Most associations probably don’t think of legislative tracking as a part of advocacy. Numerous articles and publications have been written on how to create and carry out an advocacy strategy, yet virtually none mention using legislative tracking as the baseline in developing one. The importance of identifying and assessing legislation of interest to your membership prior to developing a strategy cannot be understated. Because legislative tracking can be an extensive undertaking, associations should explore obtaining tracking services to best serve their membership.
Before an advocacy strategy is developed, or advocacy tactics are carried out, an association should identify which legislation it considers to be high-priority and then remain informed of legislative changes. This is “baseline advocacy.”
Sure, you may read articles about issues in your particular industry, receive a monthly or quarterly newsletter from your national association, and perhaps even belong to a coalition of like-minded organizations that helps keep you abreast of what is happening on the legislative front. However, those forms of information gathering are piecemeal and leave your association vulnerable to attack. This article seeks to open association advocates’ eyes to what occurs when legislative tracking is used as baseline advocacy.
Legislative tracking brings many benefits and improves associations’ advocacy tactics:
- Professionals personalize, categorize and identify legislation that matters most to your membership using online tracking tools for you so you can spend more time serving your membership.
- Your association receives hand-crafted, real-time status updates in an easy-to-read format by email when new legislative activity occurs.
- You get alerts when hearings are scheduled on your high-priority legislation.
- The time you save and the better allocation of staff resources enhances information services to your members.
Let others personalize, categorize and identify legislation that matters to your membership
To prioritize your time and limited resources, your association must stay informed on a continual basis about what is going on in statehouses. Outsourcing for legislative tracking services comes with the benefit of the government affairs firm continually informing your association of relevant legislative activity. If you wait for that next newsletter or conference call, you’ll be missing out on a critical window of opportunity to execute effective advocacy in real-time.
Receive real-time updates about new legislative activity
While it is always beneficial for your staff and members themselves to contact your legislators regularly to build relationships, untimely advocacy is not as effective as real-time advocacy.
Depending on the state or states in which you operate, legislatures can be more or less predictable. Say you are a state association that is a member of an industry coalition. Your coalition has bi-weekly conference calls in which your association regularly participates. There was a call just a few days ago, and your next call isn’t for 10 days. As far as your coalition understood during the call, no bills had been filed in your state to which your association should be opposed. Due to the allocation of the coalition’s resources and advocacy efforts exerted in current battle states, no one was paying attention to legislative activity in your state at this time.
Suddenly, an amendment is filed to change a pending piece of legislation that includes language unfavorable to your membership. In a matter of just a couple of days, the opposition worked tirelessly to move the amendment and bill through the legislative process. Because your association has no contracted informants in the statehouse, the bill gets passed through both chambers by the time the next coalition call occurs.
This scenario begs many questions, but here are just a couple: How well did you serve your membership without continual baseline advocacy? Were your association’s advocacy tactics diminished due to not using professional tracking services to obtain time-sensitive information? Having contact with lawmakers at the optimal time allows your membership to better influence policy and enhance outcomes. Exerting your membership’s energy and resources on advocacy that is not done in real-time will achieve less for your association in the long run.
Get alerts when hearings are scheduled for high-priority legislation
It is not unusual for many state legislatures to introduce a piece of legislation, assign it to a committee and then take no action for a length of time. Even though this inactivity is common practice, once the bill starts to move, it can move very rapidly through the legislative process. Often, legislation that is particularly contentious takes this course. Legislative action on a bill can happen on a moment’s notice. If your organization isn’t set up with the proper tracking services, you will miss an opportunity to advocate in real-time.
Enhance information services to your members while saving staff time
Your membership needs information to be engaged in effective advocacy. Without a doubt, an informed membership will allow your organization to better prioritize advocacy activities and allocate resources.
Legislative tracking is an invaluable tool that allows information to be streamlined and shared amongst your membership, leading to your association having the ability to enhance your advocacy tactics.
Offer your membership the opportunity to execute advocacy in real-time. Your association can’t be fully informed of what is happening in statehouses without baseline advocacy.