Face Time: Associations Converge on the Hill
Face-to-face meetings with members of Congress give association executives the chance to have their message heard loud and clear on American Associations Day.
Over 300 association professionals from around the country came together in Washington, DC, on Tuesday to send a unified message to members of Congress about the important role their organizations play in society. The coordinated effort was the centerpiece of American Associations Day—the annual legislative fly-in organized by ASAE.
“This day is a great opportunity for us to actually be here and develop relationships with the [congressional] staffers that are in the DC offices,” said Wendy Kavanagh, CAE, president of the Georgia Society of Association Executives, who was attending her tenth fly-in. “It’s critical to have those staff relationships in order to get a message to our delegates.”
Major issues that took center stage in the discussions Tuesday included tax reform and meetings restrictions for federal employees.
Kavanaugh said the event is important for maintaining relationships among legislative staffs with heavy turnover. GSAE had recently lost its longtime staff contact in the office of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), recently named cochair of the House Ways and Means Committee Charitable/Exempt Organizations Tax Reform Working Group.
“Getting in to meet Congressman Lewis’s tax policy person was huge,” said Kavanagh. “And with meetings, we wanted to make sure that our congressmen and our senators were fully informed of the importance of the hospitality industry. From our standpoint, we’re working on a new stadium [in] Atlanta, so we wanted to gossip about that with them as well.”
Provisions in the Affordable Care Act—including healthcare exchanges and the employer mandate—along with campaign finance reform and postal reform were also discussed.
On Monday, attendees took part in a series of educational events to prepare for their meetings and get a better grasp of issues affecting associations. The program included a briefing from former congressman Philip English, who offered tips on how to hold a successful meeting with congressional staff, and a panel discussion on how to effectively use the Power of A message.
Associations have achieved many legislative successes in recent years, including repealing the 1099 requirement, protecting the charitable deduction, and adding nonprofits to a small-employer tax credit. Association advocates say this success can be at least partly attributed to the connections they made while visiting their legislators on the Hill.
“This is the one time each year when association executives can set aside the policy and legislative agendas of our respective organizations and address issues of importance to our [association management] profession,” said Andrea Rutledge, executive director of the National Architecture Accrediting Board. “Instead of escorting our members to the Hill, we are the members. Rarely do association executives have an opportunity to act as members of their own profession. The fly-in is one of those opportunities.”