Grassroots Advocacy Program – Background
The National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) is a vibrant trade association representing two-thirds of the affordable housing industry. Since affordable housing is regulated by Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), strong government relations and grassroots advocacy programs are very important to NAHMA’s membership, which consists of both national and regional affordable housing developments (AHMAs).
The advancement of NAHMA’s legislative agenda in Washington requires participation and engagement from its members, yet identified and un-identified barriers prevent members from getting more involved. ASCENT Management was hired to evaluate NAHMA’s current grassroots advocacy program and make actionable recommendations to engage more of the membership in its grassroots advocacy efforts.
ASCENT Management undertook an extensive review of NAHMA’s grassroots advocacy program by assessing current organizational practices, surveying members, identifying marketplace best practices, and conducting interviews with a select group of members and key staff. Based on research ASCENT staff conducted, ASCENT provided reports including member survey results; findings from member focus groups; an evaluation of NAHMA legislative and regulatory educational forums; an evaluation of website design and social media postings and activities; an evaluation of NAHMA’s legislative and regulatory communications with Capitol Hill; and recommendations for engaging regional affordable housing associations, government relations practices, and grassroots advocacy toolkit recommendations. Our final report provided a summary of what was learned over the course of the 8-month study and recommendations to help staff prioritize actions to complement and advance NAHMA member grassroots advocacy.
ASCENT Management congratulated NAHMA on many activities that are well done and appreciated by members. Then we made several recommendations to improve their grassroots advocacy program that would focus their efforts while complement existing efforts and leveraging their current resources and staff capacity. These recommendations include:
- Develop better branding of advocacy communications.
- Create more concise, user-friendly advocacy issue papers.
- Improve technology so members can more easily navigate the website and online resources. Make it simpler for members to locate resources online, find the information, opt-in or out of communications, and participate in advocacy efforts with the click of a button. NAHMA plans to revamp their website within the next year.
- Increase frequency and effective use of social media (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) to push out legislative and regulatory news.
- Provide more tools and education that will keep members engaged year-round, such as webinars and educational sessions, or mentorships during Hill visits to help those not comfortable with the advocacy process.
- Increase internal and external communication to educate members and NAHMA’s affiliates on the value and results of participation using success stories and testimonials.
- Create new advocacy toolkits that will feature multi-media platforms, including short “hot-to” webinars, videotaped member testimonials, web-based reference information, fact sheets, talking points and other important advocacy materials.
As NAHMA members and its regional affiliates become more involved and see the power of their participation, ASCENT expects NAHMA will see greater success in accelerating its policy and legislative agenda on behalf of its members, AHMAs (regional affiliates) and housing communities across the nation.