Why I lobby for associations

Last week, ASAE celebrated the Power of A campaign with a series of activities highlighting the social and economic impact of associations.  Such events included Capitol Hill visits from over 100 association executives and a panel on why associations matter.  I had the honor of moderating that panel where we discussed, among other things, why we work for associations.

It’s an interesting question for someone in my position.  Why did I chose to work for the association community when many of my fellow lobbyists go the corporate route?  A recent report from the Sunlight Foundation indicated that over the last two years, the majority of congressional staffers leaving Capitol Hill go on to work for firms and corporations.  What does this say about association lobbying?  The same report indicated that the third most popular destination for staffers turned lobbyists was trade associations followed by membership associations.  So while there is a willingness to work for associations, it’s still not considered the most popular choice.

My desire to work in this industry stems from my experience.  Associations gave me the chance to learn by doing.  I learned how to run a PAC by doing it.  I learned how to lobby by doing it.  I wasn’t going to get that practical knowledge working at a firm or corporation.  If you work for a lobbying firm, you have to not only worry about the issues you cover, but also hustle for clients.  In lobbyist speak, we call it  “eating what you kill”. Sure, corporations and firms offer higher salaries and attractive benefits.  However, earning a large paycheck is meaningless if you’re working 80 hours a week. I’d rather work in an environment where I can truly make a difference in the lives of others and still leave the office at 6.

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So you wanna be a DELP Scholar?

You’ve received the email from ASAE.  Maybe someone handed you the brochure.  Maybe you’ve read this blog and have finally convinced yourself that now is the time: You want to apply to the Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP).  But, how do you begin?  Background information including the application can be found here.  In addition, some of my DELP colleagues wanted to offer their advice to those taking the plunge.

Apply from your heart. Be clear about what you expect to get from the experience and how you will pay it forward – Art Hsieh, class of 2008-2009

If you do not get accepted the first time.. try and try again. It took me twice to get accepted into the program. Be sure to focus on the betterment of all and not come across as wanting to be a part of DELP as a personal agenda. Just like in a job interview.. what will YOU do for DELP and the Association world? –Valerie Fries-Wade CAE, class of 2010-2012

Focus less on what you want from the program through ASAE and focus more on what you’ll do to give back to the profession.  The opportunity exists to provide underrepresented groups with a platform to be visible, more engaged in the association community, and more importantly pave the way for others. You will only get out of the program what you’re willing to put into it – Shawn Boynes CAE, class of 2008-2009

Becoming a DELP scholar and, subsequently, a DELP alumnus isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. It’s a highly rewarding experience resulting in a (sometimes rowdy!) extended family that both supports and challenges you in further growth and development as a leader. Therefore, the application and selection process is rigorous. Take your time in developing responses to the essay questions that accurately reflect your thoughts about leadership, innovation and association management. Polish your resume, craft a smart and enlightening bio, and secure thoughtful recommendations that speak to your leadership skills, work ethic and overall contributions to the association community. Above all, be yourself and let your personality shine – Aaron Wolowiec CAE, class of 2009-2011

Think about what gifts you bring to the Association community – it’s a two way exchange and you have lots to offer as well! – Pamala Silas CAE, class of 2008-2009

My advice?  There will always be more qualified applicants than space available. To get an edge, do your research on the program.  If you know a DELP scholar, talk to them about their experience.  Your application should reflect the impact you plan to make on the association community through DELP.  However, it’s more than what you write, but how you present it.  Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!  I cannot stress the importance of having another set of eyes look at your materials before you submit.  Remember, you’re competing against some of the best and brightest in the association community.

The application deadline for the next DELP class is Friday March 16 at 5 pm Eastern.  If you’re still on the fence about it, drop me a line and I’ll be more than happy to talk to you.  Good luck to everyone applying to the Diversity Executive Leadership Program!