Thursday, October 11, 2012

At Bat for Advocacy

The baseball postseason is in full swing, and for the first time in 79 years a Washington, D.C. team is in contention (and yes, I am an avid Nats fan). But as we all know, baseball isn’t the only important thing going on in our nation’s capital (elections anyone?). It occurred to me that there are a few takeaways from the game of baseball that can be applied to your advocacy efforts:

1)     Even the best ball players only succeed one-third of the time. Baseball and advocacy both entail a great deal of failure and success, so don’t get discouraged when you don’t see results every single time you ask a member of Congress for something. Just as the baseball season is long, so are congressional terms – you’ll always have another chance to move your agenda forward. Sometimes you are going to swing and miss, but if you stay persistent you will eventually hit a grand slam and get that co-sponsor, get a statement in the Congressional Record, or get that bill passed.

2)     There are many forces at play with every move you make. In every at bat, you have to consider how many outs there are, whether anyone is on base, what the pitch count is, where the outfield is positioned, and numerous other factors. On top of that, you have to try to anticipate what the pitcher will throw you next. Similarly, as an advocate you have to be aware of a number of components as you advance your agenda. When does the bill go to committee? When does the bill go to the floor? Who can be a champion for your cause? Who is on the fence and perceivably swayable, and do you have any advocates with a relationship or constituency connection to that member? If you can anticipate what is coming and develop a strategy around those factors, you will be in much better shape.

3)     A baseball team’s roster is constantly changing, and so is congress. While the makeup of a baseball team changes due to trades, free agency, injuries and dismissals, Congressional seats change due to elections and resignations. It’s important to follow the elections in key districts and do your research when new members of Congress get elected (one good place to start would be, where you can view campaign contributions). Developing relationships with new legislators should be a major focus for any grassroots advocacy effort. Take the time to meet with these members and their staff, invite them to an on-site visit and attend their town hall meetings in the district. Forming relationships early will pay off down the line.

And if you don’t accomplish everything on your advocacy to-do list, just remember – like baseball – there’s always next year!

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