An Executive Director's point of view
December 26, 2016: A Congressional briefing
They ambush staffers, monopolize their time, and shove multiple-page statements in their hands.
They act is if their issue is the most important one in the whole world.
Well, it may be to them. But to lawmakers and staff, it's merely one of many.
You are more likely to get results if you lobby this way.
December 21, 2016: Working the room
Here are some suggestions on how to do it without being afraid.
NOTE: Trying to meet one person or one type of person in a room is a lot easier than trying to meet everybody in the room.
December 14, 2016: Political advice
He successfully executed a business plan to acquire the most valuable company on the planet, and he is now going to become CEO of the government of the United States of America.
We knew from the beginning that political dynamics would be different this time around.
If your organization needs to interact with the federal government, keep in mind that it will be led by a conservative businessman who makes situational decisions and keeps his adversaries off balance by not letting them know what he is thinking.
He is not beholden to the political party that nominated him. In fact, many of its leaders publicly repudiated him and they'll now have to re-think their own action strategies.
Nor is he wedded to party platforms or ideological agendas. He will do what he wants to do.
Such things as public opinion and congressional approval will merely be factors that may, or may not, influence his decision-making.
So, advocate for your cause, but remember you are negotiating a business deal when you do that. Political strategies that worked for you before may not work anymore.
December 07, 2016: Talking to Congress
November 09, 2016: Election lesson
How did both political parties fail to recognize the latent power of protest? Why were comments that appeared crude to some, seem honest to others? What role did gender play? Were voters repudiating the Obama Administration, challenging the "establishment," or simply choosing a candidate? Did the electoral map reflect only a minor shift from the norm?
Lessons for associations:
Do not stubbornly cling to organizational tradition and accepted etiquette. Don't dismiss critics as "outsiders" or "renegades." Incorporate dissent in your decision-making process. Accept change.
Strive for good decisions, not for unanimity. And don't always try to preserve the established way of conducting association business.
November 08, 2016: Election Day
I cast a ballot today in every contested race, from President down to Water Reclamation District. The choices were all easy and they were all important.
I'll view election returns tonight, then hunker down to work tomorrow.
Over and done.
May 20, 2016: What are they thinking?
Don't assume your position is morally superior to theirs or that you are right and they are wrong.
Many people are likely to think differently than you, may adopt policy positions you find abhorrent, and will support causes you believe are absolutely evil.
You are more likely to achieve success if you understand the opposition, develop arguments to counter their claims, and can devise a strategy that will weaken their position in the eyes of whatever audiences matter in that situation.
April 22, 2016: Association advocacy
I hope their training includes a strong dose of reality and pragmatism.
For example, when testifying for or against a bill in a state legislative committee hearing, you should know the outcome of the committee vote before you even testify, because you should have already lobbied each individual on the committee. The hearing is merely your opportunity to state your views for the record and to score public relations points.
You should already have spoken with the Governor's office and with the department that will be responsible for dealing with the legislation, know where they stand on the bill, and adjust your advocacy strategy accordingly.
Often, the only legislators listening to your testimony will be your supporters, so they can advocate for your position, and your opponents, so they can shoot you down. Other committee members may be checking their email, returning phone calls, surfing the web on their smartphones, or even napping.
They'll cast votes in accordance with the views of their party or faction, or they may follow a colleague's recommendation. Your testimony will often have little, if any, impact on their votes.
So dump the civics lessons you were taught in school and adhere to the political culture of the legislative forum in which you are seeking a victory.
March 27, 2016: Legislative surprises
Are interest groups not always aware of the content or impact of legislation that affects their audiences?
Yes. That and more. Here's what's happening.