Want to Influence Policy? Join AARP’s Advisory Council

AARP members with policy experience should consider applying for our all-volunteer National Policy Council (NPC), which serves as an advisory body to the AARP Board of Directors, which sets AARP policies.

Becoming a member of the NPC requires more than policy expertise. Members attend NPC meetings in person at least four times in Washington or around the country. NPC members also participate in webinars and conference calls throughout the year and prepare for these by reading substantial amounts of information and policy analysis.

Many NPC members also represent specific regions of the country. They meet with and listen to AARP volunteers and staff in their respective regions to ensure that the National Policy Council understands policy issues at the local level and the concerns and challenges in each state. The goal is to make sure AARP members, volunteers and staff can make their voice heard on policy issues.

What does it take to be effective as an NPC member? “You have to go in prepared to learn from a diversity of opinions, whether it is from readings, policy papers or conversations with experts from around the country,” says Barbara Sabol, a retired nurse who held corporate and nonprofit leadership positions. “Being an NPC volunteer is intellectually stimulating. Part of your contribution is just learning, because you’re not going to be able to be expert in everything, but you can learn about new things and make them applicable to what you do know about. And, you learn a lot about yourself as well.”

It’s also important to be a consensus-builder as part of the National Policy Council. “The NPC is composed of people from different parts of the country with different experiences. But as an NPC member, you have to, for a moment, put aside your point of view, listen to everyone’s input, and come up with policy language that encompasses as many needs as possible and works wherever it is applied,” notes Lynn Young, an NPC member who worked as a school district analyst and educator, public utilities manager and advocate. She says that NPC policy recommendations are carefully reviewed in committee and before the entire council before being sent on to the board. “The decision of the group needs to be supported by every member of the group.”

NPC member John Ruoff, an expert on state tax, budget and fiscal policy, points out that the council works to find consensus from a range of perspectives. “I think one of the really nice things about the council is that there is significant diversity of experience. There is no single mold for an NPC member. People from different backgrounds and experiences help make the product better.”

Sound like something you would like to do? If you are an AARP member over the age of 50, I encourage you to apply. The National Policy Council’s Nominating Committee is accepting applications through Feb. 28. For more information, go to www.aarp.org/npc.

dorothyDorothy Siemon is vice president of the AARP Office of Policy Integration.