Three Steps to Building an Advocacy Program

So, your organization wants to start an advocacy program. Now what? Advocacy can be a powerful vehicle for strengthening an industry, protecting your members and affecting change. How do you get started? Here are three steps to building your advocacy program:

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Step 1: Start with why. Advocacy can serve many purposes for your organization, such as:

  • Monitoring and addressing regulation that impacts your members
  • Legislating industry standards and/or licensing
  • Increasing awareness of an issue facing your members
  • Creating new business opportunities for members
  • Addressing workforce issues
  • Engaging in social change that is important to your members

Step 2: Articulate what advocacy will look like for your organization. Some good questions to ask are:

  • Are you going to actively pursue specific legislation, regulations or changes? If so, what are your exact goals?
  • Will you just be monitoring for things that adversely affect your members?
  • If you are a national organization, are you going to engage only at the federal level or will you engage at the state level as well?
  • For state organizations, will you engage with local government as well as the state legislature?

Step 3: Before you can meet your goals, you need to determine if you have the resources to make it happen. To build your advocacy plan, think about:

  • What strategic partnerships will be important to reach your legislative goals? This may include chapters and/or other organizations with similar goals.
  • Do you need to hire a lobbyist or legislative monitoring service?
  • How will your board and staff work together to make decisions and set goals?
  • Do you need a government affairs staff person?
  • How will you communicate with and engage your membership in the process?

Regardless of your purpose, goals and resources, you will need to engage your members in every step to be successful. Advocacy will take a significant amount of your organization’s resources and you will need members to support your efforts so they continue to find value in membership. Your advocacy program will be more successful if you have many united voices, so you will need members to get involved.

Association advocacy has always been a force of change in industries and has created many lasting positive impacts on our society while supporting countless professionals in their careers. Though advocacy is a challenging undertaking, the pay-off can be huge for your organization and your members.