Advocacy days are key events that allow individuals and shared interest groups to lobby legislators directly. Associations, non-profits, businesses, and concerned citizens use them to let their representatives hear their voice and learn their constituents’ positions. Advocacy days require planning, execution, and an attentive follow up. Here are a few things to keep in mind in the wake of your advocacy day.
There are a few things to remember immediately after an advocacy day. First, be sure to pay all bills for space usage, catering, and other event fees. Second, follow-up with each participant. Third, evaluate and reflect on your lobby day and plan ways to improve for next year.
Following up with participants can involve many things, such as surveys on the day, or asking them to log their interactions with legislators. If there is a particular issue or bill your group advocated for or against, finding out how legislators interacted with that issue can help tailor further communications and advocacy days.
A few questions to ask advocates after your lobby day are:
These are all important questions that you can ask your participants. Consider asking advocates your feedback questions before the lobby day starts. This can help them formulate answers as they work throughout the day. This feedback will help immensely as you develop future advocacy events.
Keep in touch with the people you meet at an advocacy day. Elected officials and their staff are your greatest chance to affect policy change. Send thank you notes and invitations for further contact. Legislators and their staff can be invited to conferences, receptions, industry meetings, and more.
Event attendance is an excellent way to introduce legislators and their staff to industries and organizations, and it can help officials understand the groups they impact better. So long as the event is widely attended (>25 people expected to attend), a legislator can be invited and given free admittance. Both the U.S. House and Senate have rules on gift giving, but be sure to consult with your local laws or your lawyer on what can and cannot be given to legislators.
As you begin fostering relationships with your elected officials, make sure you remain a resource for legislators. Don’t just ask for aid or policy positions. Help them stay informed in a friendly and professional manner. Don’t be the person they dread calls from. This will encourage them or their staff to pick up when you call, or even call you when a piece of legislation under your expertise hits their desk. Being honest and upfront about the issues, and explaining as best you are able, will encourage Legislators and their staff to return the next time your issue is on the agenda.
Advocacy days do not come from nothing. They are built on plans, research, and communications. They are executed with commitment and calmness. They are followed by careful reflection and relationship building. Advocacy days are the best way for citizens and shared interest groups to lobby their elected officials, but they take preparation, execution, and follow-up. Consider completing a lobby day this year. You may find it more effective and rewarding than you expect.