Why Nominating Members for External Boards Is a Core Element of Advocacy

sandhu_why_nominating_members_for_external_boards_is_a_core_element_of_advocacy February 16, 2021 By: Sharmila Sandhu

While influencing legislation gets the most attention in the government relations field, a key job duty includes nominating members for important boards and councils. Placement on outside commissions can elevate members and the association and keep your industry’s needs at the forefront.

While influencing legislation and regulations important to our members is critical work for government relations (GR) professionals, there are some additional activities that are part of our core duties. One of these is nominating our members to outside boards and commissions that will best position the association to advocate for policy priorities. Successfully obtaining positions on expert panels and committees elevates the role and prominence of both your members and your association.

Promote Widespread Recognition of Your Members and Industry

You probably work with organizations, directly or indirectly, every day that have opportunities for appointments at the international, national, state, or local levels. For example, is your association affiliated with (or perhaps even a member of) another organization that looks at safety or quality for your industry? By researching and asking, you will find that many of these organizations have opportunities for stakeholder input or expertise as part of a board or other committees. Often, they welcome your nomination.

In my role at the American Occupational Therapy Association, I am part of a cross-functional staff team that seeks to appoint members to relevant committees within the National Quality Forum, a group in which AOTA is an organizational member. When our staff successfully appoint an occupational therapy member to an NQF workgroup, that member can create opportunities for AOTA. Appointed members diligently educate other health professionals, payers, and policymakers about what occupational therapy is and the role our health profession plays within the broader healthcare system. The member can promote recognition of your industry to the wider community on a personalized level.

How to Identify Appropriate Members for Appointments

An important aspect of these efforts is choosing the most relevant opportunity, and then identifying the most qualified member for that appointment. This decision can be determined by several factors: Does the appointment have an application process? What specific qualifications or experiences are being sought by the board or commission? Is a statement of interest required, either by the nominating organization or the nominee? Some appointments require a professional resume, while others want applicants to respond to a series of narrative questions. For instance, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has a dedicated page on its website about nominating experts in the areas of healthcare insurance, clinical practice, coverage, and payment decisions.

Successfully obtaining a seat on a key board or commission can also result in coalition building with partner associations on critical advocacy issues.

AOTA monitors and tracks this page on an ongoing basis to identify relevant opportunities. It is important to designate GR or other staff to monitor relevant organizations for these opportunities and to develop a process for identifying appropriate candidates. Associations might consider identifying a staff designee and a place on the website for interested members to provide their names and contact information for future nomination opportunities. Associations must be thoughtful about representation on committees and panels, not only in terms of qualification and expertise, but also in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion of the industry represented. The process to identify leadership for these opportunities must be equitable and well-vetted by your association. Since associations are often working with limited resources, being selective and targeted is a crucial skill for GR staff seeking to promote the voice of your members.

Grow Association Pride and Build Coalitions on Advocacy Issues

The benefits to associations with strong representation on targeted boards and commissions cannot be overstated. Not only do these opportunities grow a sense of pride and belonging in the member who is successfully appointed, but also in the wider membership community when appointments are announced publicly.

Successfully obtaining a seat on a key board or commission can also result in coalition building with partner associations on critical advocacy issues. AOTA’s member experts regularly work in close collaboration with member experts from the American Physical Therapy Association and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association to advocate for the collective policy priorities of therapy professionals.

Additionally, AOTA frequently partners with association leaders in industries that employ our members, such as skilled-nursing facilities, home health agencies, and organizations that promote school systems. Members also tend to develop professional relationships and even friendships with fellow board members. These bonds create long-term relationships and ongoing conversations that can result in future valuable projects. Those relationships also frequently translate to close collaboration and ties among the GR staff of the appointed members. We know intrinsically as GR professionals working in a variety of advocacy contexts that we are much stronger together when working in coalitions.

The work we are doing on external boards and commissions today is transforming our ability to promote our associations’ vision, mission, and members to external audiences and will extend well into the future.

Sharmila Sandhu

Sharmila Sandhu, JD, is vice president of regulatory affairs at the American Occupational Therapy Association in North Bethesda, Maryland. She is also a member of ASAE's Government Relations and Advocacy Professionals Advisory Council and a 2019-2021 ASAE Diversity Executive Leadership Program scholar.