Tips for First-Time Lobbyists
We have all been there. Visiting your Member of Congress or Senator’s office, and perhaps even speaking with your representative or Senator can be very intimidating at first! Fortunately, you are coming to Ecumenical Advocacy Days’ National Gathering to learn everything you need to know about the issues you will be addressing with your elected officials and about the best process to go about having a successful meeting and, hopefully, having a blast doing so!
While we look forward to welcoming you to EAD and getting into the details about lobbying, here’s a few tips to consider ahead of time:
- Familiarize yourself with the Ask when it is posted on the EAD website here.
- In advance, find out as much as you can about your Member’s voting record on issues related to the conference. You can find this information on the THOMAS website – http://thomas.loc.gov.
- You can locate information about your Congressional Member in the House of Representatives at: http://www.house.gov.
- Information about your Senators can be found at: http://www.senate.gov.
- When you begin a conversation with your legislator or an aide, introduce yourselves as constituents and mention any organizations that you represent. Be positive, pleasant and come to the point quickly, especially if you are in a large group. Make sure someone keeps track of time!
- Assume you will have only 10 minutes to make your case, so limit yourself (or your group) to 2–3 key points. If you are given more time, you can expand on the topic. We will provide more pointers on this in DC.
- State the purpose of your visit. Explain your position succinctly, and request specific actions that you want your legislator to take. Ask what the Member of Congress or Senator plans to do regarding your concerns. Be persistent and polite.
- Briefly share why you care about the issue and any experience or credentials relevant to the issues at hand. This is your opportunity to speak as a moral authority, namely, as a person of faith! If you know the member’s or Senator’s position feel free to comment on a past vote, thanking him or her, if possible, for a vote or action in favor of something related to your region of interest that you support.
- One person should take notes during the conversation, being sure to write down any commitments made by the legislator or aide.
- Afterward, send a letter thanking the Member or Senator or aide for the meeting. Briefly recap your position and your understanding of any commitments made during the meeting.
You should always be prepared for anything during a Lobby Visit. There is the potential that you will be well-received or that the visit will be challenging. To help you see how a lobby visit works in real time, here are two very different skits demonstrating these two dynamics of a lobby visit in action. The first video presents a lobby visit where the “ask” is well-received; the second presents a situation where the message is “difficult” for the legislator’s staff person to hear. Each video also includes some follow up evaluation of the visit and will help give you ideas of what you should be thinking about when preparing for your visit.
Lobby Visit #1 – The “Easy” Visit
Lobby Visit #2 – The “Hard” Visit