or LMS. An LMS is ideal for hosting text and video microlearning modules for prospective and existing grassroots advocates. Include quizzes that test their knowledge

Provide toolkits with: 

•    Lobby visit, call, or email tips and guidelines
•    One-pagers
•    Talking points
•    Templates

With an LMS, you can track individual and employee progress, and track their use of advocacy training resources.

Offer a Policymaking 101 mini-course that teaches how the legislative and/or regulatory process works, and how members/employees can make a difference. Provide association fast facts and a list of your legislative and regulatory priorities. 

Other advocacy modules could show members how to:

•    Communicate with policymakers and their staff
•    Share their story
•    Make the most of a visit
•    Follow up on a visit
•    Build relationships with policymakers and their staff
•    Write an op-ed piece
•    Be an advocate from home
•    Plan and host a policymaker visit to their workplace

But where do you start? Well before your annual lobby day, find out how members are currently educated about legislative and regulatory issues and building relationships with policymakers—and how many members are taking part in these efforts.

Talk with different people on the executive and advocacy teams about your ideas for delivering and marketing new programs. You don’t want to have your great ideas shot down by just one person, so find champions. If the government affairs department doesn’t have a grassroots advocacy platform, explain how your LMS can help. 

Collaborate with the advocacy team on a member survey to determine their level of understanding of different legislative and regulatory issues, and which ones they want to know more about. With that information, you can propose introductory videos, quizzes, talking points, and deeper-dive webinars. 

When your members better understand your association’s legislative and regulatory priorities and their role in achieving those goals, they can more confidently make an effective case with policymakers. By helping members help themselves become more prosperous, you help your association become more prosperous too.

member engagement
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