Planning an advocacy visit or lobby day? Fill out the advocacy report form below.
Additionally, here is a downloadable word version. Make sure one person in each meeting fills it out and returns it to the person/team planning the visit (State Policy Advocate, Advocacy Committee, etc.).
BEFORE THE TOWN HALL MEETING
► Find out the Agenda or Format of the meeting. If the information is not on the announcement, look at the legislator’s website or call their office.
► Prepare Questions. Focus on a specific subject or piece of legislation. Don’t include a long intro, but be sure to mention your name and town. Practice to make sure you can read it in less than 25 seconds.
► Bring Personal Stories and good data.
► Bring Materials to give to a staff member.
► Research your legislator’s position on the issues by reading his/her latest press releases, Facebook posts, Tweets, and statements.
DURING THE TOWN HALL MEETING
► Arrive Early.
► Sit Near a Microphone if possible. If people start lining up at the microphone before being asked, make sure to get in line.
► Silence your Cell Phone and other electronics.
► Ask Your Question and make sure to ask for a response. However, don’t try to embarrass the legislator.
► Be Professional and Polite.
► Don’t Let Yourself be Interrupted by the audience or legislator. Keep speaking firmly until your question is heard.
► Tweet During the Event. Make sure to include the legislator’s Twitter handle and any official hashtag for the event.
► Leave Materials with a staff member.
AFTER THE TOWN HALL MEETING
► Follow-up with the Legislator’s Office. Make sure to ask for information that the staff promised to find out later. Include your talking points.
► Use Social Media to continue speaking about the meeting.
SPECIFICS FOR ONLINE TOWN HALL MEETINGS
► Familiarize Yourself with the social media platform or virtual forum prior to the meeting.
► Log-on Early.
► Don’t Be Intimidated by the technology. Your voice deserves to be heard.
► Be Just as Prepared for an online town hall meeting as you would for a physical town hall meeting.
Online tools are a cost effective way for advocacy groups to mobilize constituents quickly. In 2000, the US Congress received 80 million emails from constituents; in 2001, that number rose to 117 million emails. Now, Congress receives more than 200 million emails per year.
“THE BIG FIVE”
1. Think like a volunteer, not a lobbyist.
Craft messages that connect with your audience on a personal level and demonstrate the value of taking action.
2. Subject line is half the battle.
Be straightforward but not boring; clever but not gimmicky.
3. Clear and concise gets the click.
Messages should be succinct and compelling. Too much information is distracting and lowers the chances that someone will take action.
4. Target and respect.
Know your audience and customize your messages accordingly.
5. Powerful individual emails support a strategic vision.
Be aware of how each email reinforces organization’s brand identity, cultivates community, and advances it’s mission.
ONLINE ADVOCACY BEST PRACTICES: Frequency and Timing of Alerts
► Finding a balance…
- The dangers of emailing too often
- People will get tired and annoyed by your emails, and unsubscribe even if they like your content.
- The dangers of staying quiet too long
- In order to keep them interested and responsive, activists should be regularly engaged with meaningful information and action opportunities.
► Finding the right time…
- Tuesdays through Thursdays are generally the best days of the week to send alerts.
- Mondays are often filled with meetings. Fridays, most people are focused on the upcoming weekend; and people may not check email as frequently over the weekend.
- Stay away from the very beginning and very end of the day, if possible.
- Cluttered in-boxes and diverted attention can depress response.
- At home, many people check email in the early evening.
- Regardless of when an alert is sent, try to build in as many days as possible to achieve an optimal response rate.
ONLINE ADVOCACY BEST PRACTICES: Content
► Be aware of any “insider vocabulary.” Use language that is informative yet understandable.
► Clear and concise. The best alerts are those where the recipient can say, “I understand WHAT I’m supposed to do, WHY I should take action, and WHEN this needs to be done.”
► Keep in mind your recipient/target audience’s interests when crafting the alert (including subject line) and choosing a persuasive angle. (i.e. What will make the recipients care about this issue? What message will personally resonate with them?)
Successful advocacy on any issue depends on numbers: not just on large numbers of individuals speaking out but also on a united effort by like-minded organizations working towards the same goal. This kind of group is a coalition. Here are some tips for working in coalition with others.
- Coalitions strengthen any advocacy effort or community service, and their effectiveness is increased by the inclusion of a wide and diverse range of like-minded organizations. Look for groups beyond the usual suspects to include in your coalition. For example, public health and education organizations might be just as interested in working for comprehensive sexuality education as a reproductive health organization.
- Coalitions can be permanent or ad-hoc (in existence until the goal is reached). In single-issue coalitions, the organizations involved agree in advance to act only on the issue around which they have coalesced. Coalition partners may disagree on other issues and should take care not to discuss those issues in the coalition context.
- Although coalitions can plan, monitor, evaluate, support, oppose, and educate, they are not able to take unilateral action or mobilize as quickly as a single organization.
- Increases community visibility for the cause
- Develops broad-based support for the cause
- Strengthens the voice of each individual member organization
- Pools resources: money, labor, information, contacts
- Creates a diverse political base
- Creates new community and grassroots contacts that may be useful in future efforts
TIPS ON FORMING/JOINING COALITIONS
- Appropriate coalition partners include groups with expertise in specific areas and whose goals in the coalition agree with yours (provided that overall principles of those groups are not in conflict with those of your organization). Natural partners would include groups with whom you have worked on a successful project, program, or other collaboration related to the coalition issue.
- In a coalition, every group contributes resources, so it is important to look for partners with either an active grassroots membership or a network of personnel to draw upon as a resource.
- A formal, ongoing coalition should have written guidelines/bylaws developed with coalition partners and agreed upon by all member organizations that:
- Define coalition goals around a common concern
- Define clear ways of working (including leadership and decision-making process), responsibilities of member groups, and time duration of the coalition if possible
- Define coalition procedures on issuing statements in the names of affiliated groups.
- Choosing a competent leader may be the key to success or failure of the coalition. Often coalitions have rotating leadership arrangements or are governed by a self-selected steering committee of representatives of organizations who are willing to spend more time on the ongoing issue and coalition work.
- It is important that the person who represents your group on a coalition is not only familiar with the issue but with your policy positions as well. The representative must be willing to report back as needed to locally and get input on any coalition decisions.
- Financial support of the coalition should be easily affordable. (Often the amount of a contribution can be negotiated or substituted by in-kind contributions.)
APPROPRIATE COALITION PARTNERS:
- Groups with expertise in specific areas and whose goals in the coalition align with ours (provided that overall principles of those groups are not in conflict with those of NCJW).
- Groups with substantial membership or a network of personnel to draw upon as a resource.
- Groups with whom NCJW has worked on a successful project, program, or collaboration.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS:
- Awareness of NCJW goals as well as goals of other member organizations
- Non-coercive participation: free choice
- Open information flow and communication
- Respect and sensitivity to diversity
- Openness to growth and change
- Leadership that is committed to serving the interests of all affiliate members
- Regular review of NCJW relations with coalition to safeguard NCJW’s image and integrity
- Commitment to sharing credit among all member organizations
- Opportunities for leadership visibility for all organizations involved