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 are built on a foundation of careful planning and consideration. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare for an advocacy day.
Before your advocacy/lobby day can begin, it must be planned. You cannot arrive at your local legislature with a large group and demand a meeting. The process is different state by state, but all of them involve research, communication, and patience.
Check your local legislature’s website to find any information on hosting events at the capitol building. Some states have this information available online, such as Ohio, Texas, and Georgia, who have event information available through their building administration websites. Arizona goes a step further. They use a web-form to screen prospective events, and this process can be expedited depending on the event’s needs. Some states have different requirements for hosting events, such as California, which requires a legislative member to sponsor your event before it is approved.
Setting up an event at your state legislature may require nominal fees in renting the event space, AV equipment, tables, podiums, and other associated materials. These events may also require security, such as state troopers or local police officers, whose fees are based on group size. Make sure to find all rules and regulations regarding events and consider calling the Clerk of the House for your state legislature to find more information and resources.
Once your event space is found and your permit request approved, you will need officials and legislators to speak with. Legislators can be reached by sending communications to their offices and staff. Their contact information is available online through your state’s legislative member directory, such as in Kansas or Louisiana. A phone call or email can get your foot in the door, but there are hundreds of officials and legislators. Who should you speak to?
Picking a legislator to advocate to can be tricky, and it requires a bit of homework before reaching out. Do any of the legislators represent your members or group? Do any of them represent your issues? How long have they been an elected official? Is it an election year? Have you met any of them at a prior event or advocacy day? Find out who represents your interests, either as constituents or an organization, and try to meet with them during your advocacy day.
Inviting legislators and government officials to speak at your event, or even do a photo op, can help bring them in. Inviting an official to speak on a topic they are comfortable with can open a dialogue between them and your group and can increase the chances of further conversations. Another option is to find your participants legislators and send them to find and speak with them. Many legislators will speak with their constituents, and this can be an excellent way to involve your participants in the legislative process.
Bringing and preparing a group to speak to legislators is a great way to get your issues at the forefront of an elected official’s mind. Preparing your advocates on what to speak about, and how, can be the deciding factor for your lobby day’s success.
Prepare talking points for your advocates. Make sure your group knows them well. Too much information can muddle an issue and keeping a tight focus will help get your organization’s point across. Be sure to explain the typical environment at the capitol to participants., including decorum, dress code, and what to expect. Some of your advocates may be nervous, and some of this nervousness can be mitigated through communicating how the legislature works and your group’s role in this process.
Talking points and fact sheets will enable your advocates to speak with the backing of strong statistics and information. If you are a trade organization, these could be the economic impact of your members. If you are a business, this could be the impact you have on the local economy, your environmental savings, or even what you are doing to help the legislators constituency.
Preparation is one of the keys to a successful advocacy day, but the day does not rest solely on speakers and meetings. Planning the logistics of your lobby day is extremely important, down to the smallest details.
How will your participants get to the capitol building? What will they eat during the day? What will the schedule be? Who will speak at the event? Who will your group speak with? How will you follow up? All these questions and more go into the planning and preparation of an advocacy day and answering them will give participants the tools to advocate at the capitol. A few other considerations are:
Now that you know how to plan an advocacy day, you are ready for the next step, executing your event!
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