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Grazing in the grass...roots

March 12, 2018
Last Wednesday was one of my favorite days of the year. It was the day I spent with representatives from six Alliance members – Thrivent, Modern Woodmen of America, WoodmenLife, KJZT, Sons of Norway, and Woman’s Life – before sending them out to spread the fraternal message to their Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill. Thrivent has sponsored this event for more than five years and the Alliance has been partnering with our largest member on it for the past three years. For me personally, the event is downright inspirational. I get to share the fraternal message with these individuals, who are typically composed of local chapter leaders, field representatives, and employees from member societies’ home and regional offices. But more importantly, I get to listen to them tell their stories about how their societies improve the quality of life in the communities in which they live and work. And hearing those personal stories makes me believe the fraternal business model is – now more than ever – worth protecting, preserving, and PROMOTING to both public policy makers and prospective members. We spent Wednesday morning preparing these dedicated volunteers for their congressional visits.  Most had never met with their legislators before and never considered themselves “grassroots activists.” We covered things like:
  • Don’t be upset if your meetings are with congressional staff members rather than the lawmakers themselves – Staff members are the grease that keep the wheels of public policy turning and having them know who we are and what we do is as important (if not more important) as meeting personally with the legislator.
  • Don’t be shocked that most congressional staffers are younger than your children or grandchildren – Despite their youth, these professionals are committed to the constituents their legislators serve.
  • Make it personal and stay in your lane – You’re there to tell your story and discuss the contributions that your society makes to the community that you and your lawmaker share. So leave all the other issues of the day in the parking lot.
  • Respect the enormous amount of issues that each legislator must deal with – There were more than 50 other groups, from OBGYNs to roofers, on Capitol Hill that day. The key to a successful meeting is telling your 30-minute story in something less than 3 minutes.
  • Don’t forget the “ask” – For us, the ask is simple: please sign-on as a co-sponsor of the Fraternal Resolution, a bi-partisan and non-binding resolution that demonstrates lawmakers’ support of fraternals and the individuals in their districts that bring the fraternal business model to life.
The 20 volunteers that spent Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning telling their stories helped every Alliance member society enhance the awareness of the fraternal brand on Capitol Hill. All of us owe them, the societies that sponsored their travel to Washington, and Thrivent for organizing the congressional visits, a huge THANK YOU. And you know the best way to say that?  Sponsor members of your society for a future grassroots advocacy event. Interested? Let me know by contacting me at jannotti@fraternalalliance.org.