Encourage Members to Become Year-Round Advocates
An advocacy pro shares three ways that associations can strengthen their advocacy efforts by encouraging members to become advocates throughout the year.
The annual fly-in is an important event for an association’s advocacy efforts because it gives members the opportunity to have conversations with elected officials or their staff about the importance of their industry or profession. However, advocacy work doesn’t begin and end that day—it’s a year-round effort.
“Your fly-in is not the end of your advocacy journey, it’s the kickoff party,” said Margarita Valdez Martínez, director of policy and advocacy at the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT). “It’s just one part of how your members can engage with legislators throughout the year.”
She shared how organizing virtual meetings between members and elected officials, leveraging social media, and incorporating advocacy-related issues into your annual conference can help inspire members to engage year-round and strengthen advocacy efforts.
Raise Awareness With Social Media
ASGCT created a specific hashtag for whenever the association posts about its advocacy efforts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media platforms—something that other organizations can easily replicate.
By using a hashtag, members can see advocacy efforts and wins that have occurred at the state and federal level, check when their association is holding advocacy-related webinars, and get updated on when the organization is highlighting advocacy sessions at its annual meeting.
“It’s a great way for members to follow the conversation virtually and for legislators and their staff to easily search the policy positions that we posted online,” Martínez said.
An advocacy hashtag also educates members about the association’s efforts and keeps seasoned members motivated and gives them an opportunity to express their support publicly.
“You’re essentially making your own branding for advocacy,” Martínez said. “We know members are on social media and so are elected officials, so we’re reaching our target audience and spreading awareness.”
Hold Virtual Meetings
Even as the world continues to return to in-person meetups, Martínez recommends that associations still schedule virtual meetings with elected officials and their staff.
“We know that elected officials want to hear from subject-matter experts, but it can be difficult to get members to fly out to their state capital or to Washington, DC. However, they have time to do a 30-minute video call from their home or office to meet with officials,” she said.
Unlike an annual Hill Day, associations can hold virtual meetings throughout the year, giving members multiple opportunities to get time with elected officials and feel like they’re influencing policymakers.
“We’ve also held virtual town halls between legislators and members,” Martínez said. “These require a bit more effort because we need to do some level-setting with members. We explain that this is an opportunity to ask questions and engage in policy issues that are relevant to the organization, to avoid members trying to discuss personal matters.”
Incorporate Into Annual Meeting
Associations can also make advocacy part of the conversation during their annual conferences. Martínez recommends talking to senior leadership early about incorporating advocacy topics into your programming. The earlier you start the conversation, the more likely you’ll be able to include informative advocacy sessions and even invite legislators or regulators to talk to members during the sessions.
“We’ve also done fireside chats with regulators and legislators at our meetings,” Martínez said. “Advocacy impacts everything that happens at an organization because the decisions being made at the federal or state level have a trickledown effect.”
Weaving policy or regulatory issues into your conference can help members recognize how potential policies could affect the industry and their work and allows the association to drum up interest in advocacy.
“In our efforts, we make the discussions bipartisan so it can appeal to all attendees,” Martinez said. “We bring in legislators or legislative staff who represent both sides of the aisle. We want to show members that these policies require bipartisan and bicameral work to move forward.”