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Show Me the Money: Political Action Committees

Posted By Nick de Julio, Tuesday, August 26, 2014
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An effective tool in building relationships with decision makers

Citizens have many opportunities to influence the legislative process — hire a lobbyist, join an association, volunteer on a political campaign or ballot initiative, or contribute financial resources. You can contribute to an individual candidate, state or local political party unit, or to a political action committee (PAC). Many organizations form PACs as a way to provide financial contributions to candidates for office who have been helpful to the organization in the policy arena, and to candidates who may show an interest in the organization’s issues into the future. The following information explains how Political Action Committees work in Minnesota; laws vary by state and federal laws apply to campaigns for federal offices. There are also issue-oriented PACs, commonly referred to as Super PACs, that are formed to advocated for a political position or candidates, but they are not allowed to make contributions directly to candidates for office.

What is a PAC?
PACs are organizations that obtain contributions from individuals and distribute donations to candidates for political office, promote or defeat legislation, or support or oppose a ballot question.

Where the money comes from…
PACs have strict rules about who they can collect contributions from and who they can contribute to:

  • PACs may accept contributions from individuals, other registered PACs and political party units, as well as individual candidates’ campaign committees.
  • Anonymous contributions and contributions from associations that are not registered with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board cannot be accepted.
  • PACs cannot accept any contributions that are designated by the contributor for a specific candidate (also known as “earmarks”).
  • Corporations cannot donate to a PAC, although there are some exceptions regarding non-profits.

Where the money goes…..
Once the PAC has raised money, it is restricted to certain types of contributions or expenditures:

  • A PAC can contribute to individual candidates, political party units, and to political committees or funds either registered or not registered with the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board.
  • The PAC can make direct expenditures and independent expenditures, or expenditures made on behalf of a candidate, without their permission.
  • PACs are also allowed to spend money on their own operating expenses.

Campaign Contributions and limits
Candidates and elected officials can accept contributions from many sources  — individuals, lobbyists, political committees and political party units. Candidates cannot accept contributions from corporations or anonymous contributions over $20.

During a legislative session, candidates and elected officials cannot receive contributions from lobbyists or PACs.

Candidates and elected officials also have limits as to what they may accept from lobbyists, political units and large donors during a two-year period. If they go over these limits, they must return the funds to the original source.

  • In a non-election year, a PAC can donate $2000 to candidates for governor, $1500 for attorney general candidates, and $1000 to candidates running for secretary of state, state auditor, or the state legislature.
  • In an election year, the limit jumps to $4,000 for governor, $2,500 for attorney general, and $2000 for secretary of state and state auditor, and $1,000 for the state legislature.
  • There are no limits on contributions to state or local political party units.

Details on the contribution limits can be found at the MN Campaign Finance Board.

How are they held accountable?
PACs must register with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, which regulates the PAC. Upon registration, a PAC needs a chair and a treasurer (who can be the same person) as well as a bank account. Once the PAC is registered, the treasurer needs to submit an annual report of receipts and disbursements. For each contribution, the PAC must report the name, the address and/or registration number, the employer, the date of payment, and the amount of payment. For expenditures, the PAC must report the specific purpose of the expenditure. The Board makes software and training seminars available to ease the process of reporting this information.

Tags:  decision makers  nick de julio  PAC  political action committee 

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How I learned to stop writing headlines and start loving my audience

Posted By Laurie Pumper, Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, August 19, 2014

By Laurie Pumper, CAE, Communication Director, Ewald Consulting

Everyone who writes for associations wants to get the largest possible audience for that material. However, one of the best ways to gain that attention often gets left until the end of the process. Many busy writers give little thought to the headline — yet that short bit of text can make the difference between so-so readership and virality. Here are some hints to help bring your headlines and other short-form messages to life.

Why do your readers care?

Having a strong call to action can help you create a strong headline. But determining what will motivate readers means knowing your audience. It was one of the first lessons I learned in journalism school, and it is just as relevant now. Are your members likely to read your message at work, at home, or on a plane? Do many of them use mobile devices for emails? Learn what inspires your members; learn what they fear; learn as much as you can about them. Then use that knowledge to develop great content (and headlines) to meet their needs.

Does a picture really say a thousand words?

Especially on magazine covers and social media platforms, you have the opportunity to draw in your readers with a great photo. The best photos convey the emotion you want your audience to feel. Research has proven that people of all ages will focus on a face immediately to seek meaning and connection.

Keep your language simple

If you try to jam too many ideas into your headline, it will be difficult for readers to understand what the article is about. It’s best to rely on a simple sentence structure for headlines.

Sweet emotion

Even people who believe that they rely on logic to make decisions actually rely on their subconscious emotions to make many decisions. Use an emotional message (in conjunction with a photo, if possible) to help convey your story. Bring it back to what is important for your audience. “Tax bill passes legislative committee” probably won’t get as many readers as “Tax bill could mean funding cuts for ABC members.”

Some people love a mystery

If the headline gives just enough information to intrigue readers, they will want to learn more about your topic. A good question can help drive traffic to your content. Like many of the other hints provided here, it’s best to use this type of heading occasionally.

Pop: More than a word from Dr. Seuss

Using a pop culture reference can add fun to your headline. Just be sure that your readers will understand it. If your group has global reach and/or if your readers include everyone from the Greatest Generation to Millennials, it may be more difficult for pop culture to translate well. Sometimes, even if people don’t recognize the reference, the language may provide a clever turn of phrase or an engaging way to talk about your content. Even if you’ve never seen the movie Dr. Strangelove, you may have liked the rhythm of the headline for this article.

Mix it up

If every headline you write relies on the same formula, it gets dull. If every subject line includes the word “Urgent,” people will learn that most of your messages really aren’t that urgent.

Does length matter?

There are many opinions on the ideal length for a headline or subject line. My general preference is that shorter is better, but I have seen powerful headlines that are long. Many Content Management Systems set a limit on the number of characters for headlines and subject lines; keep those in mind as you craft messages for different platforms. Your audience makes a difference, too; I’ve found that attorneys or academics are more willing to read a long headline (and the full article that follows).

Just because someone else wrote a crummy headline, you don’t need to use it

Many association leaders aren’t trained as writers: they’re doctors, land surveyors, occupational therapists, and other people who really understand their subject matter. As an association communicator, I see myself as a partner who can elevate that subject matter to connect better with the intended audience. Don’t misstate or exaggerate, but add emotion and clarity.

Try, try again

For the best headlines, don’t be satisfied with the first one that pops to mind. Sometimes, divine inspiration strikes — more often, you’ll get better results by brainstorming a bunch of ideas. Whether or not you agree with its political bent, Upworthy has managed to drive millions of views to its videos. The Upworthy mantra is to write 25 different headlines before choosing one. Try bouncing ideas around with a co-worker or a volunteer; feedback from someone with a different perspective can generate fresh ideas. If you do have to work alone, do the brainstorming to come up with a bunch of possibilities; then walk away for awhile. When you come back, a fresh eye will help you choose the best option.

Spell check, proofread, read it again

Headlines, captions and subheads are all more likely to have errors that are missed during copyediting. Don’t rely on your software to spell-check; you could misspell a name or use a correctly spelled word in the wrong place. Don’t ruin the impact of your perfectly crafted headline by letting a typo slip past you!

Don’t stop at the headline

You’ve chosen the perfect headline — congratulations! Now keep practicing your skills on subheads, captions, email subject lines and social media posts. All these spaces give you an opportunity to reach your audience with just a few well-chosen words.

Tags:  Ewald Consulting  Laurie Pumper  writing headlines 

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Signs Your Association Won’t Be Around in 8 Years

Posted By David Ewald, Monday, August 11, 2014
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The great advisor to CEOs, Marshall Goldsmith, wrote a book, What Got You Here, Won't Get You There. I have paraphrased that, saying often to my staff: "If we were doing business today the way we were eight years ago, we'd be out of business. And, if we are doing business eight years from now the way we are today, we will be out of business."  Every organization need to change, adapt and improve — associations are no exception. Organizations that fail to do so may not be entirely gone in eight years, but they will be well on the path to irrelevance.

Here are five signs that your association won’t be around in eight years:

  1. Failure by leaders to keep pace with technology (often blaming it on their age or budget).

    I'm amazed when well-paid people who have been in their careers for years admit, "I'm bad at technology". Take a class. Read a book. Hire someone. When the leaders give up on technology, so does everyone else. Problems with technology are one of the greatest morale busters in any organization.

  2. Failure to recognize that the world has changed.

    Unless we stay abreast of current trends and push our own organizations to be faster, better, smarter they will fall behind. The assumption that an organization can continue to do things the way it always has is a losing proposition and one guaranteed to fail. Other organizations are working hard to change, and improve. If you don't pay attention, you just don't realize it.

  3. Failure to confront recurring problems and solve them.

    Time and again, organizations find themselves dealing with the same problems: people, technology, product quality, systems, service quality. They talk about the problems with no resolution while often having their attention lured away by a new, "bright shiny object" — much to the frustration of their staff.

  4. Failure to invest in staff.

    Staffing is usually the largest budget item in an association. Not investing in finding great employees, then training and working hard to motivate them, is like trying to drive an IndyCar on wagon wheels. Those who are content with a weak staff are content with a weak organization. Find the best people you can, then give them what they need to do a good job, and do what you can to reward and retain them.

  5. Failure to harness the power of volunteers while directing the energy in a consistent direction.

    Like a fast-flowing river, volunteers provide the energy for an organization. Unchecked, that energy can overflow the banks and overwhelm operations. Unmotivated, the streambed dries up and the power goes away. Engage your volunteers.  Let them share in the joy of moving an organization forward.

Associations with their finger on the pulse of their members, our economy and world at large thrive and grow well. Those that do nothing more than stay the same quickly go the way of the buggy whip manufacturer. I'm planning on my business being here in eight years – how about you?

Tags:  association management  associations  business  david ewald  ewald consulting  success 

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