This week’s post was difficult to write, because it is an unfortunate, yet real life example of why the “bridge” between state and local governments grows wider. It’s advocacy gone wrong in a BIG way. So I’m sharing this story, with the hope advocates will see it as a learning opportunity.
In Florida, as in most states, local governments and organizations alike annually request appropriations from legislators for specific projects or programs. This is expected. And in some cases, state lawmakers will even seek out opportunities to assist their local constituent groups. Successfully bringing money back to their district is a “win, win” for everyone. And it’s one of the best strategies for building a strong relationship.
And even when the appropriation request is not fulfilled or vetoed, the willingness of a legislator to “make the ask” should be recognized and appreciated. And if the request is successful, it should be publically celebrated in a BIG way!
So when I learned last year about a legislator that had successfully secured funding for a local project in their district, my first thought was fantastic! What a great opportunity for the recipient to acknowledge and publically thank the lawmaker for their efforts. Again…a “win, win” for everyone.
Tragically none of that happened. In fact, the organization not only made no effort to say, “thank you” a prominent member publically supported the legislator’s opponent in an upcoming election! Now don’t get me wrong, the constituent certainly has every right to support whomever they choose. However, if the incumbent is successful in their bid for re-election, what do you think that means for their on-going relationship? It could be damaged beyond repair.
Which leads me to share this advice. You’ve heard me say it over and over again, but it can’t be emphasized enough. The foundation of successful advocacy is building strong relationships. So even if you are politically or philosophically on opposite sides of the spectrum from your elected representatives, you still need to recognize and thank them for their public service. This is especially true when they’ve put those differences aside and worked hard to help you for the betterment of the community or organization, and the people you serve.
At the very least, if you cannot support them in their re-election, take the high road. Meet or call them and let them know why…privately. This demonstrates that you respect them and the office they hold. And you might be surprised at their reaction! While they may be disappointed, they will appreciate that you respected them enough to reach out.
Strong relationships (like bridges) need to be cared for and maintained so they continue to work. It’s much easier to keep the foundation strong than it is to have to rebuild it once it begins to crumble.
Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy