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One of the biggest challenges we face as a community now and in the years ahead is educating the government and the public about the work and contributions of associations. Many people, including policymakers and the media, don’t understand the benefits and educational opportunities associations offer members and nonmembers. One of the things ASAE does and encourages our community to do is inform and advocate with policymakers about the role of associations.
A few years ago, ASAE created the Power of A campaign to help association professionals raise awareness about the sector. The campaign provides facts and figures on how associations benefit our communities by creating jobs, providing training and professional development, standard-setting safety programs, research and information and volunteerism.
This year, ASAE worked hard to energize associations to raise their collective voice on important legislative and regulatory issues. For example, ASAE and the association community successfully pressured a repeal of the Form 1099 reporting requirements and pushed back on changes and fees at all levels of government.
Presently, the trade association community is battling a proposed rule that would restrict federal employees from attending most education programs, tradeshows and other events. It diminishes the valuable content found at trade association meetings and discourages the interaction between government employees and industries that the federal government seeks to regulate. Because the proposed rule impacts trade associations, ASAE is pursuing a multifaceted, coordinated advocacy campaign to stop or modify the rule before it becomes administration policy.
In late October, nearly 500 associations from 39 states signed on to ASAE’s comments for this rule, which stated that government employees benefit from attending programs, seminars, and tradeshows organized by associations and that isolating government employees from business interests is counterproductive to the public-private partnership needed to grow the economy and create jobs. The association community voiced its opinion about this issue, and helped increase awareness about the positive impact of associations.
As we move into a new year, some of the issues we see coming up are deficit reduction and tax reform, IRS and congressional scrutiny of tax-exempt entities, the ongoing implementation of the new healthcare law, and the creation of state insurance exchanges and co-ops. ASAE is encouraging the community to not only monitor these issues, but to lobby and educate policymakers at all levels of government about these issues and other laws and regulations that will impact your members. It’s critical in today’s environment to inform as well as respond and provide guidance on issues affecting the target audience.
For 2012, I want to challenge all associations, including ASAE, to meet with five new members of your local, state, or federal government and educate them about the power of associations and policies pertinent to the association’s aim. Think about new ways to tell and frame the story. Strategically look at the bigger picture and find innovative ways to advocate. If we, as a community, increase policymakers’ knowledge about the power, depth, and need for associations, then it will help them make better, informed decisions on laws and regulations that impact associations.
Graham is CEO of ASAE in Washington.