Wrong Way

Wrong Way

By Jordan Wildermuth, MSW, Manager, Health Policy and Advocacy

Sometimes associations take the wrong path, whether it’s in their membership strategy, their marketing strategy, or their advocacy efforts. Whether it happens with leaders fully understanding the situation or by mistake, going down the wrong path obviously isn’t ideal.

This reminds me of the classic cult comedy, Dumb and Dumber, where Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne set out on a cross-country trip to Aspen, Colorado to return a briefcase full of money to its owner, only to be pursued by a group of criminals who are after the briefcase. At one point during their trip, Harry awakens from a nap only to find out that Lloyd has driven quite a ways in the wrong direction. Their exchange goes like this:

Lloyd Christmas: I'm only human, Harry! Come on! Stop being a baby. So we backtracked a tad.

Harry Dunne: A tad? A tad, Lloyd? You drove almost a sixth of the way across the country in the wrong direction! Now we don't have enough money to get to Aspen, we don't have enough money to get home, we don't have enough money to eat, we don't have enough money to sleep!

Lloyd Christmas: Well, it's not gonna do us any good sitting here whining about it. We're in a hole. We're just going to have to dig ourselves out.

Like Lloyd and Harry, associations can set out with a very distinct idea of what they’re looking to accomplish. In advocacy, those distinct ideas may surround the types of legislative and regulatory issues they want to address. But along the way, our organizations sometimes allow someone else to drive (i.e. board of directors, president, committee members). This has the potential to lead the association in the wrong direction and if the association travels too far, it is more difficult to get back on track toward those initial ideas and goals. Every association needs to ensure that they are operating from the same map and empower volunteers to not fall asleep at the wheel.

So here are four simple ideas to make sure you have enough money to get to your association’s version of Aspen:

  • Develop a concise advocacy agenda for your committee. Being broad and vague is a breeding ground for pet projects. Come up with 3 distinct priorities where you will focus your resources for the year. Revisit the priorities each year to ensure they are still relevant.
  • Develop a strategy document which is the map for how you will carry out your advocacy agenda. Once you set your priorities it is important to be able to measure what steps have been taken to advance the priorities. It also paints a clear picture for the board and the committee to understand how public policy can be impacted. Your strategies should also be revisited to ensure you are accomplishing what you initially set out to do.
  • Map your advocacy agenda to the association’s strategic plan. An advocacy agenda is only a continuation of the strategic plan. If your strategic plan states that you will advocate on behalf of apples, your advocacy agenda should not state that you will influence legislation impacting fruit. Influencing legislation impacting fruit could be a strategy for getting apples a seat at the table, but your resources should not be spent on fruit in general.
  • Get buy-in. Conversations with board and committee members prior to developing an advocacy agenda can help avoid any disagreements all together. The success of an advocacy agenda relies on the collective voice of the association and members feeling as though they have skin in the game.

Accomplishing advocacy goals is an important part of any association’s activities, so taking at least these four ideas into consideration will help ensure you don’t end up like Lloyd and Harry – well off track from where you were trying to go.

Additional Posts by Jordan Wildermuth

Running the Race for Advocacy

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