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A Guide For Lobby Day Advocacy
Meeting With Your Legislators
The most effective way to advocate or lobby for an issue is by meeting directly with a legislator. Legislative meetings are the most direct and impactful way to convey a message concerning a particular issue impacting the industry. Lobby Day is a great opportunity for members of the association to show strength, importance and relevance of the industry.
Lobby Day Meetings
Legislators appreciate when constituents take time to visit them at their office. A visit to a Legislator’s office is an effective tool to discuss an important piece of legislation. Take these visits seriously and understand that the legislative building offices are busy places. Schedules are always changing, Legislators have lots of meetings each day and most legislators have very little staff.
When setting a meeting be clear on the purpose of the meeting and the association that you are representing. You want to ensure that the Legislative Assistant (LA) has the information needed to share with the Legislator. It is also important to realize that most Legislators have only one part-time staffer. LA’s are generally aware of the issues, but most are not involved in policy. If the Legislator is not able to meet with you, explain who you are and your association, then leave the informational packet and take the LA business card or name. If your meeting gets rescheduled or the Legislator is unable to make the meeting, be gracious. Remember you are guest to the office, so always be polite.
Suggestions for a Successful Meeting.
- Plan your Visit
- Typically Association staff or assigned volunteers will schedule the meetings with the Legislators. Knowing who will be attending the meeting before you contact the office is beneficial. Creating groups of 2-5 people and having a team leader is an effective way to schedule visits. Most meetings will be scheduled near and around the same times. Also, paying attention to office location is important for scheduling the appropriate time between meetings.
- Make an Appointment.
- When scheduling an appointment, you will need to contact the office directly and speak to the LA, sometime interns or other staff handle appointments. Explain your purpose for the meeting and the association you are affiliated with. It is easier for the LA to arrange a meeting if they know what you wish to discuss and if constituents of the district will be attend the meeting. The initial appointment will need to be “penciled in” or tentative, because the legislative schedules are constantly changing. It is important to just get on the calendar 2 or 3 weeks in advance, and then firm up the appointment close to the date of the meeting.
- Follow-up for Appointment
- The week of the appointment it is important to follow-up with the LA and verify that the meeting is on the calendar. Explain to the LA that you understand that the calendar changes and share the contact information of the person who will be leading the meeting. The day of the meeting expect phone calls and emails adjusting schedules; for meetings that are canceled, explain to the LA that you will still come by the office to drop off information.
- Be Prepared
- Whenever possible, read the materials supporting your position beforehand and attend information meetings on the topics. In some instances, the Legislator will lack important details concerning a particular issue. Legislators handle hundreds of bills each year and do not have the capacity or staff to be knowledgeable on each bill. Know the bill number for any legislation and know the sponsors and cosponsors of the bill. It is also important to know where each bill is in the process, has it passed the house or senate and what committee is the bill presently in. It is also helpful to know a little background on the Legislator: committee assignments, political party, leadership position and length of elected service.
- Tell your Story
- The best approach is to share with the Legislator information and examples from everyday life that clearly demonstrate the impact or benefits associated with a piece of legislation. Inform the Legislator how an issue affects you personally. Instead of reciting talking points, explain the issue using your personal experience; also, be prepared to answer questions from the Legislator or staff. If you do not know the answer to a question convey that you will follow back up with the information. Also have the contact information for your association’s staff and the lobby team that can be shared with the Legislator.
- Make an Ask
- Outline your agenda and talking points prior to visiting with the Legislator. You need to signal early in the meeting that you have a specific issue(s) to discuss. Close the meeting with a direct request. I am here today encouraging you to vote for/against bill #123 or I hope you will consider supporting the further funding of xyz program. And, offer to serve as a local resource and extend an invitation for a visit in your District in the near future.
- Follow up
- Collect the business cards all of the staff that you interact with on your visit. Within a reasonable time email each staff member individually with a personal note complimenting them and thanking them for their time and professionalism. Include in the email a quick summary of the talking points as a refresher for the meeting. Write a hand written Thank You note to the elected official and mention the name of staffer you met with in the letter. If you dropped off information email the Legislators office mentioning the person you left the information with and attach another copy of the materials to the email.
- Report Back
- You need to write a recap of the meeting: who you met with, what questions were asked, any indication of how the Legislator felt on the issue or any request for follow-up information and give that information to the Association's lobby team and staff. If there was a genuine interest in doing a site visit in the district, share that information with the appropriate staff or volunteer within your association. Also share any pictures that you took on your visit.
Lobby Day is just one event, but advocacy is a fulltime job. True advocacy is relationship building and that happens on the local level with local members and local elected officials. While lobby days are fun and eventful, they are not impactful unless they are part of a larger advocacy strategy. Use Lobby Day to build a relationships with your local delegation.