If successful, a political grassroots program can help an industry gain “brand identity” before key opinion leaders in Congress and the federal agencies, as well as in your local communities. Your NLBMDA team is actively working on many aspects of maintaining a strong congressional grassroots program, such as making key contacts, creating a clear message, offering issue education and training, disseminating information, and doing follow-up.

The foundation of a strong program lies in fostering relationships—grassroots advocacy could be described as part public relations and part membership. It is therefore essential that we have the participation of our member network. If you have an interest in being more politically active, the following will help guide your way:

Step 1: Get Informed. Know the issues and understand which legislators will best advance measures that help your business. Find out who your elected officials are and what their voting records are on key industry issues.

Step 2: Find Out What You Can Do. There are a variety of strategies and actions that are utilized in grassroots advocacy. For example, writing to your elected officials tells them exactly what your opinion is and therefore is not filtered through another source. Another simple and easy task is spreading the word by speaking to other members about getting involved. It is vital that the industry be viewed as a collective unit; banding together with a clear message is essential.

Step 3: Get Active. It is important to send messages and opinions to your legislators; this also helps to put a face to an issue. Visiting your key legislators and attending NLBMDA's annual Legislative Conference will demonstrate your support and help you follow up on all the issues that affect the industry and your business. Remember that you, as a constituent, are the best ambassador for an association. —Christine Stollas is communications manager for NLBMDA.

To get all the tools you need to take action, go to the NLBMDA Web site, www.dealer.org, or go directly to our brand-new grassroots site, www.buildthevote.org, and follow its easy steps to get informed and get started. While there, sign up for NLBMDA's Congressional Advocacy Team to be kept in the loop when key issues are heating up in Washington.