“One of the most overlooked benefits of a trade association is the advocacy.” This quote from a Forbes article that is over six years old is still accurate.
The benefits that usually receive the most attention are conferences, educational seminars, networking opportunities, and discounts on supplies and services. Although many member benefit lists may include advocacy, the association’s lobbying and legislative efforts should not be a static item on a list.
Keep advocacy efforts in front of members with regular communications in emails, magazines, website articles, and social media to demonstrate that the association works year-round to represent members as new laws and regulatory guidelines are established.
Advocacy updates do not have to be the same, recurring list of proposed bills and changes to regulations with a note updating the most recent activity. Examples from three associations – the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, the Colorado Mining Association, and the Oregon Health Care Association – use different approaches that capture members’ attention and illustrate the work that the association is doing on their behalf.
- There are times that a list of legislative items is important, such as during the re-opening of an economy and the myriad of rules for the restaurant industry. The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association’s article presented legislation under consideration and guidelines for their members’ return to operation with brief descriptions of state, federal, and local items that impact businesses.
- Because it is an election year, the Colorado Mining Association’s legislative update article reminds members that in addition to national elections that get the majority of news coverage, there are a number of key state and local elections as well as measures to amend the state constitution and statutes that might affect members. A timely recap of races and issues with links to more detailed information makes it easy for members to stay informed.
- A key part of advocacy is developing relationships with lawmakers, but not every member knows their local representative and many are intimidated by the thought of talking to them. Give members an opportunity to “meet” legislators who can affect their industry by publishing Q&A or profile articles of legislators like the Oregon Health Care Association’s article in a recent issue. Not only does this approach give members insight into a lawmaker’s background, but it also demonstrates the relationships developed by the association.
In addition to these examples, don’t forget to include photos of members participating in local legislative days or national “fly-ins” to Washington D.C. Include articles that describe joint lobbying efforts with other trade and professional associations, and introduce staff or consultants that lead the association’s advocacy efforts. Keeping these efforts top-of-mind for members will increase their appreciation for this key benefit.