Lobby days can go by many names—fly-ins, advocacy days, Hill days, advocacy summits, the list goes on. However, they all come back to the same basic concept—bringing constituents to Washington or the state capitol to meet with their legislators face-to-face on behalf of the issues your organization cares about. Anyone ranging from a corporation to a trade association or nonprofit could host a lobby day, bringing employees, members, or grasstops advocates to meetings.
In a survey conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation, congressional staffers overwhelmingly agreed that “Direct constituent interactions have more influence on lawmakers' decisions than other advocacy strategies,”. In each iteration of the survey, greater than 90 percent of staffers who participated said that an in-person visit from a constituent would have “some” or “a lot” of influence on an undecided legislator. A day spent on Capitol Hill or your state house allows your organization to execute these meetings at scale, meeting with dozens of legislative offices in a day.
Convinced? Consider these steps for success:
With a survey of your advocates, you can first find out who in your network is interested in participating in a fly-in and what issues they are most interested in. The information gained in an advocate survey can help segment your advocates into email lists by issue and level of participation an advocate is interested in so that you are not overwhelming advocates with overwhelming, irrelevant communications.
How Quorum Can Help: Use Quorum’s stakeholder survey to gain more information from your advocates on their preferred level of involvement. Request a demo.
Your survey gave you a list of advocates interested in participating in a lobby day, so now it’s time to make sure those advocates are prepared. For many, it may be the first time that they are speaking face-to-face with a legislator or staffer.
When planning your advocate training, it's important to consider both the method through which you’ll share information and the lessons you’ll share with your advocates. Consider how these two organizations approach each issue:
Method of Training: American Society of Anesthesiologists
To train its advocates to participate in advocacy, the American Society of Anesthesiologists has created learning modules for each step of the advocacy process. After an advocate signs up for the Advocacy Network using ASA’s Quorum Action Center, they are enrolled in an email campaign that guides them through each video module. These videos include topics such as “An Introduction to Federal Government” to “Ways to Be Involved” and culminating in “Meeting Your Lawmaker”.
Lessons for Advocates: American Farm Bureau
The biggest lesson the American Farm Bureau passes on to advocates during grassroots advocacy training and before they meet face-to-face with legislators and staff is how to tell a story. Specifically, they teach a Pixar model of storytelling. The story starts with the idea of “Once Upon A Time”—what the norm is like as a farmer in the United States. Then, the shift occurs—legislation (or lack thereof) alters the norm. After that, advocates share the Happy (Or Not So Happy) Ending. This allows them to show either the positive potential impact of a particular piece of legislation or the harm it could bring to their work. “These are the stories, using that model, that we found kind of pulled at the hearts and the minds of legislators,” the Farm Bureau shared with Quorum. “That didn’t necessarily pull at them and say ‘I need to change my mind right away’, but it does help them remember the story.”With this model, the stories stuck in legislators minds, and when the legislation came to a vote, they reached back out to the advocates they met with to discuss further.
How Quorum can help: With Quorum Outbox, you can quickly email your advocates personalized messages with educational materials on how they can prepare in advance. Use Quorum’s Download Center to prepare one-pagers on the member the advocate is meeting with and how that legislator has engaged on the issues your organization cares about. Request a demo of Quorum to see it in action.
Get noticed around the halls of the Capitol or state house! With a brightly colored t-shirt, creative buttons, or other swag, it will be impossible for legislators to miss that your organization is present on Capitol Hill and being active on the issues it cares about.
How Quorum can help: Use custom fields on advocate profiles to track t-shirt sizes so you know how many of each to order! Request a demo today.
This is the big one—the actual meeting with the staffer or legislator you traveled to Washington or the state capital to meet. Your time may be limited so it’s important to use it wisely. In interviews for Quorum’s Behind the Desk blog series, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) shared three tips on how to have a productive congressional meeting:
How Quorum can help: Quorum’s directory of staffers at the federal and state levels make it easy to reach out to schedulers to plan your meetings with each office. Use Outbox to send personalized messages to each scheduler to set up a time to meet with the office. See it in action with a demo of Quorum.
A lobby day is a great time to show off your advocacy work on social media! Consider a hashtag that each of your advocates can use to post photos from their meetings and activities and retweet advocates who post! Be sure to encourage advocates to tag the legislator they met with, and you’ll significantly increase the possibility of a legislator sharing your post and getting wider attention towards your issue. Consider these tips for engaging Congress on social media.
Your advocates can gain valuable insight from legislators in their meetings, so make sure they have the means to communicate legislator’s feedback to your organization. This is a practice the Land Trust Alliance adopted for its Ambassador Program. Advocates share intel with LTA with Quorum’s interaction logger.
“It’s a set of four or five questions that we’ve developed with a lot of room for them to provide feedback on what was discussed and what next steps should be taken,” said Robert Schwartz, Ambassador Program Manager at LTA.
Provide the materials for each advocate to write thank you notes at the end of the lobby day, then send them all at once. Something as simple as a thank you note can leave a positive impression of your organization and serve as a reminder of the conversation you had with a legislator weeks after your the day is over.
To see how Quorum can make your lobby day easier and more effective, request a demo.