The Power of Association Advocacy

Our Voice Matters Associations Now January/February 2018 Issue By: Chris Vest, CAE

While associations fared well in the final tax bill, that wouldn’t have been possible without the advocacy efforts of ASAE and its members.

The sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax system that was hurried through Congress at the end of 2017 exemplifies why associations need to be vigilant and organized in their advocacy efforts.

While lawmakers have talked about reforming the tax code for years, the pace of last year’s tax bill took some advocacy groups by surprise. The House first introduced bill language in November, and just more than six weeks later, tax reform was a done deal. The somewhat closed-door nature of the deliberations, coupled with the numerous (and significant) changes made to the bill, made for a frantic couple of months for both congressional staff and the many individuals and groups who wanted to influence the outcome.

In the end, associations fared well in the final bill. At one point, it appeared that associations’ royalty income might be subject to tax, their deferred compensation plans eliminated, and their due-diligence practices for setting executive compensation subject to new IRS scrutiny. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of ASAE and its members, none of those provisions ended up in the final bill.

The legislative process that produced tax reform is a perfect example of the need for associations to advocate effectively for themselves and their members. It shows why your organization’s grassroots operation, intelligence-gathering capacity, and messaging all matter.

Association advocates will have their next opportunity to work together and exercise their voice at American Associations Day, ASAE’s legislative fly-in, on March 21-22 on Capitol Hill. Every association advocates on its own policy issues, but it’s important to let lawmakers know that, collectively, associations have many shared interests in Congress’s legislative agenda and a desire to be a trusted resource as informed public policy is made.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Our Voice Matters."] 

Chris Vest, CAE

Chris Vest, CAE, is director of public policy at ASAE.