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How to Prevent Burnout of Your Most Valuable Advocates

If you have a non–stop stream of enthusiastic grassroots advocates who are willing to repeatedly contact lawmakers when you ask, read no further. If you have advocates who consistently leverage their personal legislator relationships for your cause, read no further.

If you don’t, there’s research that reveals what you need to do to keep them interested and motivated. (and it has nothing to do with plaques and awards) The surprising results are based on The Showalter Group’s proprietary research with hundreds of quality grassroots advocates— the ones who attend your annual Lobby Day events, D.C. Fly–In’s, testify before legislative committees, write and meet with their lawmakers when asked, etc. They come from a variety of professions and interests, including, but not limited to: health care, financial services, retail, medical professionals, environmental, agriculture, insurance, small business, and utilities.

The surprising results reveal that it’s not the lack of organizational recognition, it’s not the lack of senior leader support for grassroots, and it’s not the “difficult to understand issues” that cause high–producing advocates to become inactive. There are twelve major research findings, each categorized according to four major themes. The four themes include:

1. Disappointing legislator behavior
2. Personal deficiencies, such as lack of confidence and time
3. Dysfunctional government relations/advocacy culture
4. Disillusionment with “the system”

Management researcher and situational leadership expert Victor Vrooms’s legendary motivational theory is elegantly simple yet profound. It states: ”When reality does not meet expectations, people become demotivated.” Thus, these advocates’ expectations are not being met. Where did they get these expectations? Many of them can be quickly traced to their source of advocacy information—their government affairs or advocacy staff. (This is precisely why I’m not popular with the “send an e–mail and you can change the world” advocacy crowd. It’s clearly a de–motivating expectation.)

The complete research findings include the implications for our profession and action steps to help you create an environment that keeps your best advocates engaged year after year.