Posts Tagged ‘Advocacy’
Friday, August 3rd, 2012 by Vbhotla
Lobbyblog is happy to introduce our guess writer for this week, Amy Showalter with the Showalter Group. Amy, thank you so much for being here this week.
I was happy to see some solid research conducted via a partnership between Lobbyists.info/The Original U.S. Congress Handbook, David Rehr of The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, and ORI. [ed. Found here at: www.congressionalcommunicationsreport.com]
The research sought to find out what tactics are most effective when communicating with congressional staff, particularly from a lobbyist’s perspective. The goal of the report is to help organizations and lobbyists learn how to better communicate with congressional staff. I’m gratified to see several of the findings correlate with previous research conducted by Dr. Kelton Rhoads and myself, which you can find here: http://www.showaltergroup.com/products/tc2.php as well as research that formed the basis for The Underdog Edge: How Ordinary People Change the Minds of the Powerful. . .and Live to Tell About It. www.underdogedge.com. #underdogedge
I’ll be commenting on various aspects of the findings in this and future articles, including my insights on how to apply the findings to your work. I believe the ground truth from the research is that is helps us focus on what matters, and which to tactics we should allocate more (or less) resources. First, I want to address the best thing about the survey – the methodology.
The researchers asked congressional staff what they prefer regarding communications tactics, rather than asking the staffer what their member of Congress thinks about a tactic. Seems like a small matter, but in the research world, it’s vital. Asking someone what another person thinks or would do and drawing conclusions from that might be interesting, but I would not base a strategy on those kinds of findings. Dealing with respondent veracity is hard enough, but to ask an individual what someone else thinks puts the findings in a congressional staff member, how they personally view certain types of communications, so I give it an A+.
OK, I’ve stepped off the soapbox.
“Where You Are is Who You Were”
One of the questions asked staff what factors determine whether a lobbyist will gain access. The one that caught my attention was the “reputation of the individual seeking the meeting.”
In Chapter Two of The Underdog Edge, I write about building your street cred. We found from interviews with powerful people whose minds were changed that they factor in your reputation when deciding whether to give you time and access. Busy people don’t have time to do all the necessary research to determine if you’re a credible communicator. Therefore, your reputation determines in part whether you will get access.
The bottom line: Where you are now is in part based on who you were years ago. Think about where you want to be in five years. Get your “street cred” repaired or ramped up for future success.
Lack of Bias = Lots of Influence
What’s effective to influence legislation? One of the top four responses include to “present/refute opposing views.” Again, in Underdog Edge, our research revealed that a key element of credibility is being unbiased. Many of the legislators I interviewed whose minds were changed by constituents said that the unbiased presentation of the facts got their attention.
The bottom line: Know what your opponents say, as well as their influence strategies, for increased persuasion (and more credibility).
What did staff consider an ineffective technique to get their attention? “Organizing email/postcard/call campaigns” and “sending daily issue emails/ newsletters” as well as those very expensive ads in Capitol Hill publications.
Why organizations do things that don’t get results, I’ll never know, but hopefully this research will provide for better allocation of organizational resources. In the next Roots of Success, we’ll review more research findings and how you can apply them for greater communications and persuasion success.
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy advice, amy showalter, Communications Survey, Congressional Communications Survey, Lobbying, Lobbying how to, Showalter, Showalter Group, Showalter Group Inc, The Underdog Edge, Underdog Edge
Posted in Legislative Strategy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying News, Lobbying tips | Comments Off on Research Review: Communicating with Congressional Staff – What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why: Part One
Thursday, July 19th, 2012 by Vbhotla
LobbyBlog is happy to introduce another guest writer: Dr. David Rehr with the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.
The complexity of influencing or affecting public policy in Washington, DC has never been greater. According to Lobbyists.Info over $8.1 billion dollars was spent in the last two years by the lobbying community trying to affect the outcome of laws and regulations in the U.S.
For many, “lobbying” is a bad word. It connotes individuals using inside information, their personal connections, or other tools to impact the minds of 100 U.S. Senators, 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the over 12,000 congressional staffers that work in the legislative branch.
The focus of today is to help clarify which advocacy tools work and which do not work when an individual or organization wants to passionately impact the legislative process in Washington.
Newly released research from the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) at George Washington University (www.gspm.gwu.edu) provides clues never before unearthed.
THE CONGRESSIONAL COMMUNICATIONS REPORT (www.CongressionalCommunicationsReport.com) provides a monumental look at how America communicates with the Congress. The nearly 3,000 congressional staff and lobbyists who participated in this study provided incredible insights and valuable outcomes measurement.
One question was designed to find out from congressional staff which lobbying tools influence members of Congress’ decision-making (just some of the 16 advocacy tools are listed below).
“In your opinion, how effective are each of the following lobbying activities in influencing or shaping members of congress’ decision-making on legislative issues?”
Effective (4 & 5)
Not at all
effective (1 & 2)
Presenting a concise
Making a pending vote an
results to be
Bringing in former
The tools are pretty straight forward. Most interesting is that congressional staff ranked “providing consistently reliable information” and “presenting a concise argument” as their top choices. This means that every American can influence the process provided they are able to meet these expectations.
Another “takeaway” is that these tools need to be “laddered” in their use and by the resources available. Less effective advocacy tools include making a vote a “KEY VOTE,” using surveys or polls to affect outcomes, or leveraging former members to affect their former colleagues or staff.
Here’s one insight: Take a look at the advocacy tools you use. Make an honest assessment of what works and what doesn’t. Then, measure your assessment against this landmark research to see how it fares. It will help you be even more effective.
Another question asked how congressional staff learns about policy issues. This reveals to citizen advocates and professional lobbyists where hey need to go to ‘shape’ the conversation (just a few of the 19 areas asked about are below).
“How valuable are each of the following as ways for you to learn about policy issues?”
Ways to learn
Valuable/Not at all Valuable
Academic or issue
Survey and poll results
Interest Group websites
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) and academic and issue experts were selected as two of the most valuable tools. Blogs, Constituents and Internet Searches fall into a second tier; Interest Group websites, and Survey and polls results are in the third tier.
Despite social media’s deep penetration into other parts of our society, it is not considered a valuable resource to inform policy at all by congressional staff.
Here’s one insight: As yourself and your team if you are connected with the CRS and do their researchers seek you out for data, empirical evidence or your unique perspective on an issue they are researching. Frankly, I don’t think many of us in the advocacy business think much about CRS. But we should since the data clearly indicates that congressional staffers find it highly valuable.
THE CONGRESSIONAL COMMUNICATIONS REPORT answers many of the questions I have been asking for decades. It’s a treasure-trove of data for those who want to be at the pinnacle of the advocacy field.
David Rehr, PhD, is the lead researcher for THE CONGRESSIONAL COMMUNICATIONS REPORT and an Adjunct Professor at the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) at George Washington University. He is former CEO of the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the National Association of Broadcasters. He has been recognized as one of the most effective advocates in the nation’s capital. He can be reached at DavidRehr@gwu.edu or 202-510-2148.
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy strategy, communications report, Congress, congressional communications, Congressional Communications Report, Congressional strategy, Lobbying, Lobbying strategy
Posted in Advocacy, Legislative Strategy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Research, Lobbying tips | Comments Off on Lobbying Tools that Influence Congressional Decision-Making: What is More Effective, What is Less Effective
Thursday, July 12th, 2012 by Vbhotla
In the last post, I covered the first three of the deadly sins of lobby days. To be most effective, you’ll want to avoid all seven, so here are the remainder!
Sin #4 – Member-itis: Never, ever insist that a meeting with a member is more important than a meeting with a staff person. In fact, it’s actually better to meet with the staff person.ã All you’ll probably get with the member is a “grip and grin,” and the vague feeling that your issues weren’t really covered. True, it’s sometimes hard to get advocates to understand that — so tell them the Advocacy Guru said so!ã But if that’s not enough you might consider inviting a member of Congress to your conference so everyone can meet a legislator.ã Also impress upon them the fact that they can much more easily meet with the legislator in the district.
Sin #5 – Inflexibility: This is particularly a problem when it’s combined with high expectations. Too many groups offer a very small meeting window and then are irritated when staff or members are not available in the 12:00pm to 2:00pm time slot they’ve designated for meetings. Try to have an entire day available – and ask participants in your lobby day to bring a good book.
Sin #6 – Overzealousness: If you have multiple people coming from one district or state, do everything you can to coordinate before requesting meetings. In too many cases, each individual will request their own meeting. By the fifth meeting on the same topic, the staff are generally pretty cranky. They will thank you for your consideration of their time if you coordinate well.
Sin #7 – Abandonment: Once your advocates are done in Washington, DC or your state capitol, their advocacy for the year isn’t finished. In fact, it’s just started. In most cases you will need to work with the office on an ongoing basis to help them truly understand your issues and the impact of certain policy actions on their constituents. After your meeting, don’t abandon your elected officials and their staff – embrace them (although not literally. Some of them aren’t huggers).
Lobbyblog wants to thank Stephanie Vance for her special feature and remind evereyone to head on over to her site advocacyguru.com.
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy asso, advocacy guru, communicating with Congress, Congress, congressional communications, stephanie vance
Posted in Advocacy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying tips | Comments Off on Six Deadly Sins of Lobbying Days Part 2
Thursday, June 28th, 2012 by Vbhotla
Lobbyblog.com is again happy to bring back Stephanie Vance with Advocacy Associates for a special two-part focus on common mistakes people make during fly-in days.
At Advocacy Associates we schedule thousands (yes, thousands) of Congressional meetings per year. From the American Association of Museums to the Heating Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (a good group to know in a heat wave) – if you’ve got people coming to town, we make sure they get to Capitol Hill.
Although we now get between 99 and 100% of the constituency-based meetings we request, we’ve made the occasional mistake over the years. The good news is that you don’t need to make those same mistakes – just don’t commit the seven deadly sins we’ll be covering in the next two blog posts and you’ll be just fine.
Here are one through three:
Sin #1 – Non-Constituency: When requesting a meeting, whether with the member or a staff person, the first question you will be asked is “are you from the district or state?” Elected officials and their staff are there to represent a discreet group of people. You absolutely MUST demonstrate your relevance to that discreet group of people or they won’t meet with you. Our meeting request letters always include the city of the constituent asking for the meeting – and some offices will ask for a full street address just to be sure!
Sin #2 – Non-Written Requests: OK, I lied. Actually the first thing you will be asked by the usually incredibly young person who answers the phone is “have you sent your request in writing?” Don’t even bother to call before you have either faxed in the request (look it up in the United States Congress Handbook or go to http://www.congress.org to look up fax numbers or e-mailed it through the Congressman’s website (accessible through www.house.gov and www.senate.gov).
Sin #3 – Assumption: As Robert Siegel once asked me when I worked at NPR “do you know the etymology of the word “assume?” My response was “who uses a word like ‘etymology’?” If you don’t want to make a donkey’s behind of yourself, never assume that your faxed or e-mailed request actually got to the office or that the scheduler will just magically get back to you. With hundreds of requests to go through a day, things get lost. Often. Be sure to follow-up (and be very polite – they don’t lose things on purpose, they’re just overwhelmed).
Stay tuned for four through seven — and you’ll be on your way to a fabulous event in no time!
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy associates, Communicating, communicating with Congress, Congress, congressional communications, Lobbying, Stephanie, stephanie vance, Vance
Posted in Advocacy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying tips | Comments Off on Six Deadly Sins of Lobbying Days
Thursday, June 14th, 2012 by Vbhotla
This week LobbyBlog is happy to welcome guest writer and Advocacy Guru Stephanie Vance:
Advocacy Guru Stephanie Vance spills 50 D.C.-insider secrets for effective influence. These tactics will move any immovable object, be it Congress, a corporate board or your intransigent children, to action — or inaction, depending on your preference. In an exclusive set of blog postings, LobbyBlog will be covering several of these tactics in the coming weeks. To start, we’ll look at perhaps the most important thing any effective lobbyist should know – 5 things NOT to do.
Number 5: Use the “Because I Said So” argument.
Good lobbyists know how to answer the question “why should I care about what you have to say?” effectively. They make a connection either to what gets the legislator up in the morning (like policy issues they love) or what keeps them up at night (like a high unemployment rate or re-election concerns). Bad lobbyists use the “because I said so” argument.
Number 4: Interrupt the Decision Maker with Communications That Are Not Really High Priority.
“High priority” communications include those from constituents, those related to a specific (and timely) ask and those that will help the legislator move forward on his or her policy agenda. “I just wanted to touch base” meetings are not high priority.
Number 3: Be Vague About What You Want.
Without a goal, you’ll never know if you’re getting to yes — nor will your audience know what they can do to help you. As one chief of staff I know put it: “You get one ‘hey how are you doing’ meeting per year: after that, you better want something.” Don’t start your government relations effort until you know what that is.
Number 2: Not Knowing What You’re Talking About.
Nothing says “you really shouldn’t listen to me” like peppering your communications with inaccuracies. Take steps to learn everything you need to know about your cause, including the benefits and downsides of your proposed solution to a problem. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say “I don’t know, I’ll get back to you.” Then do it.
Number 1: Give Up.
It can take years to move a relatively minor proposal through the legislative process, even with a variety of powerful tools at your disposal. The founding fathers designed our system of government to be completely and totally inefficient – and they did an excellent job. Persistence is the only thing that ever works – and it works almost all the time.
Stephanie Vance, the Advocacy Guru at Advocacy Associates, is the author of five books on effective advocacy and influence, including The Influence Game. A former Capitol Hill Chief of Staff and lobbyist, she works with a wide range of groups to improve their advocacy efforts. More at www.theinfluencegame.com
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy associates, advocacy guru, Communicating, congressional communications, Influence Game, Lobbying, stephanie vance
Posted in Advocacy, Legislative Strategy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying tips | Comments Off on Why Some Special Interests Dont Win in The Influence Game
Saturday, March 17th, 2012 by Vbhotla
One of the most common sights in Washington, D.C. is the fly-in lobby days. People from off the Hill flood the hotel conference rooms of our Nation’s capital, sometimes in droves and others in trickles, so they can learn how to effectively carry their group’s message to their representatives. The largest effect of this is making life hard on the people that are already hard at work in DC. Woe is the life of a lobbyist who is just on time for a meeting only to see a line at the nearest security entrance where people are being held up for not realizing that metal detectors are, among other things, very good at detecting metal. Successful fly-in days are few and far between, though I am happy to write that earlier this week at least one organization got their fly-in day right and got the biggest bang for their members’ buck.
ASAE – The Center for Association Leadership, held their fly-in for members from throughout the country at the Hyatt Regency earlier this week and, having attended more than my share of these events, hit on exactly what a good fly-in day should be. There were panels that educated the visitors what to say, and more importantly, what to specifically ask for. Too often, people get caught-up in the moment speaking to the Members or staff that they forget to give the specifics for why they are there and what they are hoping to accomplish, leading to a wasted meeting and opportunity. Or they use the general “we want you to make things better” without offering a how, to which staff usually respond “we’ll look into that… or something…” Additionally, the panel went out of their way to instruct people what not electronic cigarette liquid salem to say, which is sometimes more important.
Also included was a panel on social media that was dedicated to both the follow-up for Hill meetings, and also to organize the ASAE membership. I’ve stated before that no matter how many members an organization has, being unable to reach them makes them all but useless, a point that ASAE demonstrated.
The often over looked part of the fly-in is the follow-up, which is really where most of the best lobby-related benefits from a fly-in are found. Too often the staff for an organization is focused on the day itself or the post-Hill day to properly see the future and long-term goals of a fly-in. Additionally, visitors are often tired after their day(s) of meetings and just want to get home without doing a proper de-briefing of what went on in their meetings. As a result, staff inquiries and contacts are often lost in shuffle and not properly followed-up with. ASAE used a special database and submission system in addition to the standard methods to keep track of contacts and conversations during the fly-in.
It is also good to see a well done fly-in day. Too often are they treated as vacations or an excuse to vent to staff when they should be done with a longer-term legislative goal or series of objectives in mind. More fly-ins like this will make all involved roll their eyes a little less when they see the groups walking down the hall. Now if only something could be done about the metal detector lines…
For more information about the ASAE lobby day, click here. Lobbyblog.com is published by Columbia Books Inc., which was a sponsor of the event and provider of Congressional Handbooks for ASAE.
Tags: Advocacy, ASAE, Congress, Congressional meetings, fly-in, fly-in days, legislative days, Lobbying
Posted in Advocacy, Congress Views, Legislative Strategy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying News, Lobbying tips, Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up | Comments Off on Fly-in Days
Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by Vbhotla
Jocelyn Bissonnette speaks at a NAFIS conference.
It’s been more than a year, but Lovable Lobbyist is back with a special Valentine’s Day Lovable Lobbyist edition!
With education reauthorization being worked on this year, we wanted to introduce you to one of the people that will be helping to make a difference in the lives of students across the country. Meet Jocelyn Bissonnette, the Director of Government Affairs with the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, a non-profit that works to ensure that students across the country get the education they deserve, particularly those from military families.
Do you have a personal connection to the nonprofit you work for?
Education has long been a passion of mine. I studied economics and political science in college, but my interest in federal education policy was piqued by a course on social mobility and social change and reinforced through my participation in a literacy-focused tutoring program. I spent a summer teaching middle school in Providence, RI and while that was an incredible experience, I realized that although I wanted to pursue my interests in education, teaching was not for me. I’m fortunate to work for an organization that advocates for and protects the interests of school districts.
What positive things Online Casino would you like people to know about lobbying and advocacy?
My organization lobbies on Impact Aid – an education program that reimburses school districts for the lost local tax revenue associated with the federal presence in their district (anything from military installations to Native American reservations to national parks). I see myself as an advocate: the voice of these school districts on Capitol Hill, protecting their interests and ensuring their voices are represented. NAFIS provides district-specific analysis and legislative expertise vital to the policy-making process. Our members are busy running school districts, and my organization exists to monitor congressional activities on their behalf.
What can people do to get involved in advocacy activities with Impact Aid schools?
NAFIS has a website (www.nafisdc.org) and a Facebook page where we post advocacy activities and action alerts. You can donate to the Federally Impacted Schools Educational Foundation, which provides workshops and training to school personnel. NAFIS also works with the Committee for Education Funding, a broad coalition of educational groups (www.cef.org).
What else makes you lovable outside of your regular work?
I love cooking, cheering on New England sports teams, and seeing shows at local theatres in DC and Northern Virginia. Because of my Armenian heritage, I also enjoy discussing Armenian history and culture.
Tags: Advocacy, advocates, Jocelyn Bissonnettee, Lovable Lobbyists
Posted in Just for Fun, Lovable Lobbyists | Comments Off on Lovable Lobbyist Profile: Jocelyn Bissonnette
Friday, January 20th, 2012 by Vbhotla
In the 1980s the National Rifle Association pulled off one of the great lobbying/advocacy moves that is still remembered to this day. In an effort to defeat Congressional action, the NRA was able to organize over a quarter of a million calls and letters to Congressional offices within a 48 hour period. And this was during the 1980s! Before the Internet, before email, even fax for the most part! Since they proved their ability to organize members and generate interest, they have rarely had to do so again on such a mass scale. While there is debate as to whether they are still capable of organizing the required numbers of constituents to affect legislation, few offices in swing districts want to call their semi-bluff. Since it happened once, it can happen again. This week Congress saw the 2012 version of that NRA plan, and moving forward there are going to be some important lessons to be learned about grassroots advocacy and organization structure.
First, grassroots, like most legislative activity, can be divided into defensive (for example: trying to organize to prevent Congressional action) and offensive (trying to make changes to the current situation that will require some kind of active action). Offensive action is more technically complicated, since everyone needs to be on the same page, asking for the same thing, giving the same reason why it needs to happen, etc., but has the advantage of usually choosing the time it is required. This allows thing to be planned out and, more importantly, gives the upper tiers of the organization time to mobilize their members. Therein lays the weakness of most defensive grassroots organizational efforts: you don’t get to choose the time they are required.
The dirty little secret to real grassroots political power isn’t the number of members your organization actually has, but what you can do with those members and whether those members can be used at critical legislative times. If you have 10 million members that aren’t actually going to demi moore pokies do anything and can’t be mobilized, then they really aren’t going to make a difference in your legislative agenda when you need them. The number helps you get into meetings or maybe access to more resources, but when it comes down to generating letters or votes then the cat is out of the bag and the group can lose one of their main legislative tools.
However, a smaller group with a good top-down structure that can generate calls, letters, and e-mails, hold town hall meetings, contact other constituents, etc., in a timely basis can be much, much more effective. The question has always been how do you find a balance between an organization large enough to make a difference, but nimble enough to come together quickly, when needed?
This past week might answer that question. The opposition to the Senate’s Protect IP Act was able to passively organize a defensive grassroots movement. People go to Wikipedia on a daily basis, and when it blacks-out, they then want to know why. All Wikipedia had to do is shut down and post some info on what they want to be done, the site’s users do the rest. Google didn’t even have to shut down to generate interest and action; they just needed to black-out the site’s name. Most of the sites didn’t really provide facts or briefings for their users, just the message “Protect IP Act = BAD”. When people contacted their Congressional offices, they often didn’t have the correct facts on the phone or e-mail, but they were able to register their opinion with the legislation.
By shutting down, Wikipedia and others fulfilled the dream of every grassroots organization: they activated their members, and changed legislative policy. While black-outs aren’t a long-term legislative strategy, like the NRA they only need to be done once and then everyone knows that you can. Maybe the real lesson moving forward is the best way to organize your grassroots is to not go to work the next day.
Tags: Advocacy, Communications, grassroots, PIPA, SOPA
Posted in Advocacy, Congress Views, Legislative Strategy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying News, Lobbying tips | Comments Off on Grassroots lobbying and SOPA/PIPA
Wednesday, May 11th, 2011 by Brittany
Lobby days are a good way to connect with elected officials and their staff at their offices in Washington, D.C., or at the state capital. Although advocates are ultimately responsible for making those connections, a lot of planning and effort must be undertaken by the organization hosting the lobby day – as well as the advocates!
What are they?
For purposes of this manual, the term “lobby day” is used to refer to any effort to connect advocates with policymakers through meetings, either physically or virtually, on a given day or week. Some organizations might refer to these events as “advocacy days,” “fly-ins” or “Capitol Hill days.” Members of the legislative branch are usually the target audience for these events, although some organizations arrange meetings with regulators and other members of the executive branch, such as staff of the governor’s office.
Why is it useful?
Recent reports suggest that in-person meetings from constituents are one of the most effective ways to influence elected officials.
When should it be used?
Any organization with a core of committed advocates can benefit from coordinating a lobby day event, either individually or in concert with a coalition partner. Lobbying events are most successful, however, when the organization has a specific policy agenda and core ask.
Asking advocates to get involved
Asking advocates to participate in a lobby day effort Viagra generally involves more than simply sending out an action alert and hoping people respond, particularly for those situations where advocates will be investing their own time and money. Options for marketing the event include:
- Conference marketing materials, including brochures, mailers and web site information. Marketing materials should include links to online and hard copy registration materials
- Press releases about the event to industry publications
- Outreach through coalitions
- Articles / columns in the organization’s own publications
- Web 2.0 outreach techniques, such as setting up a Facebook or MySpace page for the event
Key points to consider in developing the materials:
- Outline the value of direct constituent communications in influencing the policymaking process. Advocates need to understand why their direct participation is critical to policy success.
- Be sure that advocates know what they are agreeing to do when registering for the event. Unless advocate leaders are very specific about what the event entails, some advocates may not understand that they will be meeting individually or in small groups with their policymakers.
- Ensure that the registration form captures all relevant information, including the address to be used for matching advocates with policymakers and cell phone numbers.
- Establish an early bird deadline that allows those scheduling the meetings enough time to initiate meeting requests and coordinate schedules.
For more information or to purchase the Advocacy Handbook click here.
Tags: Advocacy, Capitol Hill, Lobby Days
Posted in Advocacy | Comments Off on Spring Forward into Lobby Days
Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 by Brittany
Differences Between Lobbying and Advocacy
There is much confusion in the government relations community about the differences between “advocacy” and “lobbying.” This is in part because the terms are used one way in the legal and tax context by the IRS (as applied to non-profit organizations) and another in the practical development of advocacy networks. Following is an overview of these differences:
2.2.1. Legal / Tax Differences
- “Advocacy” is often seen as arguing for a cause without referring to a specific piece of legislation. This definition is important to any organization structured as a private foundation because they are, for all intents and purposes, restricted from direct lobbying but may undertake “policy education” or “advocacy.”
- “Grassroots Lobbying” is defined by the I.R.S. more specifically as encompassing the activities that an organization undertakes to ask the public (not members) to support or oppose legislation.
- “Lobbying” or “Direct Lobbying” is defined by the I.R.S. as encompassing the activities that an organization undertakes to communicate its position on legislative proposals directly to elected and executive branch officials and staff. This includes communications an organization sends to its own members asking them to communicate with an elected official about legislation.
Nonprofits are limited in both the amount of grassroots lobbying and direct lobbying they may carry out and still maintain their exempt status. The rather vague term “substantial” (as in whether an organization’s lobbying work constitutes a “substantial” part of its activities) has led many organizations to seek further clarification.
The 1976 Lobbying Law provided this clarification. Non-profits that elect to come under this law (by filing a Section 501 h form) have Tramadol Online very specific monetary limits on their lobbying-related expenditures, as follows:
1976 Lobbying Law Limits
||Direct Lobbying Ceiling
||Grassroots Lobbying Ceiling
|Up to $500,000
||20% of expenditures
||25% of the direct lobbying costs
|$500,001 to $1 million
||$100,000 + 15% over $500K
||$25,000 + 3.75% over $500K
|$1 million to $1.5 million
||$175,000 + 10% over $1million
||$43,750 + 2.5% over $1 million
|$1.5 million to $17 million
||$225,000 + 5% over $1.5 million
||$56,250 + 1.25% over $1.5 million
|Over $17 million
Note that these limits are based on actual monetary expenditures. The advocacy activities of volunteers do not count toward these expenditures, although any funds the organization spends to solicit action would.
In Practice Definitions
Standard government relations practice defines these terms in slightly different ways. These are the definitions that will be utilized in this manual:
- Advocacy: The act of pleading or arguing for a cause, or more specifically for or against a piece of legislation, through the use of grassroots, grasstops or coalition networks. These networks may be comprised of members of the organization itself or the general public.
- Lobbying: Communications with elected officials and others conducted on behalf of an organization by professional staff or directors of the organization.
Note, however, that because the question of what constitutes lobbying (whether direct or grassroots) is so important to the functioning of nonprofit organizations, care is taken throughout this manual to highlight when an organization needs to be aware of the potential tax ramifications of a particular activity or advocacy network structure.
For more information or to purchase the Advocacy Handbook click here.
Tags: Advocacy, definitions, direct lobbying, Lobbying, lobbying law limits
Posted in Advocacy | Comments Off on Tax Issues in Advocacy
Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 by Brittany
If you’re starting fresh with advocacy or trying to catch up with organizations that already have highly motivated networks in place, the handbook helps you plan and implement a comprehensive program. Or, simply zero in on specific aspects of your existing plan, like shoring up HLOGA compliance, creating multi-level networks, or dealing with opponents.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Overview
Chapter 1: Background on Advocacy
1.1 Introduction 1-1
1.2 What is Advocacy? 1-1
1.3 Who Will Beneﬁt from this Manual? 1-3
1.3.1 Types of Groups that May Undertake Advocacy 1-3
1.3.2 Job Titles / Individuals 1-3
1.4 How this Manual is Structured 1-4
1.5 Core Elements of Advocacy in Government Relations 1-5
1.5.1 Topic 1-5
1.5.2 Scale 1-5
1.5.3 Advocates 1-6
18.104.22.168 Grassroots 1-6
22.214.171.124 Grasstops 1-8
126.96.36.199 Coalitions 1-10
1.5.4 Audience 1-11
1.6 How Does Advocacy Fit into a Larger Campaign? 1-12
1.7 Conclusion 1-13
Chapter 2: Legal and Tax Issues Associated with Advocacy
2.1 Introduction 2-1
2.2 Differences Between Lobbying and Advocacy 2-1
2.2.1 Legal / Tax Differences 2-1
2.2.2 In Practice Deﬁnitions 2-2
2.3 Non-Proﬁt and Corporate Structures and Advocacy 2-3
2.4 Legalities 2-4
2.4.1 Electioneering Communications 2-4
2.4.2 Lobbying Disclosure 2-5
2.5 Conclusion 2-6
Part 2 Structuring the Advocacy Network
Chapter 3: Setting Advocacy Goals and the Policy Agenda
3.1 Introduction 3-1
3.2 The Advocacy Mission Statement 3-2
3.3 Identifying Issues 3-3
3.3.1 Formation of Policy Ideas 3-3
3.3.2 Strategies for Soliciting Stakeholder Involvement 3-4
188.8.131.52 Policy Committees 3-4
184.108.40.206 Focus Groups/Informal Discussions 3-5
220.127.116.11 Staff Meetings 3-5
18.104.22.168 Organization-Wide Survey 3-5
22.214.171.124 Social Media Approaches 3-6
3.4 Prioritizing Issues/Developing Goals 3-6
3.4.1 Prioritizing Issues 3-6
3.4.2 Developing Goals 3-6
3.5 Outlining Policy Agenda Item s 3-8
3.6 Determining Strategies 3-9
3.7 The Policy Advocacy Document 3-9
3.8 Budgeting 3-10
3.9 Case Studies 3-11
3.10 Conclusion 3-12
Chapter 4: Network Building Blocks
4.1 Introduction 4-1
4.2 What is a “Network?” 4-2
4.2.1 Network Structure Options 4-2
4.2.2 Multi-level Networks 4-4
4.3 Criteria for Choosing a Network Structure 4-4
4.3.1 Mission 4-4
4.3.2 Perception 4-5
4.3.3 Policy Environment 4-6
4.3.4 Interest Level 4-7
4.3.5 Message 4-7
4.3.6 Budget 4-8
4.3.7 Capacity 4-9
4.3.8 Structure 4-10
4.4 Creating and Naming the Network 4-11
4.5 Case Studies 4-11
4.6 Conclusion 4-13
Chapter 5: Building and Organizing the Network
5.1 Introduction 5-1
5.2 Building a Network of Individuals 5-1
5.2.1 Identifying Advocates 5-2
5.2.2 Finding Potential Grassroots and Grasstops Individuals 5-3
126.96.36.199 Finding Grassroots Individuals 5-3
188.8.131.52 Finding Grasstops Individuals 5-2
5.3 Advocate Recruitment 5-5
5.3.1 The “Must-Opt-Out” Strategy 5-5
5.3.2 Large Scale Person-to-Person Outreach 5-6
5.3.3 Targeted Person-to-Person Outreach 5-6
5.3.4 Each-One-Reach-One Campaign 5-7
5.3.5 Easy Access to Registration Information 5-7
5.3.6 Event Recruitment 5-8
5.3.7 Assistance from Afﬁliated Entities 5-9
5.3.8 Small-Scale Public Relations 5-10
5.3.9 Large-Scale Public Relations 5-10
5.3.10 Web-Based Advertising 5-11
5.4 Collecting Information about Advocates: The Advocate Intake Form 5-11
5.4.1 Grassroots Network Members 5-11
5.4.2 Grasstops Network Members 5-12
5.4.3 Issues to Consider in Maintaining Network Information 5-13
5.4.4 Technological Options for Maintaining Network Information 5-14
5.5 Assigning Advocate Responsibilities: The Advocate Job Description 5-16
5.6 Building a Coalition 5-18
5.6.1 Why Utilize Coalitions? 5-18
5.6.2 Types of Coalitions 5-19
5.6.3 Joining vs Creating a Coalition 5-19
5.6.4 Criteria for Identifying and Selecting Groups to Participate in a Coalition 5-20
5.6.5 Approaching Potential Coalition Partners 5-21
5.7 Case Studies 5-22
5.8 Common Recruitment Problems/Scenarios 5-24
5.9 Conclusion 5-27
Chapter 6: Communicating Directly with Your Network
6.1 Introduction 6-1
6.2 Who Will the Organization be Communicating With? 6-2
6.3 What Messages Should be Communicated? 6-3
6.3.1 Recruitment 6-3
6.3.2 Information 6-3
184.108.40.206 Newsletters/Ongoing Communications 6-4
220.127.116.11 Special Updates 6-4
18.104.22.168 Training 6-5
22.214.171.124 Follow-ups 6-5
6.3.3 Action Alerts 6-6
6.3.4 Thank Yous 6-7
6.3.5 Assessment 6-7
6.3.6 A Note on Communications to Coalitions 6-7
6.4 How Will these Messages be Communicated? 6-8
6.4.1 Push versus Pull Strategies 6-8
6.4.2 Considerations for Effective “Pull” Communications in the Web 2.0 World 6-8
6.4.3 Speciﬁc Organization-to-Network Communication Tools 6-11
126.96.36.199 Mailings 6-12
188.8.131.52 Phone Trees/Phone Banks 6-12
184.108.40.206 E-mail 6-13
220.127.116.11 Websites 6-14
18.104.22.168 Blogs 6-17
22.214.171.124 Podcasts 6-19
126.96.36.199 Texting/IM-ing 6-20
188.8.131.52 Social Networks 6-21
6.5 Common Problems and Concerns 6-23
6.5.1 Frequency of Communication/Reducing Advocate Fatigue 6-23
6.5.2 Negative Posts/Editorial Tone 6-24
6.5.3 Not Finding the Right Tool for the Right Audience 6-25
6.6 Case Studies 6-25
6.7 Conclusion 6-27
Chapter 7: Communicating Through the Mass Media 7-1
7.1 Introduction 7-1
7.2 Types of Messages 7-2
7.3 Types of Media 7-4
7.3.1 Paid Media 7-4
7.3.2 Tips for Paid Media 7-4
7.3.3 Earned Media/”Press” 7-7
7.3.4 Four Steps to Effective Earned Media 7-8
7.3.5 Hybrid Approaches 7-9
7.4 Managing Your Media Approaches 7-10
7.5 Dealing with Opponents 7-11
7.6 Case Studies 7-12
7.7 Conclusion 7-13
Part 3 Activating Your Network and Others
Chapter 8: Training Your Advocates
8.1 Introduction 8-1
8.2 What Advocates Need to Know to be Effective 8-1
8.2.1 Additional Training Topics for Grasstops 8-6
8.2.2 Additional Training Topics for the Network 8-7
8.3 Training Delivery Options 8-7
8.3.1 Active Training 8-7
184.108.40.206 In-Person 8-7
220.127.116.11 Online 8-9
8.3.2 Self-paced Training 8-11
8.4 Creating a Comprehensive Training Program 8-13
8.5 Case Studies 8-14
8.6 Conclusion 8-16
Chapter 9: Activating and Motivating the Network 9-1
9.1 Introduction 9-1
9.2 Activating 9-2
9.2.1 When to Activate 9-2
9.2.2 How to Activate 9-3
18.104.22.168 Grasstops Activation 9-3
22.214.171.124 Targeted Grassroots Activation 9-3
9.2.3 Full-Scale Grassroots Activation 9-5
9.2.4 Coalition Activation 9-5
9.2.5 Combination Strategies 9-6
9.3 Motivating 9-6
9.3.1 Barriers to Participation 9-6
9.3.2 Overcoming Barriers 9-7
9.4 Recognizing Advocate Effort 9-10
9.5 Case Studies 9-11
9.6 Conclusion 9-13
Chapter 10: Implementing Speciﬁc Advocate Actions 10-1
10.1 Introduction 10-1
10.2 Lobby Days 10-2
10.2.1 Setting the Stage 10-4
10.2.2 Gathering Information 10-6
10.2.3 Initiating Meeting Requests 10-8
10.2.4 Scheduling Meetings 10-9
10.2.5 Scheduling Other Lobby Day Activities 10-9
10.2.6 Reporting 10-11
10.2.7 Stafﬁng the Event 10-12
10.2.8 Creating Cohesion 10-13
10.3 District-based Lobby Days 10-13
10.4 Virtual Lobby Days 10-15
10.5 Site Visits 10-18
10.6 Townhall Meetings 10-20
10.7 Form Letters, Petitions and Postcard Campaigns 10-22
10.8 Personalized Written Communication 10-23
10.9 Phone Campaigns 10-26
10.10 Social Media Approaches 10-28
10.11 Media Outreach 10-29
10.12 Public Hearings/Testimony 10-31
10.13 Election Activities 10-33
10.14 PAC/Fundraising Efforts 10-36
10.15 Case Studies 10-38
10.16 Conclusion 10-40
For more information or to purchase this product click here.
Tags: Advocacy, Lobbying, network
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on The Advocacy Handbook
Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 by Vbhotla
Tap the power of your roots!
When the grassroots get all fired up, watch out! Most lobbyists would like to tap the power of grassroots advocates – but do you know what exactly qualifies as “grassroots”? And how do you report those activities on your LDA forms?
The official definition of grassroots lobbying is the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) definition: “a call to action to the public or segment of the public asking them to contact a designated official, state, federal, local on a specific item government action, specific legislation, or a nomination, etc.”
What activities are considered “grassroots”?
Grassroots lobbying is: “communications to the general public that refer to and reflect a view on the merits of a specific legislative proposal and a ‘call to action’ directly or indirectly encouraging legislative contact.” So, for example, if you’re XYZ Association, and you ask your members to write Representative Smith on H.R. 1234, that is grassroots lobbying.
Reporting grassroots lobbying
There are two different ways to report – you must make a designation. If you are filing under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) definitions, grassroots lobbying is not disclosed on your forms. Under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) definition of lobbying the expenses of grassroots lobbying are combined with the total reportable expenditures. The key thing to remember is that whichever method you chose, you must use it consistently in your filing. Note also that registrants reporting lobbying income (i.e. lobbying firms, including lobbyists acting as sole proprietors) must use the LDA definition and reporting structure. Registrants reporting lobbying expenditures may elect to use the IRC or LDA.
Amy Showalter, at the Showalter Group, writes an excellent blog on keeping your advocates motivated and engaged.
Another great speaker on advocacy and citizen participation is Stephanie Vance, at Advocacy Associates.
Tags: Advocacy, compliance, grassroots, Grassroots advocacy
Posted in Advocacy, Ethics Tip | Comments Off on Tuesday Ethics Tip: Grassroots Edition
Friday, October 29th, 2010 by Brittany
An excerpt from the Advocacy Handbook:
Depending upon the issue and the nature of the network, advocate leaders may occasionally find themselves needing to either encourage more people to actively participate in advocacy efforts or encourage more quality communications with the target audience. Outlined below are a few of the key barriers to participation, options for overcoming those barriers and ideas for recognizing advocates’ efforts.
Barriers to Participation
Advocates often cite one of the following reasons to explain why they might be unwilling or unable to participate in efforts to make policy change:
- Lack of time
- A feeling that their participation doesn’t matter
- A feeling that the organization should do the lobbying, not them
- Unsure what to do / intimidated
- Advocate fatigue / over-activation
- Lack of progress
- Disagreement over policy direction
- Quick and Easy Activities: Advocate leaders should look for ways to draw potential advocates in to the network through some quick and easy activities. These might include sending an e-mail to a legislator through an action alert site, signing a petition, responding to a poll or survey or sending a postcard. This might be viewed as the “crawl before walking” approach. Once advocates become familiar with and comfortable with these simple activities, advocate leaders can work to encourage these individuals to engage in more substantive and effective communication strategies.
- Cultivating the Active: It’s not the number of communications that have an impact on policy outcomes, it’s the quality. Hence, it may make sense for advocate leaders to focus more attention on the powerful 5 to 20 percent of the network willing and eager to take substantive action, without, of course, ignoring the rest of the network.
- Training: The following components of a training program will help address some of the more common barriers to participation: why their voice matters, role in the GR campaign, long-term focus, and how to advocate.
- Engaging Champions: Legislative or regulatory champions of an organization’s issues can help deliver the message to advocates that their voice matters. In some cases, advocates may be more apt to believe a legislator than an organization’s government relations staff. Advocate leaders should consider asking policy champions to speak at events or make public statements about the importance of citizen advocates to the policymaking process.
- Strategic Activation: Advocate fatigue can be managed, in part, by being as strategic and focused as possible when activating the network. Organizations that frequently issue high-priority action alerts, particularly when those alerts aren’t warranted, may find their advocates becoming immune to their requests – and unwilling to take action when truly needed.
- Change the Definition of Victory: In developing advocacy plans, advocate leaders should identify internal goals that can be achieved regardless of external events. These might include targets for numbers of advocates in the network or developing a pilot program for coordinating a few site visits during a recess. These aspects of the campaign may be more within the control of the organization than, for example, whether a bill moves forward to the hearing stage or not.
- Managing Set-backs: How an organization manages the inevitable set-backs associated with any advocacy effort can make or break their future success. Advocate leaders should look to be as up-front as possible about set-backs, while identifying future plans of action.
- Setting the Policy Agenda: Organizations that set their policy agenda in concert with the advocacy network will likely have fewer disagreements with members about policy direction than those that adopt a more hierarchical approach. Before asking advocates to communicate with policymakers on a critical issue, it is imperative to ascertain that most members of the network are in agreement on the overall message.
- Agreeing to Disagree: In some cases, organizations may need to take controversial positions that may be unpopular with some percentage of their members. Advocate leaders should identify these potential disagreements as soon as possible and be prepared to address questions about the decisions made by the organization.
The Advocacy Handbook, written by the “Advocacy Guru” Stephanie Vance, and its insight into helping your advocates shake off their anxieties will help your advocacy mission become a success. Click here for more information on the Advocacy Handbook.
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy handbook, Lobby Days, stephanie vance
Posted in Advocacy | Comments Off on Advocacy Halloween Edition: Making advocacy less scary
Friday, October 1st, 2010 by Vbhotla
GOP members of the House Ethics Committee want Rep. Zoe Lofgren to just schedule trials for Reps. Waters and Rangel already! (Roll Call)
Jack Abramoff was spotted in Dupont Circle on Tuesday, having a discussion with some friends about “writing a book,” according to Roll Call.
Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) has been a public proponent of cutting lobbyists’ ability to give campaign contributions, and has also pledged not to accept any lobbyist campaign contributions himself. The GOP is hitting Rep. Space by claiming that his acceptance of “special interest” PAC money and contributions from lobbyists’ family members constitutes the same thing.
State and Federal Communications has a new e-newsletter up – “Compliance Now, October 2010.”
Good government groups point out the continued absence of the Ethics.gov website. Article from The Hill.
Advocacy is all about customization, according to Amy Showalter.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) was getting in hot water from several groups for her use of a private jet… but the airplane was cleared for her use by the Ethics Committee, since it is owned by her fiance.
Quote of the Week:
“There is definitely a big distance from President Obama’s Ethics.gov campaign promise and what they have done so far… They are failing to live up to their promise, but their promise was aimed very high.” – John Wonderlich, policy director for the Sunlight Foundation, The Hill, 10/1/10
Tags: Advocacy, amy showalter, ethics.gov, House ethics, Jack Abramoff, John Wonderlich, Rep. Chellie Pingree, Rep. Zack Space, State and Federal Communications
Posted in Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up | Comments Off on Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up
Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 by Brittany
An excerpt from the Advocacy Handbook.
What is Advocacy?
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, advocacy is: “the act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support.”
Under this definition, there are many types of advocacy, including:
Legal Advocacy: Arguing on behalf of a client in the legal environment
Child Advocacy: Making the case for children in a child-oriented venue, such as a school or in the context of child protective services
Patient Advocacy: Helping individuals navigate through the increasing complex medical arena and safeguarding their rights
Casework / Social Welfare Advocacy: Working with low-income or otherwise disadvantaged individuals to be sure they have the services they need
Corporate Advocacy: Efforts by corporations to promote a specific cause or idea for the benefit of the general public (also related to the idea of “Corporate Social Responsibility”)
In each of these circumstances, one person or a group of people pleads or argues in favor of a particular cause, idea, or individual. The difference between these types of advocacy and advocacy in the policy arena are matters of topic, scale, and audience.
Advocacy in the policy arena can be defined along the following lines:
Topic: Improvements to public policy or funding for public programs at the local, state or federal level
Scale: Focused on benefits for a group of people as opposed to an individual
Audience: Primarily targeted at policy makers at the local, state or federal level. Secondary targets may include opinion leaders, business interests and citizens in an effort to elicit change with relevant policy-makers.
In addition, the use of the term advocacy refers specifically to advocacy that is done by non-professionals as opposed to the “direct lobbying” done by government relations professionals across the country. A fourth area of differentiation, therefore, would be:
Advocate: An individual, such as an association member, company employee or citizen, who pleads the public policy case to a policy maker, often in concert with a larger organization.
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy handbook, stephanie vance
Posted in Advocacy | Comments Off on Back to Advocacy School