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Advocacy And Your Association: A Lost Cause?

With all the recent posts about associations and the struggle with advocacy, you might be wondering if it’s a lost cause for your association. Associations expend a lot of time, energy and resources on advocacy efforts. There’s no reason to keep taking punches if the fight is over–don’t make the ref call it. Maybe it isn’t over, but if you want to stay in the fight, you’ll need a new strategy.

This is the final entry in a series of blog posts around the topic of “Advocacy and Associations” that XYZ University published during the months of November/December.

With all the recent posts about associations and the struggle with advocacy, you might be wondering if it’s a lost cause for your association.

Associations expend a lot of time, energy and resources on advocacy efforts. There’s no reason to keep taking punches if the fight is over–don’t make the ref call it. Maybe it isn’t over, but if you want to stay in the fight, you’ll need a new strategy.

Ignoring the signs

Based on our survey results, it seems that associations are not being realistic about where things are headed. Although most are concerned about the lack of participation by members under 40, most also believe that they will be sustaining or growing advocacy efforts in the next 5-10 years. If that is to happen, we need a new approach. To assume members will age and all of a sudden value something they currently see as a waste of time is not a realistic approach to the future of advocacy.

Is democracy a joke?

Your younger members don’t even take advocacy seriously.

A poll by the Lowy Institute in June 2012 stated that 39% of Australians aged 18 to 29 said democracy is better than other forms of government, but nearly a quarter (23%) believed that “for someone like me, it doesn’t matter what kind of government we have.” Lowy Institute executive director Michael Wesley stated that he was surprised by “how lightly we take our democracy.”

It might not be the information we were hoping for, but the fact of the matter is that Gen X and Gen Y are sticking together on these fronts—across the globe—and associations need to take note if they want to make a difference and sustain their advocacy efforts.

Advocacy requires participation to succeed

If associations are going to use advocacy as a major member benefit, they need to find a way to make it valuable to the younger generations; and they haven’t done that yet. According to the American Psychological Association, the last 15 years shows a significant decline among young Americans in interest and participation in politics.

Associations are failing to involve everyone in advocacy efforts; hence they are not able to be as effective at it as they could be if everyone were involved. The democratic process requires participation. If associations aren’t getting that, then their efforts may be better used elsewhere.

What’s next?

We are concerned for your association. We are concerned that younger members—the future of this country—are not getting involved. If Generation X and Y are not interested in politics, what does this mean for the future of democracy, politics, business—for your association?

Advocacy does not need to be a lost cause for your association. But, you need to commit to making a change now. Embrace a new way of thinking, of doing.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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