Important Tips to Remember When Lobbying Legislators
Do request a meeting, in writing via letter or e-mail. Even if the meeting is prompted by a phone call, be sure to follow up with an e-mail.
Do set up a meeting with the decision maker. In certain circumstances you may also meet with a high level staff person.
Do be courteous and establish a good rapport with the administrative assistant and other staff in the office. These are the gatekeepers in the office and can make or break your meeting opportunity.
Do be courteous to the legislator and/or staff, even if you know they oppose your position on a particular bill or issue.
Do establish your goals for the meeting prior to. Be sure to agree on who will speak and what you would like the legislator to commit to, and be sure to leave with something.
Do be on time and also allow time for the person to be late. Legislators are often times in back-to-back meetings.
Do identify yourself as a constituent or voter if this is the case. If you are not, be sure to bring individuals who live in the district or are leaders in the community along with you to the meeting when possible.
Do allow time for the legislator or staff to express their thoughts or position on the particular issue.
Do prepare for questions and answers from the legislator and/or staff.
Do leave a prepared document behind along with your contact information. This must be a concise document so it increases the chances of the document being read.
Do thank them for meeting with you and follow up with a thank you note restating your request along with your contact information.
Do remember that these meetings are not only about lobbying for a particular issue but also about building a relationship. Your legislator may disagree on one issue but be your ally on another. Keep the door open no matter what the outcome is.
Do also lobby by organizing an e-mail, letter, fax and phone call campaigns. Encourage individual letters, NOT ‘form’ letters. Individualized letters have more impact, and remember that there is power in numbers.
Don’t be offended if you are not able to get a meeting right away. Depending on the timing of the issue, the session schedule and other appointments, the legislator may not be able to meet with you as soon as you would like.
Don’t use phrases like “I voted for you and if you don’t vote right on this issue, I will vote you out!” As much as you may feel that way or even follow through with it, legislators are human too and should be treated with respect. This is also not a good way to develop a relationship.
Don’t allow too many people to attend the meeting, especially if you are not able to control how the meeting will flow.
Don’t go into the meeting with a negative predetermined outcome or with an