BACon Blog - When Government Affairs Goes Rogue… Get Out the Strategic PlanYour association’s government affairs plan needs to be driven by your association’s board… not by rogue staff, member leaders or the government affairs committee. The solution to these rogue elements at your association? The strategic plan.

Too often there is a disconnect between the strategic plan and the association’s advocacy program. This can occur if member leaders are intimidated by government affairs staff and don’t feel empowered, or knowledgeable enough, to provide direction for the advocacy goals of the association.

This can also occur when staff are pursuing their own agenda in the area of advocacy. Sometimes staff are more concerned about maintaining their relationships with Member of Congress, regulators, and other lobbyists than they are in aggressively pursuing issues of importance to the association.

There have even been instances where members of the association’s government affairs committee have worked with government affairs staff to create a fiefdom and resist efforts on the part of member and staff leadership to give proper and appropriate direction to the association’s government affairs efforts.

All of these bad behaviors can be addressed when the strategic plan and the government affairs agenda are combined and are part of a single process, with member leaders making the appropriate high level decisions on the goals and objectives of the advocacy initiatives for the association.

Connecting your association’s government affairs activities with the goals and objectives in your strategic plan is critical to ensuring that member leaders are driving the key decisions for your association’s advocacy program. This connection is critical to ensuring that your government affairs plan supports the board-approved strategic plan and that appropriate resources are being provided to achieve results in your government affairs plan.

This not only provides clear direction for staff and member committees about the government affairs agenda… it provides members and staff the opportunity to provide input into the strategic planning process so that their views and opinions are taken into consideration when the association board makes its decisions on the strategic plan.

So stop the Mad Max approach to your association’s government affairs… connect your government affairs to your strategic plan.

John Barnes is President of Barnes Association Consultants. Barnes Association Consultants helps association Boards and CEOs address the wide range of challenges and opportunities facing today’s association leaders. Barnes Association Consultants helps association leaders make their associations better.

John can be reached at or 703.321.6866. For more information about Barnes Association Consultants, go to