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June 8, 2012

Is Polling Still Worth It?

I feel like I've been buried in poll numbers even more than usual, from Wisconsin governor recall results to public confidence in the economy to American Idol. But are polls really trustworthy anymore, when you have one-third of the public living cell-phone-only and most of the rest using caller ID on land-lines to help them avoid any surveys, even when they support the cause or campaign (guilty as charged!)?

Because so many associations poll members and potential members on everything from dues raises to advocacy positions, I turned to the man who knows more than almost anyone about the veracity and challenges of accurate polling: Bill McInturff, co-founder & partner, Public Opinion Strategies.

Bill, who is speaking today as part of the "Decision 2012" General Session at the ASAE Financial and Business Operations Conference, leads--along with partner Peter D. Hart--the largest polling company in the country, Public Opinion Strategies. The firm handles polling for NBC News/Wall Street Journal and works closely on polling challenges with the two primary industry associations, the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASR) and American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR).

"You can believe poll results but still have dwindling confidence," he told me. "There's no question that with the glut of polling, credibility is a little lower, because people are hearing wider, more diverse results of what different polls are saying. And there's no question that the basic confidence they have in polling is very different than it was 20 to 40 years ago. They're certainly asking more questions about methodology.

Despite those troubles, "if it's done correctly, it's still broadly accurate," Bill says. "It's still the best way to collect customer and other information about public opinion, and people don't tire of needing that information."
It will cost them more, though, to get it. According to Bill, the price of polling has risen for three reasons: (1) "federal laws and mandates dictate that you cannot use auto-dialers for cell phone numbers--you have to call cell phones by hand; (2) cooperation rates are much lower, so you have to call more people to get a completed survey; and (3) you have to collect the data ... using increased labor costs."

To better ensure poll veracity, Bill--who was the lead pollster for John McCain during the latter's 2008 presidential bid--advises associations to "be good consumers and make sure you go through a discussion with the pollster about methodology," asking about compensation rates for cell-phone-only or other respondents, how the "convenience factor" of women answering the phone more than men is handled, and how the data have been weighted and by how much.

I'll be writing a second blog post shortly that shares Bill's responses on whether associations can trust that the viewpoints of respondents reflect those of non-respondents as well, the potential for social media to offer new surveying opportunities, and more. I invite comments about your own association's successes or challenges when polling. And maybe you can snag Bill after the session to get more of his input, too. Thanks, Bill, for sharing your insights so generously at this busy time!

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April 18, 2012

Earth Day Offers Visibility, Fun, Engagement

It's Earth Day this Sunday and National Volunteer Month for a few weeks more, so loads of associations and their member companies and professionals are organizing, educating, celebrating, volunteering, and just plain participating in this worldwide effort to bolster environmental conservation.

Here's a snapshot of what some are doing or already have done--and it's not too late to join in yourself!

Start by downloading the free Earth Day 2012 Toolkit , where you can also learn about and be inspired by "A Billion Acts of Green," the world's largest environmental service campaign. And if you're in DC, you may want to check out the massive party scene happening at the National Mall rally and concerts either in person or online (live-streaming at www.earthday.org)

Sounds like some more partying will go on over at the 2012 Mighty Kindness Earth Day Hootenanny on April 22 organized by the Kentucky Chiropractic Association. The fun is combined with a more serious purpose: promoting a new state license "Go Green with Chiropractic" plate that aims "to elevate the chiropractic industry and its environmentally friendly nature in Kentucky" and raise some money as well.

The Eco-Dentistry Association will host its first tweetchat for dental industry professionals and consumers worldwide "to discuss the essentials of a high-tech, wellness based, and successful green dental practice."

The American Bar Association's Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) in sponsoring the One Million Trees Project-Right Tree for the Right Place at the Right Time nationwide public service project. Started in March 2009, the project "calls on ABA members to contribute to the goal of planting one million trees across the United States by 2014 - both by planting trees themselves and by contributing to the partnering tree organizations." It also is promoting nominations for the 2012 ABA Award for Excellence in Environmental, Energy, and Resources Stewardship.

Entertainment Cruises is partnering with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) has partnered with Entertainment Cruises to offer an Earth Day brunch cruise to enjoy Washington, DC, views while learning from the NAAEE about green energy, environmental initiatives and its upcoming conference.

More than 1,000 volunteers of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) are engaging in 10 signature Earth Day projects from prairie re-vegetation to exotic plant species removal on public lands across the U.S. on April 14 and 21. These events have some powerful sponsors, including American Eagle Outfitters, ARAMARK, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Exelon Foundation, Johnson Controls, Sony, and Southwest Airlines.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has released the First Annual Report of the eCycling Leadership Initiative, which details how the consumer electronics industry has dramatically increased its recycling in 2011 and advanced the goals set by the eCycling Leadership Initiative (also called the Billion Pound Challenge). For instance, participants of the initiative arranged for the responsible recycling of 460 million pounds of consumer electronics, a 53% increase over the 300 million pounds recycled in 2010. The number of recycling drop-off locations for consumers also was bolstered from to nearly 7,500 from just over 5,000 a year ago. And CEA launched GreenerGadgets.org to educate consumers about eCycling and energy consumption. By entering a ZIP code, anyone can locate the closest responsible recycling opportunity sponsored by the CE industry and/or third-party certified recycler. The initiative aims to increase electronics recycling to one billion pounds annually by 2016 and providing transparent metrics on eCycling efforts. A billion pounds of unrecycled waste electronics would fill a 71,000-seat NFL stadium.

The American Medical Student Association and Medical Alumni Association at Temple University are planting seeds and preparing a "Medicinal and Edible Learning Garden" and education event to discuss natural medicinal remedies.

The National Parks and Recreation Association is urging people to take advantage of waived entrance fees at U.S. national parks from April 21 to April 29 during National Park Week. Download your free Owner's Guide to America's National Parks. I know a few associations that are planning staff picnics and hikes at local parks and Great Falls National Park in sync with this promotional event.

The New York City Association of Hotel Concierges (NYCAHC) and its affiliate members will celebrate MillionTreesNYC at a "Dig In for Earth Day" tree-planting event May 5 in partnership with Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Parks and New York Restoration Project. Since the program's inception in 2007, thousands of New Yorkers have helped plant over 400,000 trees, with NYCAHC planting more than 2,000 of them.

American Forests' easy online calculator and offsetting options make it easy to offset your home or car pollution (I offset my minivan's emissions for about $17 last year through AF). Earth Day Network also offers an eco-calculator.

Whatever you do, just consider doing something green this weekend and join your colleagues in making the planet a bit healthier for us all!

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April 22, 2011

Earth Day: A Chance at Relevancy

Earth Day can be a fraud, a feast, or a fizzle.

It can be a great rallying date around which to publicly re-enunciate your organization's commitment to sustainability and showcase actions you've taken that back it up, or it either can be dissed as a greenwashing exercise or simply ignore it.

But are the latter two options very smart business choices with all of the studies showing the growing influence of eco-conscious consumers, the heightened watchfulness of media and citizen journalists, and the myriad hard data that have emerged about the positive ROI of a well-planned social responsibility strategy that syncs with organizational mission and core competencies?

If that kind of strategy sounds time-intensive to chart, it can be. However, it takes effort to plan any strategy, so I don't think that concern should be seen as much more than an excuse, especially when this approach jives so well with most our community's common goals of operating efficiently, attracting and retaining talent, holding tight to our budgets, bolstering innovation, engaging members, and building brand value.

It's heartening to see the many press releases from nonprofits and associations today as they urge members and consumers to switch to paper-free bill paying, plant a tree, volunteer, recycle, insulate, and more.

Less heartening is that so many associations are silent today. I promise you that no matter what industry or profession your group represents, your members--maybe not all of them, but certainly a growing percentage--are indeed moving toward greater sustainability. This is a chance for your association to be relevant. This is a chance to show value in a new way. There are serious opportunities here for any organization of any size in any location (you'll find some examples at www.asaecenter.org/socialresponsibility) to help members strengthen their businesses and professions.

So celebrate Earth Day today. Acknowledge it with authenticity. Tell staff, members, and others what you already are doing to help lighten your environmental footprint (that kind of self-audit is the first step anyway), and ask them what else you could be doing.

You may find the sustainability journey to be an enlightening road to greater relevancy.

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April 20, 2011

What if there were no legislators at your legislative fly-in?

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So the government shutdown didn't happen, but it certainly had many people in Washington, DC, including associations, worrying over how to adjust if the shutdown had occurred. Perhaps none more so than the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association, whose legislative fly-in event was scheduled for April 11-12, the first two business days of the would-be shutdown.

I spoke with Tom Fise, AOPA executive director, today about how planning for the event was affected as the shutdown loomed.

"It probably advanced the aging process here a little bit," he said. "It seemed that everything had a contingency to it as we got down to the end."

The AOPA Policy Forum event, which draws about 120 attendees and features education on the first day with meetings on Capitol Hill on the second, had been scheduled about eight months in advance, and by the time the government shutdown became a clear possibility, the event schedule and meetings with lawmakers had already been arranged. Fise and his staff communicated with speakers and Hill staff so they knew who would and wouldn't be available in the event of a shutdown and planned backup options where possible. To a large degree, though, they simply had to carry on with planning and keep fingers crossed that the government would be open.

"There was not a lot of reliable information about what was going on. We took the optimistic view and told everybody, 'Definitely come in,'" he said.

One significant change AOPA made to its schedule—a handy solution, in my opinion—was a kickoff program with two former members of Congress, who would be available in either scenario, to open the event on Monday.

"We had these guys do a point-counterpoint about the budget process and the prospects for a governemnt shutdown, as well as the future issues of debt ceiling and the longer-term budget plan. That was really helpful for the attendees for putting all this stuff that they had been hearing about in context and knowing what they were walking into," said Fise. "When we added that in, we didn't know whether the government would be shut down or not, so it was kind of a way of dealing with whatever the situation was at that moment."

Fise estimated that the contingency planning presented by the prospect of a shutdown increased his staff's prep work by 15 to 25 percent. He credited them with stepping up to the challenge.

"Generally, having the attitude that the show must go on makes a lot of sense," he said. "When you look at the big picture and you think about members who have set aside the time to come in and bought airline tickets that are probably nonrefundable, you've really just got to mount the effort to pull the thing through, if there's any way possible to do it."

In the end, of course, the gamble paid off, as Congress struck a deal at the 11th hour to keep the government running. None the less, AOPA's ability to adjust on the fly is admirable. Many association event planners know the stress of an unpredictable external factor disrupting (or threatening to disrupt) an event. I'm curious how others out there have handled the need for last-minute contingency planning. And have any associations ever negotiated consideration for a government shutdown into their hotel contracts or cancellation insurance for legislative fly-in events?

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April 7, 2011

The (possible) government shutdown

I recently had the good fortune to speak with Jerry Heppes, CAE, the CEO of the Door and Hardware Institute, and I asked him how the impending shutdown of the federal government would affect his government relations and advocacy efforts. Here's how it went (my commentary is in italics).

Q. What will the effect be on your group?

My members are in commercial construction and that industry has been in dire straights recently. If the government shuts down, they're the biggest owner of property in the country, so if they shut down for an extended period of time, that translates into less construction and that would be a bad thing for us--but I don't think that will happen.

I imagine that's the perception of a lot of associations: a short-term shutdown, while not ideal, is not anything to get too twisted about. If the shutdown were to drag on, however, it would likely have much more serious effects on the U.S. and global economies--and even many associations that were mostly immune to the recent recession could run into serious issues.

Q. What about ongoing efforts you have with agencies?

We do some work with the Department of Justice and the Department of Education and some other agencies--school security, the Stars Program (an energy initiative), that sort of thing. If the government shuts down, you don't just stop. There's always things you can do to get you're part of the work on the projects done, to get it ready for when the shutdown ends.

Again, sounds like the place most associations are in. If there happens to be an imminent deadline for an issue important to your members, or if you'd been working on securing a meeting with a government official for months only to have it scheduled for next week--well, I could see why you wouldn't have quite such a laissez-faire attitude.

Q. How is this going to end?

Well, I don't think this is something that will drag on for months; I think they'll get something worked out. And if a government shutdown is what it takes for the American people to get a better-managed budget, well then that would be a long-term win for us, despite whatever damage might come from the short term.

So there is a silver lining after all. Maybe.

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March 25, 2011

Associations Pledging to Participate in Tomorrow's Earth Hour

If your organization and staff are interested in an easy, fun, and free way to show support for protecting the planet and urging action on the problem of climate change, consider participating in World Wildlie Fund's global Earth Hour 2011 tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. for one hour.

A phenomenal success, in part because of its simplicity, visibility, and measured impacts, Earth Hour has inspired pledges to participate from government and business leaders in a record 131 countries, along with hundreds of major companies such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Coca-Cola, and IKEA, and even more NGOs and individuals. Association participants include Building Owners and Managers Association International chapters, sports associations, astronomy organizations, and hospitality groups. For a partial list of participants this year, go here.

I've also been seeing hotels, restaurants and local shops use Earth Hour this year to plan and promote festive events to engage guests and customers, including dining-by-candlelight dinners, s-more making in hotel lobby fireplaces for kids, glow necklace distributions at clubs, lantern walks in art galleries and shops, and glow-in-the-dark crafts and family-night gaming. You'll also find that hundreds of major international sites such as the Empire State Building, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge are participating, too.

I remember when this all started in 2007. I had heard that several associations were going to participate, and one was planning some tie-in events at its local conference since the events would overlap. Organizers were having a great time finding ways to integrate both fun and information into the single dark hour, and they apparently got rave reviews from attendees, especially about the candlelit pathway up to an outdoor stargazing event that had been put together with the local planetarium and a nonprofit chapter of astronomers.

That first year, Earth Hour drew 2.2 million individual participants and more than 2,000 businesses, according to World Wildlife Fund. Tomorrow, only four years later, those numbers have grown into the hundreds of millions of registered participants, and organizers have expanded the event by calling on each of them to go "beyond the hour" by committing to convert a single hour of darkness into a single commitment to do one regular thing that helps the environment address climate change. Suggestions include easy actions such as commuting to work or the subway station by bike one day a week, switching to CFL or LED lights, or holding "meatless Monday" dinners.

You can learn more about what people and organizations are pledging to do at www.earthhour.org/beyondthehour.

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January 27, 2011

New report on effectiveness of advocacy methods

A survey report released yesterday has good news and bad news for association advocacy and government-relations professionals.

In short, it gives evidence that in-person constituent contact is the top method for influencing legislators, well above the effectiveness of direct contact from lobbyists. But, it seems that wide-scale grassroots form-letter campaigns are not nearly so effective.

These are both techniques often used by associations in their lobbying efforts, so this info provides a mixed bag of advice. The report, Communicating with Congress: Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill, conducted by The Partnership for a More Perfect Union at the Congressional Management Foundation, presents the results of a survey of 260 congressional staff members, mostly in the House of Representatives, in fall 2010.

My initial reaction to this is that every association that hosts a legislative "fly-in" day to bring members to meet with Congress should relay this piece of data to its members. What better way to encourage participation than to say "Your presence is the most effective method possible to represent the industry's needs to our legislators"?

But on the form-letter point, I wonder if this kind of grassroots advocacy is the best use of an association's GR resources or if it needs rethought. The report says that 53 percent of congressional staffers surveyed believe that form-message campaigns are sent without constituents' knowledge or approval. Whether this is true or not, it's a clear indicator of a lack of impact among the intended targets.

I'm not a GR pro, though, so I'm curious for your reaction to these points and to the report in general. What advocacy methods has your association found most effective?

[Sidenote: you may also be interested in "5 Ways Hill Staffers Evaluate Your Association," by Bill Dalbec, from this month's issue of ASAE's Government Relations e-newsletter.]

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September 25, 2009

Quick clicks: My favorite things

- Jeff Hurt shares his favorite "event planning things," to the tune of "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. Click at your own risk--it's possible you'll end up with the tune stuck in your head for the rest of the day ...

- Rebecca Leaman at the SmartBlog Insights blog shares a cautionary tale of what can happen when your budget cuts make your members' and supporters' lives more difficult.

- In a somewhat related post, the NTEN blog talks about why online donors leave and how you can bring them back.

- The Plexus Consulting Group blog says that there's no such thing as a business or management objective that can't be measured. (This post particularly resonated with me today, as I'm struggling to determine what metrics can measure my department's objectives for the year.)

- During Hispanic Heritage Month, Rosetta Thurman is profiling Hispanic nonprofit leaders whose accomplishments she particularly admires (here's an introductory post, and the first profile).

- Judith Lindenau at the Off Stage blog is posting a series of seven steps to building an association online community (steps one, two, three, and four have been posted so far).

- Elisa Ortiz at the Onward and Upward blog lists 7 habits of highly annoying coworkers. (I'm sure no Acronym reader does any of these things!)

- Jamie Notter is thinking about complaining.

- Acronym blogger Brian Birch isn't the only person thinking about volunteers and creativity this week; the CMI Observations on Association Management blog has some insights.

- Aptify's CEO Blog discusses predictive analysis and how associations can use it to improve member retention.

- Stephanie Vance muses about whether success in advocacy can blunt future advocacy effectiveness.

- At The Forum Effect, Jackie Eder-Van Hook has advice for associations on how to work with their attorneys.

- Jeffrey Cufaude has a great list of ideas on how you can be a more "sustainable you."

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March 28, 2009

Associations Participate in "Earth Hour" to Call for Action on Global Warming

ASAE & The Center’s headquarters will join thousands of other organizations, businesses, cities, towns, major historic landmarks, and other sites in 84 nations in shutting off all non-essential lights during the second annual Earth Hour Saturday at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Sponsored by World Wildlife Fund with support from the United Nations and myriad global leaders, the one-hour event aims to be a call for action to address harmful global climate change. The event has attracted massive support, with everyone from the World Organization of Scouts to Hollywood celebrities signing on as a participant, sharing commentary and self-shot videos on social network sites, and detailing to others what they plan to do during their hour of darkness.

Earth Hour 2009 has special meaning since the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, and leaders will meet later this year to discuss the issue.

Kudos to World Wildlife Fund for coming up with so many social network tools and outlets for its promotional efforts. For instance, you can download an Earth Hour iPhone application, upload a YouTube video, blog, and more. Go to www.earthhour.org for details.


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December 29, 2008

Stuff That in Your Stocking—Generating Buzz Via “Naughty and Nice” Lists

Whatever your politics, I got a kick out of the 2008 Alliance for Justice Naughty and Nice list compiled from citizen-generated nominations to the list. What a light-hearted, graphic way to review the year’s golden and tarnished moments, and tie them both to the holidays and to the serious work of the nonprofit’s mission. The project also inspired lots of engagement from supporters--and it was sent to me three times by colleagues in various locales who found it amusing.

“We were swamped with your creative and thoughtful responses,” notes the staff in its introduction. “You lauded or loathed elected officials, progressive leaders, appointed judges, oil companies, champions of the 2008 campaign, and even Hollywood stars.” Hard to resist taking a peek, isn't it?

Lesson? Gift your organization with some good buzz by cleverly leveraging the holiday season to create content worth covering.

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December 15, 2008

Get One New Idea Going

If you’ve been following this series religiously (you have, haven’t you?) you’ve wrapped up the 110th, prepared your team, helped your advocates and started preparing for a tough budget environment. All that remains is to use this downtime to get one new idea going. Here are some options to consider:

Isn’t it Time for a Blog?: You’re reading this one, right? A blog can be a great way to provide up-to-the-minute advocacy information to that core group of people that really care about your issues. This is a great time to set something up: just in time for the new Congress.

Explore Webinars: Effective advocates always need more training. Your organization can meet that need without travel costs and expense through online webinars and audio conferences. You can use free resources like Yugma or Free Conference Call to get started.

Set up an Online Class: Many organizations are enhancing their online learning options through an online class. Look at sites like Moodle.org for free and low-cost platforms to provide this type of service. Or, you can create a simple HTML course to be made available through your website.

Social Media: Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube, there are literally hundreds of new ways to interact with your advocates – and for them to interact with Congress. Use the next couple months to pick one of these sites to explore more thoroughly. At a minimum, you’ll learn more about how citizens across the country are already using these tools to talk about your issues. Shouldn’t you be part of that conversation?

If the thought of exploring these web 2.0 tools has you overwhelmed and you aren’t sure where to begin, just drop an e-mail to webtools@advocacyguru.com and an autoresponder will send you an article with a host of free and low-cost online sites to explore. Oh, yeah, and auto-responders. That’s another one to look in to!

If you’ve followed all the steps outlined in this series of posts, you’ll be better prepared than most for the 111th Congress. Happy advocating!

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December 11, 2008

Prepare for a Tough Budget Environment

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that enormous deficits and declining tax revenues lead to difficult times maintaining funding for existing programs, much less funding new priorities. Prepare for this tough environment through the following activities:

Learn the Rules of the Game: A range of online resources offer insights into the budget process. If you’re worried that this might be a really dull way to spend a couple hours, remember that those who know the rules of the game are far more likely to be successful. Take a minute to look at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’ Overview of budget process or the House Rules Committee Overview materials to ensure that you know what should happen when – and how to take best advantage of the process.

Don’t Ignore the Agencies!: Many advocacy organizations focus on the Congressional process for managing the budget, but the numbers and priorities are initially established at the agency level. Take a minute to review the OMB website to learn more about what happens with the agencies.

Run the Numbers: A site like USA Spending or OMB Watch’s Fed Spending can help you figure out how your policy priorities relate to the rest of the federal budget. You can even compare your piece of the budget pie to others at the National Priorities Project site. This information can be invaluable in making arguments as to why your organization’s priorities should continue to be supported.

Got the budget figured out? Great! The last installment of this series will look at a few fun and interactive ways to get advocates engaged in early 2009 and beyond!

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December 8, 2008

Help Your Advocates Help Themselves

In earlier posts I outlined two key strategies for preparing for the 111th Congress, specifically closing the books on the 110th (to the extent possible) and preparing the team. This posting provides a list of a couple “quick and easy” things advocates can do in the next couple months to build and strengthen relationships with new and returning members. They are:

Fill out a Legislative Profile: Information is power, and advocates can enhance their knowledge of elected officials by filling out a Legislator Profile form. By filling out this document, they’ll learn important things about the legislator, including his or her policy priorities and previous position on the policy issues that matter to your organization.

Send an Introductory Letter: Now is a great time to provide advocates with a template “introduction” letter they can use to send to new and returning members. Sure, the letter itself may get lost in the shuffle of an elected official’s office, but it does offer a great opportunity to engage advocates. Once they agree to send the letter, encourage them to follow-up with a phone call or in-district meeting.

Review Online Resources: It’s not always clear how the priorities of a new Administration or Congress will impact the policy issues your members care most about. Help them get up-to-speed with resources like Congress.org (where they can read about new members) or the CNN politics page. These resources will help them become better informed advocates, while making your life easier as well.

Once you’ve helped your advocates with a few activities, it’s time to think about ways to prepare yourself for a tough budget environment, the topic of the next post.

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December 4, 2008

Preparing Your Team

In my first post in this series on preparing for the 111th Congress, I talked about clearing the decks from the 110th (OK, granted: it seems like the 110th Congress will NEVER END!). Nevertheless, try to arrange some semblance of order for the last Congress. Once you do, you’ll be ready to prepare your team for next year. What does that involve? I’m glad you asked:

Review Priorities: The next Congress will see a host of new faces, not to mention a new administration. At the same time, a difficult economic situation will limit the investments that can be made in new or even existing programs. Now is a great time to review that legislative agenda to see what might be possible – and what may be more difficult to achieve.

Develop a Calendar: One great way to get organized for 2009 is to develop a calendar of advocacy activities. Download a sample / template here (note that the dates on the calendar are for a previous year and will need to be changed for 2009).

Identify the “Power Advocates”: Take a look at your database to identify anyone who advocated frequently (or at all) during the year. These will be the individuals you’ll want to cultivate early in 2009.

Train, Train, Train: Use the “advocacy doldrums” of November and December to train advocates through audio conference calls and webinars. Now is a great time to set up a “Preparing for the 111th Congress” session designed to help advocates understand the impact of the elections on your policy concerns – and what they can do to position the organization for success in 2009.

In the next posting, we’ll take a look at quick and easy tasks to assign advocates during the next couple months to help them strengthen their relationships with new and returning members.

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December 1, 2008

Preparing for the 111th Congress

Welcome to the first in a series of five posts outlining strategies for preparing for the 111th Congress. Believe it or not, the elections are finally over and we’ll have a new Congress and a new Administration in 2009. Regardless of whether your party was wildly successful or not so much, it’s important for advocate leaders to be fully prepared with their grassroots, grasstops and coalition building efforts as early as possible.

Why are the grassroots so important this time around? Well, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that “Joe the Plumber” is in and “special interests” are out in Washington, DC these days. Only those organizations that have effectively incorporated their own “Joes” (i.e., citizen advocates) into their government relations plan will have their message heard and even perhaps acted on in this environment.

That’s why this series of posts is designed to help you hit the grassroots advocacy ground running in January 2009. We’ll look at five different strategies for preparing the network, starting with our first strategy, which is to wrap-up the 110th Congress. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!

Advocate leaders should take some time now to close the books on the 110th Congress. Take a moment to undertake the following three activities:

- Clean out and update your database list: Review e-mail addresses, advocate address information, affiliation information and grasstops contacts and connections to be sure that you have the right advocates communicating with the right elected officials. Remember that it’s better to have fewer active advocates in your database than thousands of individuals who aren’t interested in policy debates – or worse, aren’t receiving your communications! Now is the perfect time to update and clean out.

- Update your legislative agenda/advocacy materials online: When was the last time you took a really good look at all the materials available on your site? Even if you update information regularly, much of the older information is often left on the site for search engines to find. For many organizations, the advocacy section of the website is the first impression a potential advocate will see. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.

- Create a list of successes from the 110th: Most organizations will want to put together a legislative summary outlining the work of the previous Congress. Be sure to include in that summary a clear section highlighting successes – and be sure to define success as broadly as possible! While an ultimate success may be passage of a particular piece of legislation, incremental accomplishments such as increasing the numbers of cosponsors for legislation, expanding the reach of the grassroots network or even getting a bill to the hearing stage should be celebrated. Given the length of time it takes to move legislation through the process, it’s important to stress when some progress (even limited progress!) is being made.

Once you’ve finished wrapping up for the 110th, you’ll be able to move on to our next strategy, Preparing Your Team.

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July 30, 2008

Associations Call for Peace During Olympics

Associations and nonprofits are once again involved both behind the scenes and overtly in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in China, starting August 8.

In particular, a number of organizations are concerned about the safety of athletes, organizers and spectators. Tomorrow, for instance, the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) is calling on “the world travel and tourism industry to join in solidarity with both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations in a call for a cessation of conflict and all acts of violence in an observance of the Olympic Truce.” IIPT has held several media panels at past conferences to explore “The Role of the Media in Building a Culture of Peace through Tourism” and related elements of that theme.

“We now have an opportunity … to demonstrate the global impact possible through the travel media acting together towards one worthy goal,” urges Louis D’Amore, IIPT founder and president.

Dozens of Chinese American associations have also taken to the streets of New York and elsewhere in rallies and media events aimed at preventing “the hijacking of the Olympic Games” by special interests for “their own political gains.” The Beijing Association of New York even hired two planes to fly over New York City with banners that read "Go to 2008 Beijing Olympics" and "CNN, Cafferty, Shut up!" (a reference to the “goons and thugs” commentary about the Chinese chaperones sent to accompany the Olympic torch relay in San Francisco). Expect to see more associations in the Olympic coverage of the coming weeks.

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November 27, 2006

FREE MobileActive Strategy Guide

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The first installment in MobileActive’s Strategy Guide series, Mobile Phones in Electoral and Voter Registration Campaigns, is now available to download.

The guide examines successful ways that organizations have used mobile phones in electoral and voter registration campaigns and shares lessons learned from these experiments. The guide also offers case studies and other information organizations can use to run their own mobile campaigns.

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