7 Tips for the Citizen Lobbyist
Get to know who your legislator. Building a relationship with your local and national elected officials is easier than you think. First things first. Not sure who represents you? Go to the League of Women Voters to enter your zip code and find out now! You can also call your local county clerk for the information.
#1 I Vote!
When contacting your representative, let them know you are a constituent in their district. Be sure to let them know you vote! Good public officials like to keep their finger on the pulse of the community and you are helping them do their job.
#2 Get in front of the right people!
Before the appointment or email, ask yourself, “Is this the right person to help my situation?”. If yes, be prepared to ask for what you want. Complaining about potholes to your school board member may not be the best use of your time.
#3 Do your research!
Is this something that impacts you alone or are there others in the community. Getting and idea of the human, environmental, financial impact to your community is a good idea (from neighborhood to city, county, state and nation).
#4 Tell a story! Give the Facts!
Legislators are just like everyone else. Stories are what they will remember. Start with the story to get them engaged, then follow up with the facts and figures, stats and other information. If you can provide your elected official with both a human interst story and the research behind it, you are going to see results sooner.
#5 Be prepared to converse.
If they say that they are hearing the same story from many people, it is time to take action.
- If you know what you want, now is a good time to ask.
- Is a community meeting a good next step? Offer to help organize (and set the agenda). Get a date and a commitment that they will be there.
- If they say they will do something (i.e. I will discuss this with the department, I will bring this back to my colleagues, I will propose it at the next meeting, I will….) be sure to repeat what they said they will do and ask how and when you can follow up with them.
#6 Show up!
Find way to cross paths with your elected officials throughout the year. A good time to connect is when they are gearing up to campaign or when they are back from the State Capitol or Washington DC. Reaching out when they are not in legislative session will make it that much easier to connect with them later on.
Invite them to events at your organization and community gatherings. And not just to shake hands and grandstand! Tell them you want them to hear about your work in the community and be a part of pushing for solutions.