Getting Involved in Advocacy
Individuals and organizations have the right–in fact, the duty–to participate in the legislative process. Independent Sector, a national leadership forum, says there are three primary reasons why it is necessary to lobby for issues which are important to you.
- First, government affects every aspect of our lives;
- Second, in a democracy, government responds to the wishes of the people; and
- Third, if you don’t lobby, remember someone else with a different viewpoint or cause will.
Before you begin, however, consider the following:
10 Tips for Effective Lobbying
Prepared by Dave Jones and reprinted here with permission.
1. The Legislature is the ultimate abstract environment; so make your issue real.
- Frame your issue in human terms: i.e., lives impacted and changed.
- Invite legislators to meet real people with real problems in a real world setting
- Invite Legislators to speak to your group, especially in an election year.
2. One constituent contact is worth five non-constituent contacts.
- Legislators get two kinds of mail: constituent and throwaway.
- If you are calling or e-mailing, make sure legislators know you are a constituent.
- If you are not a constituent, talk about people you know who are.
- How Legislators count constituent contacts: One…Two…My gosh, the whole District is up in arms!
3. Communication with legislators should be short and sweet, early and interactive.
- Fax messages
- Phone calls
- Personal visits
4. Legislators are influenced by other elected officials from their area.
- Professional courtesy is a time-honored practice in politics.
- A call from a mayor, city council person, school board representative, or even a community council member can have a disproportionate impact on a legislator’s perception.
5. Sometimes the most effective lobbyist is the one a legislator goes home to at night
- Legislative spouses are often looking for ways to get involved in the community: get them involved with your issue or project.
- A well-cultivated spouse can make the critical difference when it comes time to vote.
6. Legislators aren’t magicians. Despite their claims, they will need help pulling the rabbit out of the hat.
- If you’re after an appropriation, come up with suggestions about where the funding might come from.
- Be prepared to do the lobbying legwork.
- Prepare a brief, one page hand-out explaining your issue and the rationale for your proposed action.
- Provide legislators with brief talking points in support of your issue.
- Take responsibility to organize press conferences.
7. Good lobbying is non-partisan.
- The most successful projects are those that appear to be non?partisan.
- Seek sponsors and co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.
- Efforts on one side of the aisle should be mirrored on the other side.
- If you plan to have a legislator speak at an event, be sure to invite a legislator from the opposing party to also speak.
- Try not to let your party affiliation become known on the hill. You know you are succeeding if both sides suspect you are secretly a member of their party.
8. Sometimes the minority party can provide major assistance.
- Learn how fiscal note bills will be prioritized at the end of the session.
- A group of twenty or so minority party legislators voting as a block can sometimes make the difference.
- A group of twenty or so legislators of any party can sometimes make the difference. (Chase Home)
- Sometimes the majority party needs a minority party voice to give them cover.
9. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
- Your reputation as a lobbyist depends on a cumulative perception of legislators and other lobbyists that you are a “straight shooter.”
- If there are two sides of an issue, tell both sides.
- If there is significant opposition to your issue, tell legislators about it up front.
- Make sure supportive legislators are aware of any potential negatives that might prove embarrassing in committee hearings or floor debate.
10. Don’t pester, never offend.
- Once a legislator has made a verbal commitment to support your cause, don’t keep asking for his/her support. To do so implies distrust.
- Do check in with all your supporters prior to a vote, just to inform them of how things look and to thank them for their support.
- If you don’t prevail, don’t carry a grudge. Remember: your enemy today may be your ally tomorrow.
Dave Jones – P a t h w a y A s s o c i a t e s , L L C
801-582-2409 – Davjons@attbi.com
Tourism Advocacy: Make it a Habit!
- Put elected officials on your mailing list, your PR list and your VIP list.
- When you receive public funds from any level of government, national, state, or local, write a thank-you note to the appropriate elected officials, including executives, and send press releases to your local media.
- Let your audiences, students, etc. know that your event or facility was made possible in part through public funds and encourage them to send thank?you letters also.
- When, due to a lack of available funds, you do not receive a grant or you receive a grant that is much lower than requested, write elected officials requesting increased investment of public funds in museums, arts, history and culture so that projects like yours can be funded. Don’t whine and/or harangue.
Awareness Activities: Commit to a Minimum of One a Quarter
- Invite your elected officials for a tour of your facility and educate them about what you do and how your community, their constituency, benefits from what you do.
- Request your elected officials to speak at an opening, dedication, community celebration, etc. Don’t forget the press releases. Take photos and display them.
- Invite elected officials to opening night gatherings, and any pre- or post-publicity events of shows, previews, openings, exhibits or displays.
- Ask a elected official to speak about the legislative process at a meeting of your board of directors or membership, or staff.
- Meet with your elected official in her/his district office to talk about tourism and the economic benefits.
- Inform Utah Tourism Industry Coalition of exciting new activities so we can spread good ideas. Remember to send us your events and other information via email.
Know your Elected Officials
Just who are these elected officials we keep referring to?
It depends upon where you live and what you are trying to accomplish. We have federal, state and local elected officials.
For local issues you will want to look to city and county elected officials and/or school board members. Contact your County Clerk’s office to determine your districts. You can find the phone number to your County Clerk in the government section of your phone book or go to the State Elections Office web site at www.elections.utah.gov – there is a listing of all the County Clerk Offices in the state with phone numbers and addresses.
Communicating with Your Elected Officials
Writing, calling and meeting are all effective means of getting your message across to elected officials. Elected officials are impressed when they receive just five “hits” on one topic because most people don’t bother to take the time to tell them what they think. Elected officials are even more impressed when the messages come from the people who live in their own voting district. Your message can change the way they vote.
Contacting Your Elected officials
Check government web sites for brief bios and contact information on elected officials. The sites usually contain committee rosters, bill tracking, and voting records.
The executives at each level of government, Governor, mayor, usually present the first draft of the budgets and also approve or veto budgets as well as other arts related legislation. Send letters to executives just like you do to legislators.
Delivering the Message
< Writing reminds your elected officials that their decisions have a direct impact on you, their constituent. Write to all elected officials who serve on the committees that help shape legislation affecting culture.
< E-mail and Faxing are alternative ways of delivering letters to your elected officials; the same rules of etiquette and clarity apply.
< Calling is a very effective way to contact your elected official when you must get your message across quickly.
< Meetings with your elected officials are a key element in your advocacy efforts. Elected officials have busy schedules so it is important to get your message across quickly. Remember state legislators and members of congress often have more time to meet with constituents when the legislature is not in session and they are in their home districts.
When Writing Your Elected officials
- Use the correct address and salutation, e.g., Dear Senator (name), or Dear Representative (name), or Dear Governor (name).
- Type or write your letter clearly. If your letter is not easy to read, it could be discarded. Be sure to include your return address in the letter or e?mail.
- State your position in the first paragraph. Keep your message focused. Be brief, but include enough information to explain why you are writing.
- Use your own words and stationery. Elected officials feel that personal letters, rather than form letters, show greater personal commitment on the part of the writer, and therefore carry greater weight.
- Be specific. If possible, give an example of how the issue affects your district.
- Know your facts. It is important to be accurate and honest in your letter. You can seriously hurt your credibility by offering inaccurate or misleading information. If you can, find out how your elected officials voted on this issue or similar issues in the past.
- Be timely. Contact lawmakers while there is time for him/her to consider and act on your request.
- Be persistent. Do not be satisfied with responding letters that give a status report on the bill, promise to “keep your views in mind,” or otherwise skirt the issue. Without being rude, write back and ask for a more specific response.
- Say thank you. Everyone appreciates a pat on the back. If, however, your lawmaker did not support your position, let him/her know that you are aware of that, and explain why you think he/she should have decided differently. It might make a difference next time.
Use a negative, condescending, threatening or intimidating tone. You will only alienate your elected official and cause bad feelings that may hurt your case.
When Calling Your Elected officials
- Ask to speak with the aide handling your issue. The aides have the elected official=s ear, and are often very knowledgeable about the details of your issue. Be sure to take down the name of the aide with whom you spoke in case you need to contact the elected official again. You will also have the name of another person to thank.
- Know what you want to say and BE BRIEF. Use your time wisely and get your main points covered as close to the beginning of the conversation as possible.
- Leave your name, address and telephone number. This will enable the aide to get back to you with information on the elected official=s position. Let him/her know that you want a reply.
- Follow up your phone call with a brief note of thanks for the conversation, a concise summary of your position, and additional information if it has been requested.
- Bluff. If the elected official or aide asks you a question that you cannot answer, say that you will get back to him/her and then do the appropriate follow up.
When Meeting With Your Elected officials
- Call for an appointment. Explain the purpose of your visit.
- Be respectfully tenacious and do not get discouraged. Elected officials have a lot of things competing for their time. Set up a meeting with your elected official at his or her office. If your elected official is unable to meet with you, schedule an appointment with the aide handling the issue.
- Arrive on time.
- Be articulate. The meeting should be brief and concise. If you are with a group of people, you may want to designate one spokesperson.
- Be direct by asking at the end of the meeting, “Will you support my cause?” His or her answer will help determine your future advocacy efforts.
- Write a thank-you letter promptly after your meeting.
- Show up unannounced.
- Assail those individuals or organizations that oppose your issue. Attacking a elected official can only hinder your efforts.