Becoming a Citizen Lobbyist, a How-to (Part 2 - Having that meeting)

MN State Capitol Building

Read part one here.

Now that you're ready to lobby, let's talk about next steps. First, define your goals at a micro, meso, and macro level. For example:

  • Micro goal: passage of bills

  • Meso: develop more legislative friends and champions

  • Macro: change the public dialogue to make meso and micro goals easier in the future

Next, what are you going to do exactly? Some options:

  • Meet at the Capitol 1:1 (if the legislative session is currently underway) with representatives

  • Host a Lobby Day where you turn out a large group of people to come together on your issue. This could include a rally in the Rotunda (book it early!) and/or 1:1 meetings with legislators.

  • If you host a Lobby Day, be sure to:

  • Coordinate shirts and signs

  • Schedule meetings well in advance

  • Provide a brief training and talking points to your team

  • Create simple handouts that can be left with legislators

  • Have a plan to debrief

  • Make sure those legislator meetings match up advocates with their representatives -- constituents get the best attention from legislators!

  • Remember, an effective conversation with individuals who can articulate how they are personally affected by the issue can do more than a room packed with 20 people

  • Meet somewhere in-district (i.e. not at the Capitol)

  • Tailored emails, phone calls

  • Provide templates but strongly suggest your advocates customize to their own stories and tailor to the different recipients

  • Phone banking done by a group

Now that you've done your homework and gotten a meeting, what's next when you're showing up in person?

  • Prepare your talking points and ask(s)

  • You want to be prepared but not rehearsed or robotic -- just bring notes that will remind you of key points. And do not go in without an ask!

  • Anticipate questions you may be asked or even address could-be questions outright, e.g.: "As a member of the Education Finance Committee, you might be wondering how this fits into that group's work this year..."

  • Plan for 20 minutes max (and if it's near the end of Session, realize that might be more like 8 minutes)

  • Arrive early, expect the legislator to be late (and be forgiving!), and always be kind to the legislative assistant

  • Offer to be a resource, especially when you are/can be a subject matter expert

  • Keep something in reserve that you can use as a follow-up item

  • Don't be worried if you can't answer every question! A) It's human, and B) It gives you a natural follow-up opportunity if you need to gather more information or consult with someone else.

  • Send a thank you note with a summary of your discussion and reminder of your ask. Copy the legislative assistant.

Hopefully these tips help you think through a plan of action for your citizen lobbying efforts, whatever the scale. As always, reach out if we can be of service.

In part three of this series, we'll talk about how you get a bill authored!

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