One of my first AAC blog posts discussed the ASAE’s 2010 annual meeting and what I learned from it. One of my points highlighted a lack of government relations programming. Knowing that more than a few of my GR colleagues attend annual as well as association executives prepping for the CAE exam, I felt that we were being shortchanged. So, I did what anyone in my position would’ve done: I decided to submit a proposal for 2011. I contacted one of my fellow lobbyists and over the course of the next three months developed a draft proposal. We even contacted one of her former EDs to serve as a co-panelist. We reviewed and edited, counting down to that fateful Friday in December when I submitted the proposal.
Then in mid-January, I got the news: our session was not accepted.
I was hurt. Rejection is never easy, but when it comes at the hand of professional colleagues, it tends to sting even more. You tend to question yourself. “Did I write too much?” “Was the title not sexy enough?” “Do I even qualify to submit a presentation?” I felt like all of the work my co-panelists and I put into this effort was a waste. However, time heals all wounds and looking back, I’m glad I followed through on a goal I set for myself after ASAE10. For those of you who will be presenting in St. Louis, congratulations and good luck. As for me, there’s always 2012…
Recently, the Congressional Management Foundation released a survey of congressional staffers and their thoughts on advocacy. The results were quite interesting. Among the findings, the survey identified the most important factor that influences an undecided Member of Congress. No, not the lobbyist or the media. It’s the legislator’s constituent. Whether it’s a Capitol Hill visit or an email, the average citizen has more influence than one would think. As a lobbyist, this is exactly the way it should be.
A good lobbyist is a “behind the scenes” person. My job is to talk to congressional staff about the technical aspects of a bill (i.e. how many people it would affect, the cost to government to implement, etc…). However, I’m only setting the stage for our association members to come in and give the bill a human touch. When I was with my previous employer, ASHA, I had a number of opportunities to accompany our members to the Hill to meet with their legislators. There’s nothing more eye-opening than having a speech pathologist explain how the increase in class size negatively affects the quality of care to each student or an audiologist discuss the challenges of treating a newborn identified with a hearing loss due to lack of sufficient follow-up. I depend on my members to give me and the congressional staff their day-to-day reality to drive home the message of why a bill should proceed or fail.
So the next time you’re solicited to join your association’s grassroots network, sign up to participate. You’ll have way more power than you ever thought possible.