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.