Advocacy Tips

  • Be prepared. Many legislative visits are part of advocacy days (or “lobby day”) or other group efforts. Everyone in the group should know what role they are playing. Choose a team leader to address the issue or issues. Many times the legislator may not be able to meet with you, but a staff member is almost always available. Meet with the staff member, they will bring your concerns back to the Legislator. Bring materials for the legislator and/or staff member.
  • Identify yourself. Have group members introduce themselves, who they represent, and if they are a constituent.
  • Know your subject. You do not have to be an expert, but know what effect the pending legislation will have/or has had on the area you are representing. If available, convey data specific to the area you are representing. While area is often geographic, it can also be used to describe a field of practice such as child welfare services.
  • Be concise and stay focused. The time allotted for legislative visits is usually 15 to 20 minutes. Get your point across and let the legislator know what you expect from them.
  • Know the legislator. Know the legislator’s position on the issue before you meet with them. Stress the importance of their continued support. If the legislator supports your position, tap into their inside knowledge for subsequent courses of action.
  • Do not burn any bridges. If they do not support your position, be courteous about disagreements and leave the meeting on good terms with the legislator. The only way they will change their minds is if they are listening to what you have to say. Even if they don’t change their mind on that particular issue, there may be a time in the future when they support another issue. You might ask what information they might need to allow them to change their minds on the issue. This gives you an opening to come back and to revisit the issue with them.
  • Remember you are the boss. Remember your tax dollars pay their salaries and they are responsible to you, the public. You should feel comfortable in your right to be speaking with them.
  • Follow-up. Thank the legislator or staff member at the conclusion of your visit and follow-up with a brief thank you letter. In your letter, outline any commitments the legislator offered and if you promised some additional information be sure to follow through.

Other Forms of Advocacy

  • Letter writing campaigns to legislators.
  • Grassroots activities such as rallies.
  • Building coalitions.
  • Local lobbying visits by constituents to their legislators.
  • Media activity including news conferences, editorial board visits, letters to the editor.