Loyalty Learnings #15: Three Advocacy Roles Your Association Can Play

When we talk to members about the expectations that they have for their association as it pertains to advocacy, what we’re frequently hearing are three roles that your association can play in effectively advocating on your members’ behalf.  What we call promoting or protecting the profession.  Those three roles are as an informer, as an influencer, and as an action-taker. 

Now if you’re an association who believes, or your members expect, that you are to be an informer, what they’re really telling you is that they expect that you’re knowledgeable on the issues.  And knowledge is not just simply being aware of the issues, but also understanding the impact of those issues on your members personally, professionally, the impact on their businesses, on their companies, on their practices.  And how that impact might vary geographically.  How that impact might vary based on the type of individual I am, the stage of the career that I’m in.  So really understanding the impact across all member types.  But also as an informer, you have to be credible.  You have to have a strong reputation in the industry that you serve. 

Now as an influencer, you’re taking that informer role and you’re extending it one more step.  You’re already a credible organization so now your members expect that you have a seat at the table.  That you can influence different organizations, groups, government bodies.  That your voice can be heard.  Now the question around an influencer role is whether you take the reasoned voice, the objective, third-party, non-partisan voice or whether you have a stronger voice when you’re advocating on behalf of your members.  That you’re taking a side and you’re providing supporting evidence as to why that particular side is the one that would most benefit your members.

Moving on to the third role, as an action-taker, the expectation becomes that you’re not just influencing but you’re actually delivering results.  That you’re effectively advocating on your members’ behalf.  And that could be legislative victories.  That could be regulatory influence.  That could be educating consumers on why they should pick your members, your professionals, over any others.  But it’s also important to understand that effort can win a lot of times in your advocacy efforts.  The idea of effort is win, lose, or draw you’re effectively communicating what you’re doing on behalf of your members.  That you may lose in some situations. But if your members see you out there fighting every single day on their behalf, that can win you points as an action-taker.

So there are three roles that you can play as an advocate for your members.  You may only be expected to play one of those roles.  But for many associations in different circumstances or situations, you’re expected to play some combination of all three.