It’s easier than ever to have a voice in your state government, but with all these voices, who is being heard? To figure out how to stand out, we have compiled some tips from experts and various articles.
- Remember important things about the legislators and be friendly. Essentially, you’re building and maintaing a relationship with legislators. So listen to them, take note of things they mention about themselves or their passions. And review those notes before you meet with them again.
- Don’t just stop by when you need something. We’re building relationships here! So make contact with your key legislators even when there’s nothing going on. Set up a schedule for yourself and make sure your VIL’s (very important legislators) don’t forget you, and that you don’t forget them.
- Be an expert, but don’t be a fake expert. Especially if you’re a non-profit, you are primarily a source of info for legislators. You know a lot about what you work on, and what you know must be convincing. Why else would you be working on it? So use that knowledge to your advantage, without feeling the need to ever make things up. You can be honest by saying, “That is a good question, I’ll check on that.”
- Buddy up with staff people. Staff are the gatekeepers to state legislators. Know their secretary and legislative assistants. Occasionally, you should just ask to meet with their staff to make your points instead of the legislator themselves.
- Have great written materials to leave behind. Hopefully, you’re already bringing info to leave behind. It could be news articles, or your latest study, or letters from their constituents. Those are all great options. But choose your items for a reason and give them a brief summary and context during your meeting.
- Don’t waste your time with people that are combative. As sad as it is, many people are just going to totally disagree with your stances. That’s ok, just let those legislators be. Spend time with the folks who will at least try to understand your issue. It’s generally a good idea to privately rate the likelihood that someone will be on your side and prioritize your time as an advocate accordingly.
- Say thank you. Legislators have to meet with people like you all day, you should really be thankful to them. 🙂