Step by Step
What are you passionate about? What do you stand for? Where do you want your voice to be heard?
It is important to examine proposed legislation by thoroughly understanding the problem(s) it addresses, the impacts it will have, and its benefits versus risks. This foundation will allow for a constructive and professional dialogue with your legislators. Moreover, never assume legislators are experts in a given area. Although they are well versed on the bills it is vital to be sufficiently prepared on key points to have an effective conversation.
Contact Your Legislator
Who are your legislators?
To initiate contact, start by finding who your legislators are. Call or email their office to schedule an appointment. You can also write a letter; however, meeting in person is the most effective way to lobby and get the vote you want. Moreover, legislative aides are an integral part of legislators' teams. Scheduling and meeting with them can be beneficial and they will be great advocates for you, too. Keep in mind, legislators typically only speak with their constituents. When seeking to meet with legislators outside of your district it is important to bring their constituents with you. Additionally, there are times when legislators outside your district will only reply to calls or emails from their constituents, so it may be helpful to have the constituent make the appointment with you. In their own right, every LPCANC member is a constituent and should contact their respective legislators at their choosing.
Speaking with Your Legislator
Know your stuff.
It is vital to research your legislators and know where they stand on the current issue(s) as well as what their viewpoints were on previous similar ones. Also, have a sound knowledge of the committees they belong to, positions they hold, and what bills they are sponsoring. Remember, you do not need to convince legislators to support a bill they are already sponsoring, but you may need to remind them of the details. Never assume the legislators know what bill you are referring to. Each bill will include a number and a title, be familiar with these and let your legislators know, too. This will allow them to look it up when they do their research. Finally, legislators know the facts about the issues; bring your knowledge on them as well as a personal story to depict a real-world impact the proposed legislation will have.
Meeting with Your Legislator
Get a dialogue going.
Most importantly, be on time! First impressions count! Both verbal communication and non-verbal communication send a message. Introduce yourself with a confident handshake, provide information on where you are from, and share the organization or association you are affiliated with. Practice basic etiquette skills, such as saying please and thank you, listening before speaking, giving genuine compliments, speaking kindly, being punctual, and avoid arrogance, criticism, complaints, and any other disrespectful behavior.
Be kind. Be confident. Be you.
When in conversation with your legislators be brief and to the point. Come prepared with a list of talking points, but do not read them directly from the page. Have an authentic conversation about each point by displaying preparedness through knowledgeable information and the use of personal stories. Anticipate questions and be comfortable with not knowing all the answers, it's okay! They are not expecting you to know everything. What's important is being honest and letting them know you will get back to them with more information, and remember to do so. A general rule of thumb is to send a thank-you note within a week, but try for the next day. This ensures they know you are serious about the issue(s) and they will be more likely to remember you in the future. Furthermore, when approaching the conversation with a group be sure to assign each member a role when meeting with your legislators. The roles include telling the facts, the personal story, the key points, and asking for support. Remember, to know your role, not to talk over one another, and be cohesive and organized.
Asking for Support
Reaching your goal.
We've come to the main objective, the interest, contact, meet and greet, and conversation all come together by asking your legislators if you have their vote on the legislation you are advocating for. No matter the answer, yes or no, remember to remain polite and thank them for their time. If they present unsure, inquire about additional information that you can provide them to help in their decisional processes. Finally, be ready when the answer is no. Don't take it personally. Legislators can't always say yes. Be respectful, thank them for their time, and do not argue. Leave gracefully, politely, and with your integrity intact.
You got this.
Congratulations! Now that you have successfully lobbied you can repeat the process and continue building strong relationships with your legislators. Lobbying is important to the legislative process and can be very empowering. Remember, you are making a difference, your voice is important, and change will happen!
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