(How Can I) Get Involved!

Years ago I decided I wanted to move to the nation’s capital because – as I told friends at the time – I was tired of “just” writing about what had happened with retirement policy… I wanted to make a difference.

Now that’s not to say that writing doesn’t make a difference – I hear from readers all the time about the impact that the news, information and insights we provide has.

That said, having made that move – and now having been here for half a decade – I can say that while it’s not quite as bad as Otto van Bismarck said (though I’ve never actually watched sausage-making), it’s clear that lawmaking is truly an art, not a science. It requires patience, the ability to not only see the forest rather than the trees, but often the forest beyond the forest. You have to be able to set personal egos (and agendas) aside, to not only keep your eye on the long game, but be willing (and able) to pivot on a moment’s notice to take advantage of a fleeting window of opportunity.

It’s not for the faint of heart or commitment – and it is hard (though I suppose not impossible) to do so successfully as a passing activity. It’s one of the reasons that NAPA, and the American Retirement Association, have been so successful over the years in not only articulating our members’ perspectives, but in helping ensure that the laws and regulations that build, bound and bind the nation’s retirement system take those perspectives into account.

Not that those efforts always bear fruit – but as anyone who has ever been to a NAPA event can attest – and those who were at the recent NAPA DC Fly-In Forum can surely confirm – it does make a difference. Indeed, it’s a rare NAPA event where anywhere from 10-20 attendees don’t approach me to ask how they can get (more) involved.

Whether you are a seasoned professional looking to “give back” to the profession, a relative newcomer, or somewhere in between, there are many ways that individuals can get more involved with the work of NAPA and make a difference.

Where to Start

Perhaps the most common entry point for NAPA volunteers is participation in our Government Affairs Committee, or GAC. NAPA GAC represents NAPA in communications with Congress and government agencies in shaping the retirement industry and protecting our members; communications that can include developing comment letters to the Department of Labor, the Treasury Department, IRS, SEC and FINRA, as well as testimony on Capitol Hill.

Those with a particular knowledge skill set, who have either a background in, or experience with, teaching might want to participate as a subject matter expert (SME), working with other dedicated retirement plan professionals to educate and train the next generation. As an expert in a particular area/specialty/topic, you will have the chance to share your knowledge and hone your skills – and you’ll have the chance to accumulate continuing education credits for your work here as a volunteer.

Those who are ready for a higher level of engagement might want to consider participation as a member of the agenda and/or steering committee for our various conferences, including NAPA Connect, the NAPA DC Fly-In Forum or the NAPA 401(k) Summit. Each event has its own structure, focus, and responsibilities – and they all require a serious time commitment. These events are not only significant for their contributions to NAPA membership engagement and involvement, but for their contributions to NAPA’s bottom line and continued advocacy efforts.

For those who don’t have a lot of time to commit, there are other ways to get involved and have an impact. Participation in NAPA events matters – as a speaker, panelist, session facilitator – or even just helping to spread the word among your network(s) about the event. Reading and commenting on the posts on NAPA Net can spur engagement – as can responding to the weekly reader polls on NAPA Net.

One of the great privileges of my current position is that I get to meet and work with so many gifted and dedicated volunteers in so many different capacities pretty much every single day. If you’re one of them, thank you for the impact you’ve already had and the difference that you have made.

If you’re not (yet) one of them, and would like to be – there’s no time like the present. If you don’t know where to start, a list of volunteer opportunities and an application form are available here.

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