Advocacy: Three Elements of an Effective Program

What role are you playing in the public policy arena on behalf of your members?

As chambers of commerce, isn't that our primary role to protect our small business members from government overregulation and help them grow their business?

If you're not in the advocacy business, you should be.

All the recent studies I've read, including the recent third edition of the Western Association of Chamber Executives (W.A.C.E.) survey from chamber members across the country are reporting that they want their chamber to play in the public policy space.  It's important to them.

I couldn't agree more.

Do you have a complete government affairs program?  Do you want to build one?  I've always talked about an effective government affairs program is like a three legged stool.

The three key elements are:

  • Direct Lobbying
  • Political Action Committee (PAC)
  • Grassroots

Direct Lobbying

This is where you make direct contact with your legislator and talk about your issue.  The lobbyist is responsible for knowing the issue and the opposite side of the issue.  It’s important to share both sides and explain on why you’re on the right side.  Shouldn’t all issues be voted on the merits of the issue and what’s good for business?

Lobbying is about building relationships with your legislator and their key staff.  It’s just as important that they know you and ultimately check with you before voting on any legislation.  That’s a sign that you’re dialed in.

Political Action Committee

It takes money to get elected and re-elected.  PACs allow you to play an important role in supporting legislators who support your issues.  PAC money is the toughest money to raise so it’s important that you spend it wisely.

Do you have a set criteria laid out that is clear and transparent on whom you support?  If not, you should.  Chambers should be in the business of supporting legislators who support the business community.


While some may argue it’s the most important, rest assured you must have a robust grassroots program to allow you to be effective in the legislative process.  It shows that you have support from the business community on a specific issue.

In grassroots, we talk about key contact or broad based programs.

The key contact program is all about identifying key leaders within your organization and having them contact the legislator.  These individuals are already known by the legislator.  They already contribute to the legislator’s re-election campaign or maybe even campaign for them.

The broad based program allows you to mobilize your entire membership on a specific issue.

Both are important.

For your chamber, it's just good business being in the advocacy business!