Claiming a Seat at the Table
Tips for Effective Lobbying and Legislative Visits
Claiming a Seat at the Table: Tips for Effective Lobbying and Legislative Visits
Our state and federal legislators will make critical decisions over the next few months on budget issues, immigration legislation (particularly at the state level), and other important business that will have an enormous impact on Latino children and families. The following are some tips to help your organization coordinate effective meetings with your state and federal legislators and provide a Latino perspective on the issues:
1. Educate yourself about the issues. To receive updates and information on anti-immigration legislation that may be under consideration in your state, contact Elena Lacayo at email@example.com. Visit the NCLR website for information on federal policy issues.
2. Research your elected official. Read basic biographical information about your members of Congress and research their voting records. Visit a member’s official website (www.house.gov or www.senate.gov), as well as www.votesmart.org, and www.opencongress.org. Find out who donates to a member’s campaign by reading campaign finance reports (www.fec.gov) or visiting www.opensecrets.org. Look to see if one of your allies is a donor.
3. Coordinate a diverse group of people that is representative of the member’s constituency to attend the meeting. Don’t be afraid to bring ten or 20 people to the meeting (even if the staff tell you the office is small!). You have a right to bring multiple constituents to the meeting, and the legislator will take you more seriously if you bring some power into the room.
4. Have a clear ask. Decide in advance what specific action you want the legislator to take on your priority issues. Ask your legislator to attend a community meeting, lobby other members of Congress or your state legislature, sign on to principles, or release a statement supporting your issue or a specific piece of legislation. Designate a specific person—a “pinner”—to make the ask and demand a clear answer during the meeting.
5. Tell your stories. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of the ins and outs of the policy issues. Your most effective lobbying tool is your group’s powerful, personal stories. Identify, prepare, and practice individual stories in advance of the meeting.