The Importance of DEI in Advocacy Efforts

HHM_DEI in advocacy September 26, 2022 By: Juan Amador, FASAE, CAE, Hassana Howe, CAE, and Margarita L. Valdez Martínez

Having diverse advocates means that associations will also have more success with their advocacy efforts. Here are some tips for how your organization can diversify their advocates and advocacy efforts.

In March 2022, ASAE hosted its annual American Associations Day in Washington, DC, an advocacy event to inform association professionals and federal legislators about current policy issues. What was new this year was a stronger focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in advocacy.

As part of that event, a panel discussed ASAE's conscious inclusion strategy, which seeks to pull in professionals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to enrich association capabilities. That panel included Renata Beca-Barragán, who is legislative director for Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY).

Many association professionals know Velázquez for her work to secure the inclusion of 501(c)(6) organizations in the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as for her role as chair of the House Small Business Committee. People may not know that she is the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first Hispanic woman to serve as a senior leader of a Congressional committee. 

Beca-Barragán discussed Velázquez’s commitment to diversity and why it matters to both policymakers and association professionals. According to Margarita Valdez Martínez, who moderated the panel and is chair of ASAE’s Public Policy Committee, “Investments in DEI are no longer optional; they are necessary to ensure the business and policy objectives of associations continue to thrive. Diversity matters and members of Congress take notice—so there is a direct relationship between the success of an association’s advocacy efforts and the diversity reflected in their advocates.”

Keep in mind that diverse members will ultimately lead to diverse advocates.
As policymakers prioritize DEI, associations must also diversify their advocacy efforts to have legislative success moving forward. Here are four considerations for your organization when looking at ways to diversify your advocacy base:

Conduct a membership assessment. This is a vital step to consider as part of your overall DEI strategic priorities to assess any gaps in the diversity of your members, volunteers, and stakeholders from Latino/a, Native Americans/Alaska Natives, LGBT+, and religious communities, among others. The Apra Ethics and Compliance Committee’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Data Guide is one resource available to help develop DEI data goals and next actions.

Recruit for inclusion in membership. Once you collect and analyze the data, identify and then target missing communities. Create a holistic approach to target each community by demonstrating the value of membership. Keep in mind that diverse members will ultimately lead to diverse advocates.

Invite and train your member advocates. New members may be eager to volunteer. Create a participatory environment and provide virtual and in-person trainings for your volunteers. As part of that training, educate advocates on the policy issues and teach them how to authentically convey messages to lawmakers. In addition, keep diversity top of mind when developing advocacy materials.

Partner with experts. Even if you don’t have the expertise or knowledge internally, you can work together with other groups. Explore potential partnerships with diverse caucus members, such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Native American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus.

Associations must continue to integrate DEI into all advocacy strategies and priorities.

After all, the diversity and inclusion of members affects advocacy efforts. Start benchmarking the diversity in your membership and advocates so that you can measure your organization’s success in implementing advocacy strategies and increasing leadership representation.

This is one of two articles contributed by ASAE’s Hispanic Association Executives Community as part of recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month.

Juan Amador, FASAE, CAE

Juan Amador, FASAE, CAE, is director, constituent engagement, at the Association of American Medical Colleges and chair-elect of ASAE’s CAE Commission.

Hassana Howe, CAE

Hassana Howe, CAE, is membership director at the National Quality Forum and chair of ASAE’s CAE Exam Committee.

Margarita L. Valdez Martínez

Margarita L. Valdez Martínez is director of policy and advocacy at the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy and chair of ASAE’s Public Policy Committee.