Association Executives Tout Community’s Reputation During Fly-In
Key issues like restrictions on government employees attending meetings and tax reform were high priority on American Associations Day. But advocates also set out to improve the reputation of associations on the Hill.
The message of several hundred members of the association community who converged on Capitol Hill this week played to a familiar tune. Concerns were raised over limits on government employees’ ability to attend association meetings and over the apparent attack on the nonprofit community’s tax-exempt status.
However, this year’s iteration of ASAE’s American Associations Day included a new rallying cry—one that touted the reputation of associations and their importance in the legislative process.
“Associations have really suffered in perception over the last few years,” said Paul Pomerantz, CEO of the American Society of Anesthesiologists and chair of the Power of A Committee. “From the Obama administration placing restrictions on access to the executive branch, to limits on government employees attending meetings, to, now, the questioning of associations’ tax-exempt status—all of this is happening in a void where policymakers don’t understand that associations are there really to give a voice to citizens, but also to contribute to the greater good.”
This year’s Hill Day gave associations the opportunity to meet with members of Congress and explain to them the importance of the work that they’re doing, Pomerantz explained.
“It’s a very powerful message that gets at who we are and why we exist,” he said. “Our hope is that at the end of the day, policymakers realize they need to support us and listen to what we have to say on certain issues.”
In order for the message to stick, associations need to continue to push that message throughout the year, Pomerantz said.
“Think of your representatives just like you would a member, someone you want to stay in touch with,” he said. “Follow up in your district, get to know their staff, get to know who runs the district, get to know their chief of staff in Washington, and keep sending notes and newsletters. If you’re going to be doing something major at your association, invite them to that event. It’s all about making that personal connection.”
Were you a fly-in participant this year or in the past? Share your Hill Day stories in the comments.