Tips for Effective Lobbying

Image Credit: Erik Heddema
Image Credit: Erik Heddema

By Whitney Bertram, operations manager

I’ve scheduled a meeting with my legislator… Now what?

Come to the meeting prepared. You will have only a short time to talk to your legislator because of the many constituents who want to see him or her about issues or problems. Organize your meeting by following the tips below:

  • Take a letter or fact sheet to the meeting to leave with the legislator.
  • Practice in advance. Anticipate answering questions about the issue.
  • Be yourself. Most legislators are good listeners so they want to hear your perspective on the issue.
  • Treat your legislator as you’d want to be treated; be respectful and professional.
  • Never threaten or brag on your campaigning or contributions when talking about issues.
  • Thank your legislators for their support, time and serving in public office.
  • Send a thank you note after the meeting.
  • Report back to your association to let them know how the meeting went.

If I can’t meet in person, will a phone call work?

Yes, phone calls can be effective if you follow these steps:

  • Write down key points before you call.
  • Practice in advance.
  • If you are a constituent of the legislator, be sure to mention it.
  • Ask for a report on how the legislator stands/voted on the issue.
  • Be brief. Keep your call under five minutes.
  • Be respectful and professional.
  • Follow up with a written thank you note restating your position.
  • Report results to your association.

Should I send a letter?

There is power in numbers when it comes to lobbying. Imagine the impact if every person in the state in your industry was to generate a new letter to legislators each week about pending legislation or issues. Letters to representatives should follow these guidelines:

  • Always type your letter. While handwritten is more personal, the letter should be very easy to read.
  • Use your company or association letterhead so the legislator knows who you are and what organization you represent.
  • Keep your letter to one page. Include fact sheets or other information on additional pages.
  • Include your name and address.
  • If you are a constituent, include that information.
  • Outline your view on the issue/legislation.
  • Request that the legislator support the legislation.

How can I find out who my legislators are and how can I obtain their mailing and email addresses?

Visit www.votesmart.org and enter your nine digit zip code to determine who your representatives are.

Do you have tips for connecting with legislators or a success story to share? Tell us in the comments!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Incorporating Content Marketing on Your Association Website

Image Credit: Steven Lewis
Image Credit: Steven Lewis

By Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

Based on 4 Trends Reinventing Association Websites presented by Ray van Hilts, Director, Client Strategy and Marketing, Vanguard Technology

As content marketing becomes more and more popular, associations are uniquely posed to promote the extensive amount of content they have created over the years. Content marketing encompasses the sharing of content to drive profitability and improve brand loyalty, while attracting and engaging members and potential members.

There are two basic types of content an association can market: formal and informal.

Informal – Social Media, Micro Videos, Blog Posts

Formal – Fact Sheets, News Articles, Features, Emails, Webinars, White Papers, Evergreen Content

Associations tend to have a lot of formal content. One way to jump-start the content marketing process and leverage formal content quickly is to perform a content audit. Determine what content the organization has and where it is located. Then determine the best place for that content to live. If the organization is planning to share most of the content with members and non-members, creating a library connected to the association website can become a convenient way to archive, tag and potentially repurpose content.

During the content audit consider what content is relevant today. Evergreen content may be the basis for a best practices library or web page on your site. Fact sheets or checklists may assist a particular category of member with their processes and be featured on a blog, or given new life in an article. There are many ways an organization can repurpose content; videos, educational opportunities, newsletters and articles are just a few options.

Now that you know what formal content you have, what is relevant, and how to repurpose it, think about the best audience for marketing that content. Determine the best way to share specific content and who you want to share it with. Is this content for members only, or will it help the organization’s profile to share it with the public? Should members pay extra to access the content (such as an educational webinar), or is it included with their membership fee. Asking these questions will help you determine where the content should live and how valuable it is to the organization, members and the public. In order to have a successful content marketing campaign it is important to think about content as having value and being marketable. Keep the following Content Marketer’s Manifesto tips in mind:

#1 I am a Marketer. If you are creating content, you are engaged in marketing.

#2 I hold the hottest tool for retention – Content. Relevant content is the best way to create value for members.

#3 My content is aligned with the organization’s goals. I create content that achieves my organization’s goals.

#4 I am in the influencing behavior game. My purpose is to provide value through content to influence and drive behavior.

#5 I have an ongoing dialogue. Content topics are driven by ongoing discussion and listening to member’s needs.

By shifting your thinking and seeing content as a marketing tool to reach potential members and engage longtime members, the organization can begin to develop a structure and process for sharing content across many different platforms.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

What to Consider When Re-Organizing Volunteers

Image Credit: Canva

By Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

These ideas are inspired by the session “Re-Imagine Volunteering” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 12, 2014, presented by Debra BenAvram and Peggy Hoffman.

Considering how to help your organization’s volunteers be more effective? Maybe it’s time for a re-organization of your volunteer structure.

What to Consider When Re-Organizing Volunteers

Define success.
Before you get started, make sure you have the end result in mind. What are you looking for? Do you want to increase documented engagement, stronger member satisfaction, or added interest groups? Make sure you have an overall plan with a clear timeline, expectations and commitments. Establishing where you want to go is critical to knowing how to get there.

Remember, change it takes time.
It seems to take about 18 months for a board structural change to take affect and everyone to get on board with the new process and roles. Be prepared to be patient – and to help your volunteers settle into their new holes.

Clarify roles and responsibilities.
Make sure every one – board, chairs, volunteers, and staff – knows what their responsibilities are. This is critical during a transition to keep projects moving forward and to make sure all tasks are covered.

Go slow to go fast.
Take the time to communicate well when you are onboarding volunteers. A good foundation will help speed the transition and make for more effective volunteers in the long run.

Listen to the experts.
Let the volunteers determine their skills and expertise. Always start by asking your volunteers about where they feel they would fit best within the organization and work from there.

No volunteer left behind.
Every new process will have people who need help getting on board with the change. Use education to help the stragglers see the benefits of the new process and let them be a part of the solution. Each of your team members can be a positive advocate for the change.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

7 Evergreen Ideas to Engage Volunteers

evergreen ideas for volunteers jpgBy Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

These ideas are inspired by the session “Re-Imagine Volunteering” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 12, 2014, presented by Debra BenAvram and Peggy Hoffman.

Don’t miss these 7 evergreen ideas to engage volunteers – and keep them engaged.

1. Make sure the board and volunteer messaging is positive and collaborative.
Proactively establish that the organization works as a team to accomplish the goals.

2. Hold comprehensive training every year for all volunteers.
Group experiences like training help volunteers to feel more invested and anchored in their volunteer experiences.

3. Sunset committees that aren’t needed anymore.
Closing committees that are no longer active allows the volunteers’ energy and efforts to be poured into new tasks where they can see the fruits of their labors.

4. Formalize the volunteer application system.
Having requirements and an application for volunteers will help you to gather information about volunteers and place them in projects that will be the best fit.

5. Know when the project is too big.
No one enjoys volunteering on a project that is struggling. If initiatives are floundering, then it might be time to consider bringing in a staff member or an outside consultant to take over all or part of the project.

6. Develop non-traditional volunteer roles.  
Stop thinking of “positions” and start thinking of tasks and projects that need to be accomplished. Pool the creative resources in your team!

7. Use volunteer satisfaction surveys.
Volunteer satisfaction surveys help your volunteers know that your organization cares about the volunteers. Ask what made participants decide to volunteer, what strategies are working, and how they would like to see the organization change.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.