10 quick tips for lobbying your lawmakers
1. Getting started. Please be on time as the Senator or Representative may have only 10 minutes to speak with you. If staff is meeting with you and you were expecting the member, don’t be disappointed. See number 8 below.
2. Be prepared. You and everyone in your group should know what the goal of the meeting is and role each person is playing in the meeting (role play the meeting in advance). Your message should be brief as you may only have 10 minutes to make your point. Identify questions you want to ask and those that may be asked of you. Role play answers to those questions.
3. Identify everyone in the room. It is important for the Senator or Representative to know exactly who you are and where you are from. Be sure to identify the people in the room who are constituents or otherwise have a relationship with the member.
4. Have a conversation. Remember you are telling your personal story. Be direct and polite with your request. If you don’t know the answer to a question, acknowledge it and offer to get the facts and get back to the member.
5. Stick to your agenda. Remind yourself of the purpose of your meeting. Make sure you ask in a clear and direct manner that he/she oppose or support the legislation. Legislaors are good at getting advocates to engage in every topic except the one at hand. Forcefully, but politely, steer the conversation back to the issue you came to lobby.
6. Anticipate the arguments of your opponents. It is best to address your opponents’ arguments early. Do so directly and openly, without a hint of defensiveness. Remember, you are right.
7. Don’t argue. You can be a passionate advocate for your position without arguing or belittling. Some people are never going to agree with you. You don’t win any points for passion by arguing with a member of Congress. In fact, you will probably alienate the member further.
8. Pay attention to staff. The surest way to hurt yourself is by being rude to staff, the gatekeepers to the member. Be nice to everyone. They can help explain your position with the member. The staff is likely to know more about the issues and can usually spend more time with you than the member. Take advantage of this time by elaborating your position.
9. Briefing packets should be brief. Short statements have impact. Legislators and their staff do not have time to read thick packets of information. Members will read a one page fact sheet. Add background materials for staff, but the one pager will be the most important piece of information you offer.
10. Follow up and follow through. Send a thank you note to the Representative or Senator and be sure to note any commitment that he or she made. If the action you sought has not yet been taken, follow up after an appropriate interval with additional materials. Additional points of contact should be addressed to the staffer who handles the issue for the member. It is equally important for you to follow up on the commitments you made during the meeting. Let MAJ know how the meeting went, and if we need to follow up.