Grassroots Power - Six Lobbying Tips for Citizen Advocates

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July 24, 2015 - It’s true – professional lobbyists have deeper pockets than community-based organizations. But grassroots groups can successfully lobby for change by making personal connections with legislators, and presenting a clear and focused message.

“It’s important to know some legislative basics, and be clear on what changes you are asking for,” said OFRF Policy Associate Jane Shey. “But once you’ve got your message, grassroots groups need to get acquainted with legislators and their staff.”

Shey has developed a workshop for community groups titled "Legislative Advocacy 101: How to Make Your Voice Heard by Elected Officials and Have Fun Doing It". The three-hour workshop covers government and lobbying basics, and participants are coached on building networks, crafting a message and maintaining their focus.

Shey’s six tips for citizen lobbyists include:

1) The KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) approach to delivering your message. Be able to explain who you are, your request, why you are asking and who else supports your request, in 15 minutes or less.

2) Provide a one-page summary with pictures and lots of white space - use the KISS approach for this as well.

3) Getting to know the staff is as important as the elected official.

4) Meet your national representative, i.e. Representative or Senator in their home office if possible. Invite them to your business or farm, so they will know you are a constituent.

5) If you like your legislator, help them with their campaigns, go door knocking or hand out flyers on their behalf. You will have a friend for life.

6) Have fun and stay positive.

Shey, who is based in Annapolis, recently presented her workshop to fourteen citizen advocates at the request of the Pesticide Action Network (PAN). The advocates, all working to protect pollinators and butterflies,  gathered in PAN's Minneapolis office to learn about the legislative structure, how a bill becomes a law, crafting a message and organizing a grassroots structure.

As one participant said, "Jane was fun to listen to, but she was also a wealth of concrete, experiential information.  I especially appreciated her common sense approach of getting to know the legislators and their aides and be known by them."

The session included discussion on participants’ experience in contacting elected officials, and scenarios of successful and unsuccessful lobbying tactics. The bottom line? Lobbying isn’t mysterious, but it does take time and energy.

For more information about Shey’s workshop, send her a message at jane@ofrf.org.