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Sierra Club Named Most Influential Group on the Environment
- Subject: Sierra Club Named Most Influential Group on the Environment
- From: "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Thu, 3 Sep 1998 14:56:54 -0400 (EDT)
- List-Name: GLIN-Announce
Great Lakes folks may be interested in this news release (below) which came
out today in Washington DC about the most influential government
policy lobbying groups. The Sierra Club was found to be the most
influential lobbying group on the environment.
Here in Michigan I believe that the Mackinac Chapter
is one of the best in the entire Club for aggressive, concerted and
effective action on policy and environmental/conservation
leadership. The Mackinac Chapter has a strong
Executive Committee and support committee structure with a great
deal of effective volunteer commitment and a top-notch staff.
Alison Horton, Anne Woiwode, Rita Jack and Melanie Nance do a
tremendous job in their staff work to help make chapter volunteers
informed and effective. I consider it an honor to work with them
on fundraising and information management tasks.
Sierra Club Press Release:
September 3, 1998
SIERRA CLUB NAMED MOST INFLUENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATION
WASHINGTON, DC.... An independent survey has named the Sierra Club the most
influential environmental organization in Washington. The study, released
today by the Aspen Institute Nonprofit Sector Research Fund, asked every
member of Congress and key federal officials to "name the (two) national
nonprofit organizations that you believe have the most influence on federal
policy" in each of six issue areas. On environmental issues, the survey
named the Sierra Club and the National Federation of Independent Businesses
(NFIB) as the two most influential organizations, with the Sierra Club
receiving more than double the number of responses than NFIB.
"This survey result is a tribute to the 550,000 members of the Sierra Club
who give us the political clout to influence policy makers," said Carl Pope,
the Sierra Club's Executive Director. "Policy makers listen to the Sierra
Club because we represent their constituents and the vast majority of
Americans who believe in strong environmental protections."
The survey comes as the Sierra Club is broadening its grassroots and media
efforts to educate the public, on environmental issues, Administrative policy
actions and Congressional votes. The organization has shifted 80% of the
resources once spent on lobbying in Washington to grassroots organizing and
public education in communities across America. The Sierra Club operates on
the principle that the simplest way to push for stronger environmental
standards is to give the public the information and the means to make their
"This survey shows that the way to have clout in the Beltway is by addressing
the concerns that people have about local issues -- like the air their
children breathe and the water they drink," added Pope. "It's a good sign
for our democracy that grassroots organizations like the Sierra Club are able
to translate the basic American value of a healthy environment into real
influence in the nation's Capitol."
The Sierra Club is the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental
organization, with 550,000 members in 65 chapters and 408 groups nationwide.
These individuals are using grassroots activism and community action to
protect America's environment, for our families, for our future.
From the Aspen Institute:
Nonprofit Advocacy Organizations Exemplify Democracy at Work
Few of the Most Influential Contribute to Campaigns
Washington - Who will members of Congress be listening to when they return
from their Labor Day recess next week? According to "Effective Nonprofit
Advocacy," a new study by Susan Rees, an independent researcher in
Washington, they will include the 12 organizations most frequently named in a
survey last year of Congress and the Administration. The study was funded by
The Aspen Institute's Nonprofit Sector Research Fund.
The organizations are, on the budget, the Center on Budget and Policy
Priorities and the Concord Coalition; environment, the Sierra Club and
National Federation of Independent Business; family policy and welfare, the
Christian Coalition and Children's Defense Fund; foreign aid funding, the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Center for Strategic and
International Studies; health, American Medical Association and the American
Association of Retired Persons; housing and community development, U.S.
Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities.
Case studies, based on interviews with the organization executives and other
research, describe the factors that make nonprofit organizations influential
in national policy debates. The study found the majority of these
organizations have created democratic structures that enable their members
and supporters to deliberate on social and economic questions and come to
conclusions that their leaders and staff then convey to Washington
decision-makers. The methods range from representative sampling of
membership opinion to complex processes for members to initiate, debate and
vote on the organization's policy agenda.
"Nonprofit advocacy is an important and understudied topic," said Alan J.
Abramson, director of the Nonprofit Sector Research Fund. "Rees's findings
indicate that nonprofit organizations can serve as a critical link in our
democracy by channeling the interests of their members to leaders at the
highest levels of the policy process."
The study describes the lobbying and communications techniques the 12
organizations use most frequently. It also delves into questions of
strategy, the role of public opinion, and the types of rhetorical arguments
they frequently use. It found that only three of the 12 organizations use
campaign contributions as a means of gaining legislative access.
"The main thing the 12 organizations have in common is a strong Washington
presence, even though two of them, the Sierra Club and the Concord Coalition,
emphasize public education and grassroots organizing," Rees said. Only the
Sierra Club and the two business-professional associations, the AMA and NFIB,
contribute to candidates. The study found more common ways of getting
lawmakers' attention are -
¨ Serving as a source of credible, analytic and timely information.
¨ Conducting voter education - informing followers of how their elected
representatives vote on issues of concern.
¨ Employing people who have worked on the Hill.
To identify a set of highly effective organizations, Rees first asked
majority and minority staff directors of Congressional committees and
subcommittees with jurisdiction over the six issues of concern in this
project to name the most influential groups in their issue areas. She then
used the responses from this select group as multiple choice options in a
second survey of all members of Congress and officials from the White House
and executive branch agencies. In the second stage, each respondent was
asked to "name the two national nonprofit organizations that you believe have
the most influence on federal policy" on each of the six issues. The overall
response rate in the two-step process was 22.5 percent, higher than the 15
percent rate for a similar survey conducted last year to identify Fortune
Magazine's "Washington's Power 25."
Overall, case studies illustrate the 12 organizations believe it is important
¨ Focus resources on one or two top policy priorities and not get bogged
down in side debates.
¨ Deliberately reach out to both Democrats and Republicans.
¨ Develop person-to-person relationships, including CEO meetings with
¨ Work in coalitions, especially "strange bedfellow" alliances.
¨ Train members and supporters to use a variety of advocacy and
¨ Publicize their issues and political candidates' records and positions
on them during elections.
¨ Engage policy makers with ordinary citizens on deliberative bodies.
¨ Invite them to meet and observe the people and places they are
The survey resulted in a total of 98 nonprofits being named across the six
policy areas. Eleven were mentioned in more than one category, but only two
of them, the American Association of Retired Persons and the Center on Budget
and Policy Priorities, ranked third or higher on more than one issue.
Three-fourths of the 12 organizations are membership-based. Their size
varies greatly, but they have definitely achieved a certain scale, Rees said,
with budgets ranging from $3 million to $500 million.
All of the twelve organizations are designated nonprofits and permitted to
lobby under the Internal Revenue Code. Some have affiliates designated under
different subsections of the code with different strictures.
Most of the organizations serve as a resource for information on legislation,
including who supports and opposes particular bills. In communicating with
policy makers and the news media, they generally:
¨ Refrain from using loaded words or empty and inflammatory rhetoric.
¨ Use polls and focus groups to show public opinion on the issue.
¨ Give lawmakers data on the issue from their states and districts.
¨ Use economic arguments such as increased efficiency or job growth
¨ Call on government to "level the playing field" and establish
¨ Appeal to democratic, constitutional and historic principles, as well
as Congressional precedent.
¨ Define the problem to be solved in manageable terms.
The study can be found on the Nonprofit Sector Research Fund's Aspen
Institute's Web site at http://www.aspeninst.org/dir/polpro/NSRF/NSRF1.html
Although it funded the study, the statements and conclusions are those of the
author alone and not necessarily of the Aspen Institute's Nonprofit Sector
Research Fund or its funders.