April 9, 2020

April 9, 2020:  How are you using technologies to advance your Advocacy Mission and member engagement in this time of unprecedented disruption? That was the topic of discussion when Advocacy, Government Affairs, and Public Policy Directors from 17 leading Associations met on April 9, 2020 for the Presidential Forum Roundtable via Zoom Web-conference.  The peer-to-peer discussion was moderated by Mary Kate Cunningham, VP Public Policy, American Society for Association Executives (ASAE).

Cunningham started by sharing ASAE’s advocacy work on the Hill on behalf of Associations.  Most importantly right now is lobbying efforts to get 501c6 organizations to be part of the CARES Act. Mary Kate shared with the Directors the ASAE advocacy website https://www.thepowerofa.org/ and how it is helping ASAE to mobilize the voice of the Association community.

Her first question to the group was how do you communicate in this time of social distancing.  Several Advocacy Directors mentioned that Legislative Fly-In events had to be scrapped just days before their start, and they immediately pivoted to doing a “virtual” fly-in.  To the surprise of many, the outcome seemed to be more successful than expected with some variability in effectiveness depending upon which legislative staff office or federal Agency was involved.  Some legislative offices were found to have strong IT resources for remote work (Zoom, Teams, etc.) while others were not well equipped so that audio/phone was the only way of connecting.  Directors agreed that virtual events and digital meetings will be more prevalent, and at least a couple Directors confirmed that they will make virtual Fly-In sessions a regular part of the schedule going forward.  In this time of crisis, some protocol that some Directors adopted include:  focus on brief 15-minute conversations with legislators/staffers/agencies; be respectful and ask how their Legislative/Agency audience prefers to be engaged.

Regarding political fundraising there was a consensus that this was being put on pause, deferred for 3 months or even till the end of 2020.

Mary Kate asked, how has this pandemic changed the way your Association does business.  One Director mentioned that they opened up almost all of their content (e.g., online webinars, educational and industry resources, toolkits, etc.) to their members for free during the pandemic which has helped membership recruitment and also increased member engagement.  Another Director noted how a federal Agency is reaching out to the Association to help “spread the word” to the Association’s members, and likewise to gauge sentiment and understand the state of the Association’s industry.  This was seen as a great opportunity in a time of crisis, for the Association to be the bridge/connector between government and the industry grass roots.   Another Director mentioned that with virtual fly-in, all their Advocacy content was put on Microsoft Sharepoint which allowed him to see what content people are most interested in.  This alone was a good data point for helping with Advocacy content creation going forward.  One Director noted that the future reoccurrence of pandemics will be part of their organization’s planning.

Technologies in use include Zoom, Microsoft Sharepoint, Teams, Adobe Connect, mobile advocacy apps linked to text/email/social medial, and Convo (Phone2Action).

In addition to the Advocacy Directors in attendance, the sole sponsor Phone2Action provided the group with important subject matter about advocacy software that enables organizations to create grassroots marketing campaigns.   Erik Rosedahl, Head of Alliances and Stakeholder Impact, referenced Convo as their mobile app template that allows Associations to guide its supporters through the process of writing letters with their personal stories to lawmakers and other decision-makers, as well as leveraging social media tools for communication.  Users of Phone2Action include ANA, Consumer Technology Association, Internet Association, Lyft, and others.   Check out their Blogs with important information about Advocacy Planning in a Post-Pandemic World:  https://phone2action.com/blog/     POC:  Erik Rosedahl <erik@phone2action.com>

DELIVERY METHOD: Group live presented online due to COVID-19