With the beginning of state legislative sessions right around the corner, I have been attending a myriad of legislative forums, summits, briefings, breakfasts, etc. this month.
On the whole, I really enjoy hearing what is in store for the next legislative session, how the session may play out, what issues are likely to take up a lot of oxygen, and what policies organizations are prioritizing.
And, at every one of these, it never fails – the lobbyists implore the attendees to contact their lawmakers. They say something like, “But we need you to contact your legislators. They need to hear from their constituents that this is a priority.”
And now you are likely thinking, “Isn’t this your dream, Bethany?”
Yes, of course. Especially for nonprofits and membership organizations – your greatest asset is your people power.
But these comments are made completely out of context - with no information provided on how to do this, when to best reach out to lawmakers, and on what lawmakers need to hear.
Sometimes the lobbyist (or the organization they lobby for) may invite the attendees to sign up for their email list to get generic information about the bills they are following, but rarely do these include the contact information of each person’s lawmaker and if their lawmaker is even a target for that particular action.
Sometimes I’ll see a list of specific committee members and their phone numbers and email addresses, but with no indication if this is THEIR specific lawmaker.
Even me - who you would think would know my lawmakers by heart. But guess what? Each election cycle I have had new lawmakers and I forget who they are, let alone what committees they are on.
Advocacy professionals know that few people will contact their lawmakers if they are not told who they are, what to say, and when to contact them.
And this does not even touch on the issue of training. We also know that most people will not contact their lawmakers without proper training or preparation.
So please, lobbyists, if you are going to tell people to contact their lawmakers, make sure the organizations you are working for have a system to share lawmaker information easily, succinctly, and personally - to set up their supporters and members for success.
Otherwise, you are just providing meaningless advice that folks won’t follow. And harming your clients’ ability to be successful and pass their sorely needed policy priorities.
If you want to learn how to meaningfully engage your members and supporters in your advocacy campaign, let’s chat.
If you are a lobbyist interested in creating a strategic partnership, email me to explore if working together is a good fit.