Yes you can: government relations on the CAE exam

For those of you who have taken the Certified Association Executive (CAE) exam, you may be familiar with the 3-day course offered by ASAE called the CAE Kickoff. The kickoff, formerly known as the CAE immersion, gives attendees an overview of the 9 domains covered on the exam as well as tips for approaching and preparing for it. Last week, I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Brian Pallasch from the American Society of Civil Engineers on Domain 6: Government Relations (GR), Public Policy and Coalition Building. Prior to our presentation, we were given the following pre-program survey:

As you can see, Government Relations, Public Policy and Coalition Building was far and away the domain attendees felt the least confident about. Unfortunately, this did not surprise me one bit. From colleagues who are current CAEs to those who are thinking about sitting for the exam, I’ve heard the same refrain: the GR domain freaks me out! Don’t let this happen to you. The best way to deal with the Government Relations domain is the same way to deal with the others: from the mindset of a Chief Staff Executive (CSE).

For our presentation, Brian and I focused on developing the mindset to tackle Domain 6 as opposed to focusing on the specific exam content. A successful association’s public policy outreach follows the SPIE model: Scan, Plan, Implement and Evaluate. For example, you cannot do public policy without some type of plan that anticipates rather than reacts to what’s going on legislatively. Your plan should include issues of importance to the association, position statements, advocacy training and of course, participation from your members among other components. As CSE, your approach to public policy must be strategic, must take into account judgment based decision-making, and must include relationship building.

The point of this post is not to give you the answers to possible exam questions. You must do that on your own. Instead, I wanted to give you another way to think about Domain 6 so that it’s not so intimidating. If you’re sitting in December, good luck with your preparation. Think about SPIE as you study PACs, lobbying and coalition building and you should be all set. If you have any questions about the next kickoff session in February 2013, please contact Libby Bingham, program manager for the course, at


4 thoughts on “Yes you can: government relations on the CAE exam

  1. I would have LOVED to learn from you as a guest expert in the CAE Prep class! Great post and thanks for keeping all of us informed and better educated as a result of your experience and knowledge!

  2. I’m sitting in December and scared to death I’ll not pass. 🙂 But I was also in that prep class, have been reading my a** off about everything (no personal reading allowed any longer), so hope that the SPIE will get me through the tough ones. 🙂 Nice post, thanks.

  3. Thanks Moira, KiKi and Russ for your comments.
    Russ – Sounds like you’re on the right track as far as your study prep. As you’re doing your practice tests, make sure you not only know the correct answer, but why the answer is correct. Having that understanding helps eliminate incorrect answers immediately. Good luck in December!

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