Values drive attitudes, attitudes drive behavior, and behavior drives culture. The success or failure of many PAC and grassroots programs can be traced to whether the organization is imbued with a culture of political involvement. Why is a culture of political involvement important? Because if you only encourage political engagement in an election year, or when a high-profile issue is being debated, you are forced to rejuvenate your stakeholders when the next critical issue arises. I’ve seen too many EYO (election-year-only) grassroots and PAC programs. They are less effective than consistently executed programs, and they are inefficient, because it takes more organizational resources and staff time to resuscitate every other year.
Here are some quick indicators for your consideration. Most are behavioral, because as the late great Peter Drucker reminded us, “Culture eats strategy” — and again, behavior drives culture. The most carefully crafted strategy will not be implemented absent the behaviors that reinforce it.
Portions of this assessment are taken from our exclusive benchmarking study of Fortune magazine’s “Power 25” list of the most powerful association lobbying organizations.
Take this assessment by indicating “yes” or “no” to the statements below and add up your scores.
- Our senior management and/or key volunteer leaders consistently reiterate to our stakeholders the importance of grassroots advocacy and political engagement in meetings, speeches, blog posts, etc.
- Our office pictures of PAC contributors and grassroots volunteers outnumbers pictures of staff with legislators (i.e., “the ego wall”).
- Members of our senior management team/board of directors consistently attend our PAC and grassroots events.
- We conduct events to promote the grassroots and PAC all year, not only during election years, critical issue campaigns, or fundraising campaigns.
- We consistently include grassroots and/or PAC events at our annual (non-legislative themed) meetings.
- Articles and posts on the importance of political engagement are consistently included in our company or association magazine and other non-government relations publications.
- We have a budget line item dedicated to informal and formal recognition of our productive advocates and PAC contributors.
- I have direct access to our board chairperson/CEO to discuss grassroots and PAC program needs.
- We have clear success metrics to demonstrate grassroots and PAC ROI.
- After each election cycle, we evaluate our political engagement programs with qualitative and quantitative data. This information is provided to our board of directors/senior leadership team.
Add up your number of “yes” responses.
9-10: Congratulations! Build on your strengths and take your political involvement programs to the next level – third-party stakeholder engagement and public support for your cause.
8-7: You have several key ingredients in place for a positive culture of political engagement. Select one area where you answered “no” above and decide on next steps to improve in that area.
6 or less: Get outside help to hone your internal sales skills. Seek help to facilitate agreement on cultural indicators that promote a positive political involvement culture. While you cannot alone change your organization’s culture, it’s your job to help “change hearts and minds” regarding the value of political engagement. That that result can lead to changed behaviors and a changed culture.