Chambers Increase Advocacy Efforts as Pandemic Spotlights Value of Speaking Up

In a recent W.A.C.E. opinion poll, 93% of participating association members reported that their chamber does advocacy and government affairs. Not surprisingly, 81% of those same members also responded that their advocacy and government affairs efforts had increased (or their chamber was more active) during the last two months.

The data shows that every participating chamber with more than 1,000 members does advocacy and government affairs, and 87% of them reported being more active in the last two months. Among chambers with 501–999 members, 98% were engaged in government affairs and advocacy with 82% stating they had increased efforts.

Eighty-five percent of chambers with fewer than 250 members do advocacy and government affairs work—the lowest percentage among all chamber sizes—but this group of chambers had the second highest percentage of chambers that increased their efforts in the last two months.

“Is this a momentary boost in efforts due to the magnitude of the shutdown of the entire country or will this be a shift toward more engaged chambers?” W.A.C.E. Vice President Russell Lahodny asked.

“Only time will tell, but the pandemic has changed the way chambers operate and I think chambers that once were afraid to weigh in on an issue now see the importance of their voice as advocates for their business community. I’ve had numerous chamber executives comment to me that their board finally sees the value of being engaged in legislative issues,” Lahodny said.

Advocacy Self-Assessment

One-third of survey participants rated their advocacy efforts as excellent with another 42% giving themselves a rating of good. Twenty-one percent rated their efforts as fair and only 3% admitted to having a poor effort.

No chamber with more than 1,000 members rated its advocacy efforts less than good, and the majority (57%) said their efforts were excellent. On the opposite end of the spectrum, only 4% of chambers with fewer than 250 members rated their efforts as excellent and 11% rated their efforts as poor.

Value and Monetizing Advocacy

Nearly 60% of the survey participants stated that some of their members recognize the value of their advocacy efforts but that the chamber needs to do a better job communicating that value to its members. Another 38% reported that their members definitely understand the value of their efforts.

Chambers were less likely to rate their efforts highly when it comes to monetizing their advocacy work. Only 4% said they were excellent at monetizing their efforts. Another 26% said they were good at their ability to monetize their efforts. The majority of participants reported that their chamber was either fair (32%) or poor (38%) at monetizing their advocacy efforts.

“The bigger question for those chambers that don’t engage in advocacy or government affairs is, what will it take for them to get involved?” Lahodny continued. “It reminds me of a quote by legendary crab fisherman Phil Harris from Deadliest Catch, who said, ‘You can watch things happen, you can make things happen or wonder what the [heck] happened.’”