I’m back…

Hi! It’s been awhile. A lot has happened since my last blog post in 2016. Some good. Some bad. But, through it all, I missed writing. So, on this Friday night in May 2019, I’m coming back to blogging. Welcome to Stef’s Reflective Playlist.

What am I talking about now? My dreams. My fears. The people who inspire me. The podcasts I’m listening to. The music I dance to. My favorite Avengers.

I have so much to share. For now, I’ll just say thank you in advance for reading.



Allow me to reintroduce myself

Hello! When I last spoke to you, I was eulogizing one of my favorite musicians. Six months later, I thought it would be a good time to get back to our regularly scheduled program. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m now blogging under the title It’s On The List. Why It’s On the List? Because at least once a day, regardless of the topic, I’ve uttered this statement. I’ve said it to my Board President, to my mother, and I’m pretty sure I’ve said this to the dog. It’s a reflection of just how much we try to fit into our daily lives.

So what am I going to talk about? Work? Life? Prince? The short answer is yes. I’ll even talk about advocacy from time to time. Advocacy will always be a part of me. However, with my career expanding into executive management, it’s time to broaden my perspective. Explore areas of association management that I tackle on a daily basis. We’ll also talk about life outside of work…to a certain extent :-). Finally, I’ll share some of the tasks on my to-do list.

I look forward to blogging again. I missed it. I hope you will join me on this new adventure. An adventure that may someday include a podcast (!!). Stay tuned and thank for your support.

Current to-do list: Prep for monthly Board meeting. Start reading I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi. Buy dog food.




For the past 8 months, I’ve been on hiatus from blogging as I transition into a new position in association management. I knew it would take a powerful event to get me back here.

Unfortunately, it was the death of Prince.

Three days later and it’s still hard for me to write that sentence. I thought I wouldn’t have to write this for another twenty years or so. Way after my 20th concert experience where I would recall the time my friend Eloiza Altoro and I finally make it onstage to dance with Prince. Sadly, that will never happen. Instead of focusing on sadness of the situation, I wanted to share some of my personal memories of a life that included this genius.

I grew up hating him. I loved Michael Jackson. If you were an avid reader of Right On magazine, Prince and MJ were rivals for the affection of young black girls everywhere. Michael represented the guy we were going to marry. Prince was the guy we knew to stay away from. Then came Purple Rain. I was 11 and Jean and James Reeves would not let me see an R-rated movie or get the album. However, thanks to a local DC music video show, I saw the video for Let’s Go Crazy. I. Was. Hooked. Sure, Michael could sing and dance. But, Prince could sing, dance and play guitar.

Let's go crazy

As the years passed, my fandom grew. I saw my first Prince concert during my sophomore year of college. He played the Patriot Center at George Mason University in VA. My lasting memory was when began playing Purple Rain by saying, “You know I couldn’t leave before singing my baby.” My next concert was in 2004 at the Verizon Center  in DC. Highlights included catching the last few minutes of his soundcheck where he ended the set by doing this


Three years later, my sister and I were in Vegas for what turned out to be the last show of his Vegas residency. Imagine being in a small club with Prince and Sheila E barely 100 feet from you. The joy of the situation cannot be described.

Last year, my sister and I attended what would be our last Prince concert. On a Tuesday evening in May, my friend Bea sent me an urgent FB message asking if I heard about Prince coming to Baltimore. Just then, the local Fox affiliate released information on the concert which was meant as a healing balm for the city. THIS IS NOT A DRILL I yelled.  I secured two $22 nosebleed seats, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be in the building. When we got to the Royal Farms arena, I had a change of heart. I wanted to be closer.  I went to the box office and said to the guy in the booth Look, we’re all the way at the top. Do you have anything in the 200 section? I’m willing to pay the difference. He goes through some files and found two tickets. He said Take these. The usher will help you find your seats. I asked about paying the difference. He said Don’t worry about it. I looked down and discovered that he gave me seats three rows from the floor. Seats that originally cost over $400 apiece. I snuck in a few pictures, but for the most part, I lived in the moment. Prince was dancing as if he was 30 years younger. He looked happy and full of energy. He kept repeating, “No curfew” before he launched into a song. The crowd ended up chanting No Curfew! to get him back on stage for an encore. His response: Seriously?  🙂



On March 4, Sandra Giarde attended her first Prince show in Oakland, CA. She texted me during and after the show to announce that I’d soon be the proud owner of his new album Hit n’Run Phase 2. I had just come home from the Black Cat, a performance venue in DC where a DJ held a 1958 party celebrating the music of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince (all born in 1958, get it?). Before I left, the DJ closed the night with Purple Rain. I’m a fan of the song, but it never affected me emotionally…until that night. I’m not sure why, but I shed a few happy tears as the song ended.

Hit and Run

Prince purple rain

Never has an artist connected with me on so many levels. Prince showed me it was okay to different when I desperately wanted to be like everyone else. He made it comfortable for me to blast rock music in my car with the same ease as blasting R&B or hip hop. He exposed feelings that I was told to keep hidden. He told us to live boldly and to never think our ideas are too crazy to work.

Safe home Sweet Prince. Your music will continue to impact my life in the years to come.

Prince takes a bow





ASAE15: Where do we GO from here?

ASAE 15 was a different experience for me than in years past. It was my first annual as an Executive Director. I missed the annual DELP reunion so it was my only opportunity to see most of my DELP family. It was our first annual meeting in Detroit. I could focus on the good, the bad and the unusual, but I’ve decided to go with what’s next. What are going to do with the content knowledge we’ve gained? How will we use those hallway conversations? Here are some suggestions.

  1. Remember those people you met and said, “I’d like to connect with you”? Actually do it. Even if it’s a short email, follow-up immediately. We all get busy and soon becomes six months later becomes never.
  2. Get out of your comfort zone. If you’re curious about presenting, consider submitting an RFP to ASAE16. Inspired by Ignite? Consider submitting one. If ASAE annual has taught me anything, it’s that we are a supportive group who want to learn from each other. Every person you met at an ASAE annual meeting has content expertise worth sharing with others.
  3. Go for it. Get that CAE. Apply to DELP. Follow up on that job lead you heard about at lunch. It was ASAE annual in Toronto that inspired me to get the CAE.
  4. Lowell Aplebaum, Association Professional Extraordinaire did a series of Periscope interviews during ASAE15. During those interviews, he asked “What would we like to learn by the next ASAE annual meeting?” I have a number of goals including exploring new areas for non-dues revenue and developing a good relationship with my Board.
  5. Express gratitude. It takes a village to make an ASAE annual happen. Literally, hundreds of people made sure that we can find our shuttles, serve us meals and set up our laptops for presentations. Sometime in the next week or so, send a note to someone who made your ASAE annual experience memorable.

So where do I go from here? I started Association Advocacy Chick five years ago after ASAE in Los Angeles. I was in a place in my life where I wanted my voice heard and saw blogging as an opportunity to do that. As a result, I made a ton of new friends, took my association government relations career to new heights, and found that person that everyone else saw but me. I want to thank every person who has subscribed to the blog, read it, or received it from someone else. Without you, there will be no Association Advocacy Chick. With my association career going in a new and exciting direction, I’ve decided to put the blog on an indefinite hiatus. I still love to blog and hope to do more in other areas of association management. So I’m not saying goodbye forever. Just farewell….for now.

Using live video streaming for advocacy

For the past few weeks, we’ve seen people tiptoe into the world of live video streaming apps including Meerkat and Periscope. While I’ve downloaded Periscope, I’ve yet to produce any content personally or professionally. However, here are some possibilities when it comes to using this service in your advocacy efforts.

1. Congressional Briefings

I once worked on a briefing for congressional staff on the challenges of and opportunities for parents with disabilities. We were bombarded with questions about making it available for outside the DC area. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the capacity to stream our briefing online.

Imagine if we were able to live stream brief segments of our congressional briefings, receptions or other activities for those who could not attend.

2. Hill Days

While you’ll likely be prohibited from live streaming the meeting, you can capture the excitement of your members making their way to Capitol Hill or the statehouse and broadcast it to your members.

3. Congressional Testimony

During a recent House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime hearing on online gambling, a representative from the Poker Players Alliance used Meerkat to give testimony. According to Politico, it was possibly the first use of live video streaming for testimony by an advocacy group. It remains to be seen whether other congressional committees will follow suit.

4. Member Updates

Give your members a live update on your advocacy efforts or breaking news on the status of legislation you’re working on.


What do you think of live video streaming for advocacy? Will it become another tool in our arsenal or just a fad?


Would you pull a Claire Underwood?

Warning: this blog post contain spoilers from season 3 of House of Cards. If you haven’t seen the entire season run, consider yourself warned.

In season 3 of House of Cards, we find First Lady Claire Underwood seeking the UN ambassadorship to the United States. Upon announcing her nomination, she experiences extreme pushback based on lack of experience and appearance of nepotism among other issues. The Senate does not confirm her nomination, but she’s appointed by the President during a Senate recess (yes, this has happened). Things don’t go exactly as planned and she’s forced to resign.

This particular story arc leads to this question: Why would Claire go after a job she’s not qualified for? I don’t think there’s a simple answer to this. It’s been said that she wasn’t satisfied with “just being a First Lady”. While we don’t have much of a back story into why she wanted the UN ambassadorship, we do know that Claire is very ambitious and knows that as long as she has that and a brain, she can do whatever the heck she wants.

I’m not suggesting that we all go after jobs we’re not qualified for. However I wonder if Claire is on to something. When it comes to our own career development, just how far are we willing to go to get that desired position? For the Underwoods, it may take lying, manipulation and (spoiler alert) murder. For association professionals, it may raising your profile through conference presentations or shifting from a specialist role to a management role. Whatever it is for you, there’s an important lesson to be learned from the Claire debacle: wanting a particular position and actually having the ability to do said position are two different things. Know which side of the fence you’re on.


With friends like Public Relations, who needs Lobbying?

The Center for Public Integrity recently reported on how some trade associations were turning to public relations and advertising instead of lobbying to influence legislators. They point to the lack of disclosure rules and expansive outreach as factors in this shift. While these groups still spent money on lobbying, public relations and communications are receiving more resources and attention.

As an association lobbyist, it raises some interesting questions. First, is this the beginning of the end of lobbying? The article tries to tie in the rise of PR campaigns with the decline of lobbying expenditures. However, it’s too simple of an explanation. It doesn’t account for those who were once lobbyists, but no longer fit the definition and doesn’t have to register. Second, is what PR companies doing count as lobbying? Sure, the primary audience for these PR firms is the public. However, it’s abundantly clear that the real targets for their outreach are those Members of Congress with jurisdiction over their client’s issues. Third, what does this mean for the lobbyist? I think those of us who continue to advocate without developing any communications expertise run the risk of becoming useless. If I can’t articulate my point to the legislative director, my board chair and the family down the street, my association will turn to someone who can.

Will PR campaigns replace lobbying? I don’t think so. It remains an important function for many associations. However, they should consider public relations when putting together an advocacy strategy.

Generation Advocacy

I have a confession to make. This past June, I gave birth to my baby. Now that my baby’s 6 months old, I felt it was time to show them off.

Introducing Generation Advocacy.

No, I have not gone Hollywood and gave a child a weird name (although we could call them Ginny for short). Generation Advocacy is the name of my new business. GA, which is what I affectionately call it, is my advocacy training/PAC management/general government relations consulting service.

In the 15+ years I’ve done government relations, I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who never knew they could meet with their legislator and talk about issues that affect them. My goal for GA is to spread the message that you (yes you) have the power and ability to advocate. We will give you the skills and know how to tackle a Capitol Hill visit with ease. Along with advocacy training, GA also works with political action committees as well provides direction for an association’s government relations efforts.

Generation Advocacy wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for some wonderful colleagues and friends who pushed, encouraged and in some cases threatened me if I didn’t embark on this journey. To them I say, thank you :-). If you have a few minutes, please visit the website and let me what you think. Want to work with us? Let us know how we can help.

Achieving Success in Diversity and Inclusion

In August, ASAE introduced the 2015-2017 Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan as well as new policies on religious diversity and accessibility. We asked the D + I Committee’s Immediate Past Chair and 2008-2009 DELP Scholar Mariama Boney to talk about their important work.

Association Advocacy Chick: What are some of the responsibilities for ASAE’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Committee?

Mariama Boney: For nearly 25 years, the Diversity & Inclusion Committee has promoted diversity and inclusion in association management, develop recommendations on how to make ASAE’s leadership and membership more diverse, and assisted ASAE with integrating diversity and inclusion into initiatives, education, or programs. The committee also coordinates the ASAE Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP).

AAC : Identify some of the most pressing issues for associations when it comes to D + I. 

MB: Some key and most pressing issues for associations include:

  1. Promoting an understanding of and celebrating the various generations and cultures that are working together.
  2. Creating and fostering inclusive environments for all cultural groups to work together effectively.
  3. Growing recruitment, retention and equity of multicultural groups in at all levels – in hiring, membership, and boards.

As associations, we have to be innovative and willing to do something different. We’ve been distracted by the same conversations we’ve been having for years. Association professional must broaden the conversation and move toward action. According to US Census estimates, by the year 2020, the most prominent changes in the US workforce will be in the demographic areas of age, gender, national origin and race/ethnicity. Yet, less than 30% of associations have a Diversity & Inclusion initiative and only 21% have a designated staff person responsible for staff and/or membership diversity & inclusion.

AAC: The D&I Committee developed a new strategic plan for 2015-2017. Talk about some of the key points and what goes into developing such a plan. 

MB: We used the principles of scan, plan, implement, evaluate. The process was 8 months from start to finish.

First, we clarified the terminology regarding diversity, inclusion, diversity + inclusion and cultural competence.

Second,  we reviewed and clarified ASAE’s Diversity and Inclusion statement. Next we worked with a consultant in a day-long session to identify successes, strengths and gaps as well as opportunities to build from the earlier 2012-14 plan created under the leadership of D&I Committee Past Chair, Oleathia Gadsden.

Out of that dialogue and data review, we worked with a consultant secured by ASAE to engage a diverse work group in a visioning dialogue and outlined the impact and accomplishments we wanted to see for ASAE and the association community in 3-5 years. The priorities include a focus on:

  • Resources and Recognition
  • Reach and Relevance
  • Talent Development
  • Relationship Development

Then, the consultant and ASAE Sr. Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Alexis Terry, placed our thoughts, ideas and priorities into a workable framework and organized the ideas into major themes which yielded the primary goals and action steps.

I worked with an awesome core group of DELP class liaisons to engage over 100 association leaders, the ASAE executive team, the work group and the D&I committee to review the initial draft and highlight critical gaps. Finally, edits were made and the plan was formatted into a reader friendly publication by ASAE’s marketing team.

AAC: The D&I Committee assisted with recommendations to address religious diversity and accessibility. What prompted these recommendations? 

MB: The recommendations which are now approved policies grew out of best prescribes and the experiences of some ASAE members. When opportunities arise to be better and serve ASAE members better through suggestions or complaints, we have to gather the facts, examine the experiences and pay attention so we can explore opportunities for advocacy which then yields change.

So, as the opportunities and best practices regarding interfaith issues and accessibility on meeting came to our attention we thought it important to bring some action via policy. You can find these recommendations here. Information on accessibility at ASAE meetings can be found here.

AAC: How does the work of the D&I Committee affect/impact ASAE’s Diversity Executive Leadership Program?

MB: The committee generated the concept of DELP nearly 15 years ago and has served as the coordinating group in partnership with ASAE staff with the selection of each DELP class and the program model. Program operations, logistics and implementation are managed  by ASAE  staff.

The committee reviews the program purpose, goals, marketing, program criteria, selection process and program components and make revisions annually. Since the program has been such a great success with 135 alumni, a DELP subcommittee of the D&I committee now focuses on alumni engagement.

AAC: What will make associations successful in diversity and inclusion for the future?

MB: Have a committed and trained executive leadership team. Equip them with the courage to go beyond being PC about equity, diversity and inclusion. In addition…

  1. Get the Data. Many associations don’t know their strengths and challenges, and opportunities regarding diversity and inclusion which is why the Association Inclusion Index is so important. It is only $199 and well worth the investment.
  2. Develop a plan. Include diversity and inclusion in the strategic plan and integrate it throughout the organization.
  3. Focus on Recruitment. Build a diverse workforce through multicultural outreach.
  4. Measure Retention. Implement professional development and foster inclusive environments to keep a thriving and diverse workforce.

ASAE also created a video highlighting the importance of D+I to the association community and how we as association professionals can take the necessary steps to develop and implement D+I strategies within our own organizations. Check it out today!