Civic Engagement and Advocacy Blog

How Government Relations Can Increase Member Engagement

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 7/22/14 2:08 PM

Organizations that win with public policy initiatives seek first to understand, and then take a stand. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Most non-profit organizations do not have advocacy, or government relations, as the sole reason for their existence. They usually have a combination of education, communications, fundraising, and sometimes issue advocacy on behalf of their members. Regardless of the type of organization, there is an opportunity for nonprofits to connect people directly with their government.

Be a government relations microphone


Grassroots Advocacy and the Lifecycle of Pending Legislation (Part One)

Posted by Jeff Ryan on 1/10/14 12:58 PM

Engaging your members at the right times in the process is critical to your ongoing success

The legislative process can at times seem long, convoluted and rife with movement, delays and highly publicized maneuvering. However, all bills introduced into the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives follow the same basic path. A working knowledge of the process will allow your organization to organize and execute initiatives that will engage and inspire your members to get involved when you need them to in order to affect the result.

As always, the further upstream your advocates can get involved in shaping the language of a bill or influencing changes along the way, the happier they (and you) are apt to be with the result.

We’ve identified the 14 crucial steps in the legislative process that provide opportunities for grassroots advocacy organizations to influence outcomes. This post is part one of a three-part series examining the 14 steps of the legislative process in detail and providing an overview of the best avenues for member engagement.

The legislative process: Steps 1-5

1. Introduction
Anyone may draft a bill. (In recent years, organizations have increasingly taken the lead in crafting the language of bills introduced in the House and Senate.) However, the formal introduction of legislation can only be done by members of Congress. By doing so, they become the bill’s sponsor(s). A piece of legislation (a bill, joint resolution, concurrent resolution or simple resolution) enters the legislative process when it is assigned a number — H.R. signifies a bill introduced in the House of representatives and S. signifies a bill introduced in the Senate. The bill is then printed by the Government Printing Office, then…

2. Referred to a committee

Almost all bills are referred to a standing committee in the legislative body where the bill originated. When the bill reaches a committee, it is…


Maybe You Should Cancel Your Government Affairs Lobby Day

Posted by Joel Blackwell on 12/3/13 11:30 AM

Do Traditional Lobby Days Have an Impact on Pending Legislation?

Many associations have dropped their annual lobby day, and with good reason. They are expensive, time-consuming, often ineffective and sometimes counter productive, that is if you measure them by their effect on legislators and pending legislation. For some that is a hard pill to swallow, but it is yet another example of how new technologies and direct communication through the internet has changed how we live.

It's more than partially because of the internet that the benefit of a lobby day in winning support in committee and on the floor is marginal at best. Having your grass roots key contacts, volunteer advocates and lobbyists show up en masse is pretty inefficient, surprisingly even today.


Can Associations Counter the Media Influence in Government Affairs?

Posted by Brian Banbridge on 11/22/13 10:48 AM

Is Public Distrust of the Media Rising?

There was once a time when the media was a trusted source of information. Unfortunately, that was so long ago that no one can remember it. In the modern era, “news” has given way to punditry and spin, and more and more Americans are turning to alternative information sources to discover the who, what, why, where, and when of the stories they are reading. In fact, it is safe to say that following the last election cycle, the credibility of all major news outlets has been severely tarnished.


Is Your Association Dipping Your Toes in Government Affairs?

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 11/14/13 2:50 PM

Why Professional and Trade Associations Need to Be Involved in Government Affairs.

When asked why he was so personally involved in his state’s political life, Bill Matthews, former Chief Executive Officer of Oneida, Ltd., said: “What happens in Albany and Washington has as much to do with my company’s bottom line as anything my competitors or vendors can do to me.” Unfortunately, most business owners aren't as aware of pending legislation as they are their competitors.

If your members are also business owners, then they see lobbying as someone else's job, namely yours! And because most business owners have no confidence that anything they do will have an effect on the outcome they don't bother and focus on something else. Most assume that if it is important then they will hear about it from the professional and trade associations they are a part of. But will they?


The Top Two Grassroots Lobbying Obstacles

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 11/6/13 2:38 PM

This  post was written after speaking with Joel Blackwell, whose book "Personal Political Power." has helped medical practioners and professionals communicate their needs and the needs of their patients and practices to elected officials.

Joel ran focus groups in nine states asking association members and corporate staff why they don't write, phone and speak to elected officials. From those many conversations, he developed tactics that will help government relations executives overcome these obstacles so they can recruit, motivate and activate grass roots advocates. His common sense approach to grassroots lobbying is something that almost any membership organization can learn from.


How to Use Member Segmentation for Grassroots Government Relations

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 10/16/13 8:00 AM

Getting members to increase their level of civic engagement is for their own good. The challenge for the professional association, advocacy group, or Chamber of Commerce is how do you get individuals to engage in a world where they are constantly inundated with those trying to capture their attention. The old proverb that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink has never been more true than today. That horse will not drink until it believes it is thirsty, and so that requires good old fashioned persuasion. 


Part 4- Transforming Government Relations into Non-Dues Revenue

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 10/4/13 3:24 PM

Promote Your Government Relations Programs To Create Community Value

The value of a government relations program for associations rests in the value that advocacy brings to the members of the community. Unless a specific piece of legislation effects them, most members will ignore advocacy until it is in their own backyard. 


The Real Reason the US Government Shut Down

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 10/2/13 2:30 PM

It's a communication break down in government relations. 

Not just a communication breakdown between parties and within parties, but also between voters and lawmakers. Republicans and Democrats aren't on the same page and are talking at each other through the media and lobbyists rather than with each other through the voice of the voters.


The Citizens Role in the Obamacare Showdown

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 9/26/13 10:46 AM

Historic Vote On Pending Legislation Highlights the Importance of Grassroots Lobbying

It’s not hyperbole to claim that one of the greatest showdowns in US Senate history is taking place this week and we are all privy to the action. The discussions and debates surrounding the Affordable Care Act, colloquially referred to as “Obamacare” have been some of the most intense and heated in America’s history. This is a pivotal week for the pending legislation as pricing is being announced in the exchanges and more push that Obamacare will do far more harm than good for our nation when implemented.