7 Leadership Essentials for Public Policy Chairs

Public policy chairs advocate for AAUW’s public policy priorities to policymakers; represent AAUW public policy priorities to AAUW members, the public, and the media; organize AAUW members to take action on policy priorities; and lead AAUW voter education and turnout campaigns in their state or branch. Through their leadership, public policy chairs ensure that we have national, state, and local public policies that empower women and girls.

New to the public policy chair role? The Public Policy Chair Manual (state public policy chair version or branch public policy chair version) has everything you need to know to be successful at your job! Think of it as your “summer reading.” Make sure to save a copy of this manual on your computer so you can easily reference it throughout the year. The manual also contains a job description for your position.

In short, public policy chairs do the following:

1. Plan advocacy activities and events.

As a public policy chair, you are instrumental in organizing AAUW members — both branch members and national members — to have an impact at the local, state, and federal levels. The options to accomplish this goal are endless: rallies, issue forums, lobby days, in-district meetings, town hall meetings, letters to the editor, op-eds, and more! AAUW has a step-by-step guide for each of these activities on our “advocacy how-to” resource page, and the national staff is always happy to help by setting up an online RSVP system, sending promotional e-mails to people in your area, and mailing you stickers, posters, and other materials. Regardless of the type of activity, make sure to have an event sign-in sheet so you can keep track of who attended which event and follow up with the attendees afterward. When you follow up with attendees, include an “ask,” such as joining AAUW Action Network, attending an upcoming activity, or participating in a planning meeting. AAUW staff is happy to help you brainstorm the “ask” and draft a follow-up message.

2. Find and take positions on state and local issues.

AAUW state boards should take positions and advocate on state legislation and regulations in accordance with the AAUW Public Policy Program. Branches should do the same on school board policies and municipal legislation. AAUW provides a cutting-edge state legislative tracking tool, called CQ StateTrack, to all states at no cost to assist you in tracking state legislation. This way, your state can make quick decisions about taking positions on new bills and leading the charge for or against particular legislation.

3. Spearhead and join statewide coalitions to work on AAUW public policy priorities.

AAUW works with dozens of allied organizations at the national level, and many of them have state and local affiliates. Looking to form a local coalition on equal pay, education, or another AAUW issue? Chances are the AAUW national staff can connect you with the right person or organization in your area! Check out the public policy chair manual (state public policy chair version or branch public policy chair version) for the right AAUW policy staff member to contact based on where you live.

4. Recruit AAUW members to be more involved in public policy and advocacy.

You can’t do it all yourself — recruit others to help you and to take action on public policy priorities! If you’re a state public policy chair, you should focus on recruiting members to be public policy chairs in their branches. AAUW can provide a list of which branches in your state have a public policy chair already and which branches have a vacant position. In both the state and branch public policy chair role, you’ll want to recruit other members to serve on a public policy committee (which is a great training ground for future public policy chairs!)

5. Sign people up for AAUW Action Network and promote the Two-Minute Activist tool.

The cornerstone of AAUW’s e-advocacy efforts, Action Network sends subscribers urgent e-mail notices to easily contact their members of Congress through the “Two-Minute Activist” tool. Anyone with an e-mail address can subscribe to Action Network, regardless of whether he or she is an AAUW member. Make sure you’re signed up for Action Network, and have a sign-up sheet at your branch meetings, tabling events, rallies, and other events to keep the list growing! If a wireless connection and electrical outlet are available at your event, you can sign people up on the website right then and there. You can also sign people up for Washington Update, the AAUW policy department’s free members-only weekly e-bulletin. It offers an insider’s view on the legislative process, the latest policy news, resources for advocates, programming ideas, and updates from the Public Policy and Government Relations Department.

6. Develop a voter education campaign in your state or branch.

Critical issues — educational equity, retirement security, a fair and balanced judiciary, civil rights, workplace fairness, reproductive rights, healthcare reform, and equal pay — are at stake each time Americans go to the ballot box. AAUW has conducted nonpartisan voter education and voter turnout activities in almost every state since 1995. As a public policy chair, your task is to determine what those activities will look like in your state and branch, budget for those activities, and implement the plan (with help, of course! See item No. 3…) AAUW and the AAUW Action Fund provide many resources to help you develop a voter education campaign, including: the AAUW Action Fund Congressional Voting Record, voter guides, the Woman-to-Woman Voter Turnout Campaign manual (hard copies available for order through advocacy@aauw.org), and voter resources.

7. Fill out event report-back form for public policy actions.

We want to spotlight your fabulous work! Use this form to let us know when you hold a rally, get a letter to the editor or op-ed published, meet with your elected official, anything! Who knows, you may find your success featured in an upcoming issue of Washington Update or on the AAUW website as a result of filling out this form…

Ready to get started? Download the Public Policy Chair Manual (state public policy chair version or branch public policy chair version) today!