Exercising First Amendment Rights through Advocacy

By Heather Kazmark • June 25, 2019

The passage of policy is a significant event that impacts association membership in every industry. It is imperative for organizations and their members to have a voice in the policy making process. Having an advocacy plan in place for your membership ensures that their voices are being heard when policy proposals are being considered on both state and federal levels.

Organizations that provide advocacy opportunities also enhance members’ First Amendment rights – those which guarantee the right of citizens to petition the government and communicate their viewpoints to legislative and regulatory agencies.

Help members peacefully petition the government

When a state or the federal government proposes new policies or changes to existing public policy, organizations’ membership must be part of the policymaking process in order to ensure that policymakers have given every considerable thought to the impact of their decisions. This is where your membership’s First Amendment Rights come into play – exercising their freedom of expression, right to assemble and right to peacefully petition the government to influence policy.

Does your organization currently provide a pathway for your membership to exercise their rights in the policymaking process?

There is an undeniable power in numbers. The following Naylor story serves as an example of what can be achieved through membership being given the opportunity to exercise their rights through strategic advocacy:

First Amendment rights in action

A state medical specialty organization with a history of being actively involved in advocacy activities found themselves faced with an abrupt medication access issue for their patients. A prescription drug for the state’s Medicaid population had been removed from the state’s drug formulary without proper provider notice and without a medically appropriate replacement. Thankfully, the organization had already established relationships with legislators and agencies that could be influential in alleviating a time sensitive issue. Given this, the organization was well positioned to express their opinion to key policymakers and have their collective voice heard and responded to.

Organize your voice

The government affairs team conducted meetings with the organization’s membership and various industry partners to collectively build a message around the medication access issue. Given the adverse health effects the membership’s patients were experiencing, the issue quickly became a policy crisis and membership advocacy efforts needed to occur immediately.

Help members exercise their right to speak up

The government affairs team implemented an advocacy strategy to engage the organization’s membership and get the attention of key policymakers. Phone calls were made, meetings were organized, the press was contacted, and membership email alerts were sent out to raise awareness of the situation, urging action to be taken. The government affairs team also crafted and sent position letters to the state’s Medicaid department and shared them with other key legislative committees tasked with managing the state’s program.

A collective voice leads to change

Since no other organization was taking the lead on bringing awareness to this medication access crisis, the government affairs team also spearheaded collaboration with the organization’s allies to increase advocacy efforts and reach. As a result of this collaborative engagement, policymakers heard a collective voice and policy position on the issue through various modes of effective communication. Within a few weeks, the government affairs team was made aware that the medication formulary change had been delayed in large part because of the advocacy activities conducted.

This is just one example of how an advocacy strategy resulted in a collective voice bringing about a more favorable outcome for membership. Indeed, there is power in numbers when an organization’s membership exercises their right to assemble and express their opinion on policy. Provide your membership with the benefits of advocacy.

Naylor Government Affairs provides effective advocacy services to organizations’ membership – enhancing First Amendment Rights, participation, representation, and overall membership satisfaction. Contact us to learn more about our services.

About The Author

Heather Kazmark is a government affairs specialist with Naylor Association Solutions. She handles advocacy activities for several associations across the country. Her background includes having held positions in state government, political campaigns, and legislative and regulatory tracking. Heather holds a political science undergraduate degree in public administration, cum laude; and a master’s degree in American Government and Public Law from Northern Illinois University.