Congratulations, Your Legislative Advocacy Worked! So What’s Next?

When a piece of legislation you advocated for is passed, a new kind of work begins: implementation. Take these steps to make the most out of policy implementation and regulatory processes.

When an association has a public policy win, it’s something to celebrate. But for many associations, the work doesn’t stop there. Advocacy was the first step, and now someone has to act upon all those plans to help put the policy into place. How can you prepare your team for those challenges after a policy change that might have been years in the making?

“For most organizations, it’s a huge sense of pride and relief. Afterwards, you have to be really cognizant of how it’s implemented, so there’s no resting on your laurels,” said Nick DeSarno, the Public Affairs Council’s director of digital and policy communications, who helps advise its membership on advocacy strategies.

Consider these tips from DeSarno to hit the ground running once you earn a legislative advocacy win.

Step 1: Show Support for Your Allies

There were probably a number of people outside of your association who came to bat for you during the advocacy process. Now it’s time to recognize and thank those allies, and to support them by making your members aware of them so that your base can help them fight for change in their own spheres. For example, if a politician who helped you is up for reelection, making your members aware of his or her efforts could add supporters to his or her campaign.

“Show that, ‘Hey, we did something great for our members; this is why you belong to our association. And here’s who’s helped us,’” DeSarno said.

This will help in two ways: Potential partners in future advocacy efforts will recognize that your organization appreciates its supporters and may be willing to reciprocate. And you’ll re-energize your members—who are coming off a hard-fought policy win—by showing them that being part of an association of empowered people gives them the opportunity to be a part of real change.

Step 2: Communicate Your Win Early and Often

Policy wins are no small feat, so your association shouldn’t treat them as such. Don’t be shy about telling members the impact your association made. In your communications, try to spell out how this win will benefit each member.

“There’s a big problem in terms of motivating advocates because a lot of these issues can take years to resolve,” DeSarno said. “When there’s a win, it needs to be communicated for a while.”

Step 3: Prepare Your Organization for the Regulatory Process

After a piece of legislation passes, the regulatory process comes next. This is when government agencies determine exactly how to implement a bill by ironing out details and establishing rules. Part of the process includes a comment period in which the public submits suggestions and arguments about how to implement the legislation. Government agencies often call on association leaders to serve as subject matter experts and to recommend rules to establish.

“A lot of agencies will ask for comments and then ask for help in terms of implementing them effectively,” DeSarno said. “The agencies have expertise, but sometimes associations have even more expertise.”

Preparation should include keeping your members informed on the legislation by putting together policy briefs, holding webinars, and relaying any new rules or guidance published by regulatory agencies. DeSarno also suggests working with consultants and lawyers who can provide more expertise.

Step 4: Be Ready to Shift Focus Quickly

Demonstrate your organization’s ambitions to members by showing them you won’t stop at this successful advocacy effort. Has there been a cause your organization put on the back burner to focus on this policy win? Maybe it’s time to put that project into motion again.

“Where can you now shift your attention? What’s next? Because you need to continue to deliver value for members every day,” DeSarno said. “It’s, ‘OK, we got the legislation passed. What are our priorities, and what is the biggest need that we can have an impact on?’”

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Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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