Deep Dive Breakout 2

Thursday, August 4, 2016

11:30am – 12:30pm

Heidi Ecker (National Association of Chain Drug Stores), Kathleen Gamble (American Trucking Associations), Gabe Snow (National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) and Mike McMahon (Microsoft)

Imagine if budget, bureaucracy, and time-limitations were not an issue. What kind of program would you run? Join this unique thought experiment and see what innovative ideas come to light without the usual constraints.

Have feedback on this session? We’d love to hear it! Submit it here.


Grassroots and policy communications people typically have to justify the campaigns they run – creative ideas can get watered down in bureaucracies, or hampered by limited budgets, either money or time-wise.

Learning Objectives:

1)   What if budget was not an issue?

With an unlimited budget, we could fly an unlimited amount of people in to DC or state capitols, but they still need to be convinced that it’s a good use of their time to advocate on an issue. A third-party expert (a trainer or facilitator) can convince members more than the association or organization staff that they interact with on a regular basis. Peer-to-peer training is also very effective.

A key contact program that identifies someone who can speak to every single Member of Congress would be great, but these advocates still need to be educated, trained, motivated, and pointed in the right directions.

2)   What have you always wanted to do? What is missing?

Get senior corporate leadership to understand the importance of advocacy and have them be more involved in lobbying and advocating. The same goes for sales staff: incentivizing and mobilizing them to recruit advocates. Overall, advocacy should be “baked in” to the business core.

Convince people that they need to participate even when their organization is perceived as always winning. Advocates can’t rely on past successes or rest on their laurels; they need to always be motivated and involved.

Depending on the business area/industry and the level of familiarity with regulation, it can be easier or harder to get members to advocate. It’s easier for people working in regulated industries like manufacturing, real estate, and financial services to understand how policy affects their businesses, but harder for people working in industries like technology.

People are growing more cynical and jaded toward politics and the idea of “Washington can’t get anything done” can make it harder to convince people to take advocacy actions. It’s also hard to keep the drumbeat going when there is nothing going on, legislatively.

3)   What is the best idea you’ve stolen?

Competitions work to engage people and get them to become advocates.

  • A photo contest for people who raised the most or encouraged the most contributions to a PAC.
  • A points system that rewards members for being active advocates in a community that gets them a trip to corporate HQ for policy trainings, lunch with executives, etc.; in turn, the attendees can use the picture they took with corporate leaders to improve their sales to their customers.

4)   What are your wackiest ideas?

Working to incorporate March Madness brackets into PAC fundraising or into advocates.