It’s no surprise that for most trade associations, government affairs play a key role in membership recruitment. Typically, associations and membership salespeople view it as a bolded area on their membership recruitment paraphernalia, alongside “Education” and “Communications.” One of several benefits, often listed third or fourth. However, I believe associations should consider having your membership revolve around your government affairs efforts.
I had the wonderful experience of providing membership sales for a small trade association with a powerhouse government affairs team. Because of its small size, the membership responsibilities fell to the Vice President of Government Affairs. “Check-ins” about membership recruitment ended up being a conversation about what the government affairs and regulatory teams were working. This allowed a young membership professional (myself) with little experience with K Street, to quickly learn the goings-on of Washington DC, but also the topics that would have the most significant impact on prospects.
Here are three ideas about how to leverage your association’s government affairs experience for your membership recruitment efforts:
- Take your staff out to lunch
Yes, there are weekly staff meetings, where people provide the weather report to the rest of the team. A nice lunch with one or two people from your GA staff will allow ideas to cultivate. Ideas that can come out of these lunches include who to reach out to, prospects GA staff have come across in meetings on the Hill or other industry events and forecasting the issues (see number 2).
- Use the GA Forecast to Plan Your Recruitment for the Year
GA staff will have a good idea of what they’re doing and when for the year. While they are often putting out fires, there are also issues that GA can see a year out or more. Frequently, these are pieces of legislation expiring, a deadline on comments, or a release of public information (For example companies that received fines from the EPA).
- Utilize the Hot Topics
The adage “when a door closes, a window opens.” Some of the quickest membership sales happened because of a regulatory “fire.” If it’s a problem for your members, it is a problem for your non-members. How likely are you to get a call back from someone with the voicemail “Hey, I know you probably saw that __(insert regulatory agency here)___ just released information on this. Our association is preparing to respond and would like your input. Would you be available to speak on this today before we send our response?”.
Government Affairs departments exist in almost every association in Washington, DC – and, utilizing this department can help you plan and be more effective in your recruitment efforts.