NMHOA's President Tim Sheahan Welcomes You to i'mPOWERED!
Welcome to NMHOA’s educational series, i’mPOWERED!. As they say, “knowledge is power,” which inspired NMHOA to create a distinctive name for this service that combines the three words I-am-empowered.
This month, our feature article focuses on networking and relationship building in order to expand your sphere of influence. Since much of our power is at the ballot box, educating others to understand our issues when casting their votes will provide valuable support for candidates and measures we support. Networking with other organizations with similar missions is a way to tap their connections to influence completely new sets of supporters and piggy-back on their clout with elected officials and governmental agencies. As advocates, we know there is strength in numbers and through networking, those numbers can grow dramatically!
Networking to Expand Your Sphere of Influence
By: Tim Sheahan
As they say, all politics is local and that is the best place to start in making friends and influencing people when seeking support. Historically, we have had enough clout at the ballot box to sway elections and get supportive candidates elected in many areas. In California, where I live, that has led to adoption of valuable MH owner protections; including zoning protection, rent stabilization ordinances and fair compensation for MH owners when MH communities close. However, through the years, they haven’t built new manufactured home communities, while the general population might have increased dramatically. That trend is likely to continue, which will dilute our clout at the ballot box even more and make it that much more important to expand our sphere of influence by educating and lobbying others for support. Unfortunately, many states have a statewide “preemption” preventing some types of local ordinances, such as those limiting rent increases, so those advocacy efforts would have to first be addressed at the state level.
Do you make the best of opportunities to tell “our” story? Whether it’s acquaintances you see socially or advocates with parallel missions, outreach and education are a vital means of getting others to join your MH advocacy team. What groups can you think of that might also advocate for seniors/veterans, low income families and the disabled? As they say, there is strength in numbers; both in the number of individuals you can recruit and the number of partner organizations you can secure. Groups who have been helpful in my state include California Alliance for Retired Americans, Congress of California Seniors, Gray Panthers, Older Women’s League (OWL), Senior Legislature, Veterans groups, tenant groups, legal services groups and affordable housing advocates. When creating new alliances, there should be an effort to create a reciprocal benefit in supporting each other’s mission to help develop a lasting relationship.
If you are a leader of an individual community homeowner association (HOA), it could be helpful to connect with leaders of other HOAs in your city to work together with one voice in dealing with City officials. In many California cities, MH owners have formed local coalitions to serve as the recognized voice of MH owners in that jurisdiction. Some even have formed Political Action Committees (PACs) that contribute to, and endorse, candidates. It can also be helpful for MH owners to serve on city commissions as a way to get to know city officials and influence their thinking. Volunteering at schools, local senior centers, churches, etc. also provides a means of reaching others outside your typical sphere of influence.
Belonging to your statewide MH advocacy group and NMHOA are important means of gaining knowledge through communicating with others who directly share your mission and likely have leaders who are familiar with what you are experiencing. These groups have a long history of service and valuable expertise in addressing MH problems, along with partner organizations they work with. They might also be able to suggest local groups to partner with in your area.
For some of the large advocacy groups like AARP, because of their sheer number of members and organizational structure, they have the clout to influence people and get things done. Smaller groups often piggy-back on AARP’s clout in order to get their voice heard and attention paid to their issues. This is especially helpful at the state and national level with legislative advocacy but AARP can also have an impact at the local level through AARP chapters. You should consider joining an AARP chapter to help your voice get heard and tap the resources of support AARP has available.
The Internet and other social media are constantly creating new and more effective means of communicating with others and even raising funds for our groups. While not all of our constituents have Internet access or smart phones, the number is growing and becoming a larger piece of the networking puzzle. By expanding your imagination of possibilities, you will realize the many opportunities to expand your sphere of influence—good luck!