In politics, candidates and campaigns work feverishly to identify and mobilize supporters. Campaigns hold events, introduce their candidates to voters, send mail and make phone calls, and advertise on television, radio and the web. All of these efforts are to identify and turn out key supporters who can carry their candidates to victory on Election Day.
Iowa has a rich history of political organization, and those efforts aren’t limited to political campaigns alone. Many groups, such as the Iowa Realtors, Iowa Association of Business and Industry and the Iowa State Education Association, not only have active political action committees, they have vibrant organizational efforts among their members, as well. They know their members’ individual voices are magnified once their collective voice is organized.
Other large Iowa employers, such as John Deere, Nationwide Insurance and the Principal Financial Group, also undertake significant educational efforts for their employees. While they don’t have “members,” per se, they do have large numbers of employees. The companies strive to be non-partisan and help their employees meet the candidates and learn the issues. The leadership of these great companies have concluded that if their employees are educated on important public policy matters, they will be better informed voters.
For groups that operate in a highly regulated environment, it makes sense to organize your members. Simply stated, if you and your members don’t look out for your interests, someone else will. And you run the risk of ceding control to those who don’t have your best interests at heart.
When organizing your members, it is wise to consider the following:
1. Stay focused on the issues that affect your membership. Just because you’ve gotten involved in the political arena doesn’t mean you have to, or should, weigh in on subjects far afield from the interests of your membership.
2. It’s politics, and therefore some of your members may be uncomfortable. Political involvement is an inherently personal undertaking. Not all of your members will become engaged, and that’s understandable. Once they see their friends and colleagues engaging, those barriers will break down and they will join the effort.
3. Social media tools are making membership organization much easier, and much more cost efficient. These platforms also allow you to communicate with your membership about important issues in an almost real-time fashion. Take a look at what the Iowa Credit Union League has recently done to motivate its members via YouTube.
4. Your membership relies on you to communicate important information, and they’ve put their trust in you to be honest with them and to have their best interests at heart. Never, ever, violate this principle.
Organizing membership for political engagement takes time and patience. But in the end, your membership collectively, and each member individually, will benefit from these organizational efforts. They will better understand the key issues of the day, and how the actions of decision makers affect their daily lives.