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WP_Query Object ( [query] => Array ( [name] => driving-impact-in-the-states [post_type] => resources [resource-type] => blog ) [query_vars] => Array ( [name] => driving-impact-in-the-states [post_type] => resources [resource-type] => blog [error] => [m] => [p] => 0 [post_parent] => [subpost] => [subpost_id] => [attachment] => [attachment_id] => 0 [pagename] => [page_id] => 0 [second] => [minute] => [hour] => [day] => 0 [monthnum] => 0 [year] => 0 [w] => 0 [category_name] => [tag] => [cat] => [tag_id] => [author] => [author_name] => [feed] => [tb] => [paged] => 0 [meta_key] => [meta_value] => [preview] => [s] => [sentence] => [title] => [fields] => [menu_order] => [embed] => [category__in] => Array ( ) [category__not_in] => Array ( ) [category__and] => Array ( ) [post__in] => Array ( ) [post__not_in] => Array ( ) [post_name__in] => Array ( ) [tag__in] => Array ( ) [tag__not_in] => Array ( ) [tag__and] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__in] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__and] => Array ( ) [post_parent__in] => Array ( ) [post_parent__not_in] => Array ( ) [author__in] => Array ( ) [author__not_in] => Array ( ) [ignore_sticky_posts] => [suppress_filters] => [cache_results] => 1 [update_post_term_cache] => 1 [lazy_load_term_meta] => 1 [update_post_meta_cache] => 1 [posts_per_page] => 10 [nopaging] => [comments_per_page] => 50 [no_found_rows] => [order] => DESC ) [tax_query] => [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object ( [queries] => Array ( ) [relation] => [meta_table] => [meta_id_column] => [primary_table] => [primary_id_column] => [table_aliases:protected] => Array ( ) [clauses:protected] => Array ( ) [has_or_relation:protected] => ) [date_query] => [queried_object] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8137 [post_author] => 43 [post_date] => 2022-10-19 17:09:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-10-19 17:09:06 [post_content] => Here’s a number that might send a shudder through government affairs professionals who focus on state advocacy: legislatures introduced more than 70,600 bills in 2022. And next year, it could be even more as lawmakers grapple with a growing list of issues pushed to states by the federal government, from abortion rights and gun control to election laws and pandemic relief. [stat align="left" number="63%" text="of government affairs professionals say state advocacy is important."] Scarier still is the speed at which states work. Unlike Congress, where legislation can take years to advance, some states can move a bill from introduction to passage in a matter of weeks and sometimes just days. Policymaking at that pace can be hard enough to track, let alone influence. Five states—Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Utah and Idaho—plus Washington DC passed at least half the bills that were introduced, according to Quorum’s latest Trends in State Legislatures report. Other states like New York and Minnesota enacted only a small percentage—and it was still thousands of bills in each state. [stat align="left" number="24%" text="say it is harder to get the attention of lawmakers"] It adds up to an intimidating picture. Organizations that practice state advocacy face a torrent of legislation at startling speed—and that’s not the only challenge. November’s election will impact 46 state legislatures and 36 gubernatorial seats, adding hundreds of new faces to the policy world. Redistricting will change the landscape. And the polarized political  environment continues to complicate even the most basic outreach. It begs an important question for government affairs teams: how do we continue to drive impact in an increasingly turbulent environment? [stat align="left" number="65%" text="say political polarization makes advocacy harder."] To answer that question, we interviewed experts in state advocacy, including a sitting state senator in Maryland; a lobbyist who has seen 27 legislative sessions in Georgia; and a former gubernatorial staffer in New York. They represent small states and large, Republicans and Democrats, insiders and influencers. We asked all about the essential ingredients of effective state advocacy, as well as some of the mistakes they often see. The result is a set of recommendations that can make your team more effective as you prepare for the legislative sessions that kickoff about 100 days from now. To learn what they had to say, read on.

Learn to Be an ‘Advocacy Partner’

In Congress, staff relationships drive the action. There are 535 voting members of the House and Senate but more than 13,000 staffers, with layers that support Washington offices, district and state offices, leadership offices and committees. States are very different. Even in places where legislating is treated like a full-time job—lawmakers are part-time in about 14 states, and less than full-time in many others—staffing is often sparse. In some states, lawmakers share a staffer to handle basics such as scheduling. When you consider that lawmakers must evaluate hundreds of bills across dozens of complicated issues, maintain robust constituent service, interface with other government offices, and campaign for reelection every few years, it becomes clear why resources are often scarce and time is always precious. Maryland State Senator Sarah Elfreth, a Democrat who represents about 130,000 constituents in Anne Arundel County near Washington DC, describes it well.
“People might think we have 10 [staffers], like a congressional office,” she said. “I have two staff who both work very hard. But we’re a total of three people, and we have a rule: we try to respond to everything within 48 hours. Most people are very understanding of that, and then you have some people who want us to respond immediately. That’s just not  physically possible.”
In that environment, partnership becomes extremely important. Experts in state advocacy say the most effective organizations build relationships directly with state lawmakers and function like partners, filling some of the needs that legislators require to do their jobs effectively. They provide resources, such as policy-related data and polling. They mobilize support for policy positions and help lawmakers talk to voters. Some even help at election time. “If you look at the Georgia General Assembly, a typical house member shares one sixth of an administrative assistant,” said Don Bolia, a former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party who founded Peachtree Government Relations. “They don’t really have robust staff, so you really have to develop a rapport and a relationship with legislators. We are their de facto staff.” [post_title] => Driving Impact in the States [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => driving-impact-in-the-states [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-02-01 02:51:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-02-01 02:51:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=8137 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 8137 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'driving-impact-in-the-states' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8137 [post_author] => 43 [post_date] => 2022-10-19 17:09:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-10-19 17:09:06 [post_content] => Here’s a number that might send a shudder through government affairs professionals who focus on state advocacy: legislatures introduced more than 70,600 bills in 2022. And next year, it could be even more as lawmakers grapple with a growing list of issues pushed to states by the federal government, from abortion rights and gun control to election laws and pandemic relief. [stat align="left" number="63%" text="of government affairs professionals say state advocacy is important."] Scarier still is the speed at which states work. Unlike Congress, where legislation can take years to advance, some states can move a bill from introduction to passage in a matter of weeks and sometimes just days. Policymaking at that pace can be hard enough to track, let alone influence. Five states—Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Utah and Idaho—plus Washington DC passed at least half the bills that were introduced, according to Quorum’s latest Trends in State Legislatures report. Other states like New York and Minnesota enacted only a small percentage—and it was still thousands of bills in each state. [stat align="left" number="24%" text="say it is harder to get the attention of lawmakers"] It adds up to an intimidating picture. Organizations that practice state advocacy face a torrent of legislation at startling speed—and that’s not the only challenge. November’s election will impact 46 state legislatures and 36 gubernatorial seats, adding hundreds of new faces to the policy world. Redistricting will change the landscape. And the polarized political  environment continues to complicate even the most basic outreach. It begs an important question for government affairs teams: how do we continue to drive impact in an increasingly turbulent environment? [stat align="left" number="65%" text="say political polarization makes advocacy harder."] To answer that question, we interviewed experts in state advocacy, including a sitting state senator in Maryland; a lobbyist who has seen 27 legislative sessions in Georgia; and a former gubernatorial staffer in New York. They represent small states and large, Republicans and Democrats, insiders and influencers. We asked all about the essential ingredients of effective state advocacy, as well as some of the mistakes they often see. The result is a set of recommendations that can make your team more effective as you prepare for the legislative sessions that kickoff about 100 days from now. To learn what they had to say, read on.

Learn to Be an ‘Advocacy Partner’

In Congress, staff relationships drive the action. There are 535 voting members of the House and Senate but more than 13,000 staffers, with layers that support Washington offices, district and state offices, leadership offices and committees. States are very different. Even in places where legislating is treated like a full-time job—lawmakers are part-time in about 14 states, and less than full-time in many others—staffing is often sparse. In some states, lawmakers share a staffer to handle basics such as scheduling. When you consider that lawmakers must evaluate hundreds of bills across dozens of complicated issues, maintain robust constituent service, interface with other government offices, and campaign for reelection every few years, it becomes clear why resources are often scarce and time is always precious. Maryland State Senator Sarah Elfreth, a Democrat who represents about 130,000 constituents in Anne Arundel County near Washington DC, describes it well.
“People might think we have 10 [staffers], like a congressional office,” she said. “I have two staff who both work very hard. But we’re a total of three people, and we have a rule: we try to respond to everything within 48 hours. Most people are very understanding of that, and then you have some people who want us to respond immediately. That’s just not  physically possible.”
In that environment, partnership becomes extremely important. Experts in state advocacy say the most effective organizations build relationships directly with state lawmakers and function like partners, filling some of the needs that legislators require to do their jobs effectively. They provide resources, such as policy-related data and polling. They mobilize support for policy positions and help lawmakers talk to voters. Some even help at election time. “If you look at the Georgia General Assembly, a typical house member shares one sixth of an administrative assistant,” said Don Bolia, a former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party who founded Peachtree Government Relations. “They don’t really have robust staff, so you really have to develop a rapport and a relationship with legislators. We are their de facto staff.” [post_title] => Driving Impact in the States [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => driving-impact-in-the-states [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-02-01 02:51:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-02-01 02:51:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=8137 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 1 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8137 [post_author] => 43 [post_date] => 2022-10-19 17:09:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-10-19 17:09:06 [post_content] => Here’s a number that might send a shudder through government affairs professionals who focus on state advocacy: legislatures introduced more than 70,600 bills in 2022. And next year, it could be even more as lawmakers grapple with a growing list of issues pushed to states by the federal government, from abortion rights and gun control to election laws and pandemic relief. [stat align="left" number="63%" text="of government affairs professionals say state advocacy is important."] Scarier still is the speed at which states work. Unlike Congress, where legislation can take years to advance, some states can move a bill from introduction to passage in a matter of weeks and sometimes just days. Policymaking at that pace can be hard enough to track, let alone influence. Five states—Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Utah and Idaho—plus Washington DC passed at least half the bills that were introduced, according to Quorum’s latest Trends in State Legislatures report. Other states like New York and Minnesota enacted only a small percentage—and it was still thousands of bills in each state. [stat align="left" number="24%" text="say it is harder to get the attention of lawmakers"] It adds up to an intimidating picture. Organizations that practice state advocacy face a torrent of legislation at startling speed—and that’s not the only challenge. November’s election will impact 46 state legislatures and 36 gubernatorial seats, adding hundreds of new faces to the policy world. Redistricting will change the landscape. And the polarized political  environment continues to complicate even the most basic outreach. It begs an important question for government affairs teams: how do we continue to drive impact in an increasingly turbulent environment? [stat align="left" number="65%" text="say political polarization makes advocacy harder."] To answer that question, we interviewed experts in state advocacy, including a sitting state senator in Maryland; a lobbyist who has seen 27 legislative sessions in Georgia; and a former gubernatorial staffer in New York. They represent small states and large, Republicans and Democrats, insiders and influencers. We asked all about the essential ingredients of effective state advocacy, as well as some of the mistakes they often see. The result is a set of recommendations that can make your team more effective as you prepare for the legislative sessions that kickoff about 100 days from now. To learn what they had to say, read on.

Learn to Be an ‘Advocacy Partner’

In Congress, staff relationships drive the action. There are 535 voting members of the House and Senate but more than 13,000 staffers, with layers that support Washington offices, district and state offices, leadership offices and committees. States are very different. Even in places where legislating is treated like a full-time job—lawmakers are part-time in about 14 states, and less than full-time in many others—staffing is often sparse. In some states, lawmakers share a staffer to handle basics such as scheduling. When you consider that lawmakers must evaluate hundreds of bills across dozens of complicated issues, maintain robust constituent service, interface with other government offices, and campaign for reelection every few years, it becomes clear why resources are often scarce and time is always precious. Maryland State Senator Sarah Elfreth, a Democrat who represents about 130,000 constituents in Anne Arundel County near Washington DC, describes it well.
“People might think we have 10 [staffers], like a congressional office,” she said. “I have two staff who both work very hard. But we’re a total of three people, and we have a rule: we try to respond to everything within 48 hours. Most people are very understanding of that, and then you have some people who want us to respond immediately. That’s just not  physically possible.”
In that environment, partnership becomes extremely important. Experts in state advocacy say the most effective organizations build relationships directly with state lawmakers and function like partners, filling some of the needs that legislators require to do their jobs effectively. They provide resources, such as policy-related data and polling. They mobilize support for policy positions and help lawmakers talk to voters. Some even help at election time. “If you look at the Georgia General Assembly, a typical house member shares one sixth of an administrative assistant,” said Don Bolia, a former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party who founded Peachtree Government Relations. “They don’t really have robust staff, so you really have to develop a rapport and a relationship with legislators. We are their de facto staff.” [post_title] => Driving Impact in the States [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => driving-impact-in-the-states [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-02-01 02:51:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-02-01 02:51:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=8137 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 1 [max_num_pages] => 0 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => 1 [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => 1 [is_robots] => [is_favicon] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 493ccf9ff1f7899308f0bee4adff8137 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )
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Driving Impact in the States

Driving Impact in the States

Here’s a number that might send a shudder through government affairs professionals who focus on state advocacy: legislatures introduced more than 70,600 bills in 2022. And next year, it could be even more as lawmakers grapple with a growing list of issues pushed to states by the federal government, from abortion rights and gun control to election laws and pandemic relief.

63%
of government affairs professionals say state advocacy is important.

Scarier still is the speed at which states work. Unlike Congress, where legislation can take years to advance, some states can move a bill from introduction to passage in a matter of weeks and sometimes just days. Policymaking at that pace can be hard enough to track, let alone influence. Five states—Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Utah and Idaho—plus Washington DC passed at least half the bills that were introduced, according to Quorum’s latest Trends in State Legislatures report. Other states like New York and Minnesota enacted only a small percentage—and it was still thousands of bills in each state.

24%
say it is harder to get the attention of lawmakers

It adds up to an intimidating picture. Organizations that practice state advocacy face a torrent of legislation at startling speed—and that’s not the only challenge. November’s election will impact 46 state legislatures and 36 gubernatorial seats, adding hundreds of new faces to the policy world. Redistricting will change the landscape. And the polarized political  environment continues to complicate even the most basic outreach.

It begs an important question for government affairs teams: how do we continue to drive impact in an increasingly turbulent environment?

65%
say political polarization makes advocacy harder.

To answer that question, we interviewed experts in state advocacy, including a sitting state senator in Maryland; a lobbyist who has seen 27 legislative sessions in Georgia; and a former gubernatorial staffer in New York. They represent small states and large, Republicans and Democrats, insiders and influencers. We asked all about the essential ingredients of effective state advocacy, as well as some of the mistakes they often see. The result is a set of recommendations that can make your team more effective as you prepare for the legislative sessions that kickoff about 100 days from now. To learn what they had to say, read on.

Learn to Be an ‘Advocacy Partner’

In Congress, staff relationships drive the action. There are 535 voting members of the House and Senate but more than 13,000 staffers, with layers that support Washington offices, district and state offices, leadership offices and committees. States are very different. Even in places where legislating is treated like a full-time job—lawmakers are part-time in about 14 states, and less than full-time in many others—staffing is often sparse. In some states, lawmakers share a staffer to handle basics such as scheduling.

When you consider that lawmakers must evaluate hundreds of bills across dozens of complicated issues, maintain robust constituent service, interface with other government offices, and campaign for reelection every few years, it becomes clear why resources are often scarce and time is always precious. Maryland State Senator Sarah Elfreth, a Democrat who represents about 130,000 constituents in Anne Arundel County near Washington DC, describes it well.

“People might think we have 10 [staffers], like a congressional office,” she said. “I have two staff who both work very hard. But we’re a total of three people, and we have a rule: we try to respond to everything within 48 hours. Most people are very understanding of that, and then you have some people who want us to respond immediately. That’s just not  physically possible.”

In that environment, partnership becomes extremely important.

Experts in state advocacy say the most effective organizations build relationships directly with state lawmakers and function like partners, filling some of the needs that legislators require to do their jobs effectively. They provide resources, such as policy-related data and polling. They mobilize support for policy positions and help lawmakers talk to voters. Some even help at election time.

“If you look at the Georgia General Assembly, a typical house member shares one sixth of an administrative assistant,” said Don Bolia, a former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party who founded Peachtree Government Relations. “They don’t really have robust staff, so you really have to develop a rapport and a relationship with legislators. We are their de facto staff.”

Constituent Voices are Vital

When advocacy organizations approach lawmakers,  constituents can be powerful messengers for one simple reason: that’s who lawmakers want to hear.

“At the end of the day, I work for one group of people, which is my constituents,” Elfreth said. “While I certainly will listen to people who live outside of my district, they’re not my boss.”

Organizations meeting with lawmakers should consider bringing a constituent to tell an authentic story. Grassroots campaigns should be composed entirely of people from the
lawmaker’s district.

“The more voices of support you have, the better off you’re going to be,” Doherty said. “The constituent stuff is a very, very important piece of it.”

Create an ‘Always-On’ Advocacy Program

Building the trust that underpins partnership takes work, and experts say that is best done well in advance, before legislative sessions kick off. In this model, advocacy takes place year-round—an “always-on” program—in an effort to build genuine relationships that can advance legislative priorities that are important to your organization and your partners in the legislature.

“Grassroots are hypercritical when they’re not in session,” said Bolia, a veteran of 27 legislative sessions in Georgia. “You want to do all of that grassroots work for months and months before they go into session. Go to the district and have coffee with them. If you own a small business, have them come out to the business. All that grassroots work should be done early.”

During the session, the strategy changes to focus on bills that are moving, convey necessary information and communicate in ways that respect lawmakers’ time. “In session, legislators are being pulled 1,000 different ways,” Bolia said. “I wouldn’t bring a group of 50 people in to talk for an hour when that legislator’s clock is ticking. Having time at the Capitol during the session is not bad, if you can make it quick and easy. But if the legislator gets stuck with that group…they’re gonna be pretty pissed.”

There are many ingredients that go into effective outreach, but the first is proper research. Before approaching a lawmaker, it is important to understand their personal background, the demographics and economics at play in their district, and their political situation. A lawmaker facing a tough primary challenge is in a very different position from one running unopposed. When the story becomes clear, the first step is almost always to request a meeting.

“There’s a hierarchy in advocacy,” Elfreth, the Maryland Senator, said. “An in-person meeting is, I think, the most impactful for me and I’ve never said no to a meeting in my life. I certainly would never say no to a meeting with constituents. So that’s always kind of like the top tier, the gold standard.”

Next on the list, she said, is a Zoom meeting or phone call, a physical letter, and personalized email. Grassroots email campaigns can be effective—they help lawmakers track constituent sentiment, and most keep a tally of what arrives in their inbox—as long as they come from someone in the district and convey relevant information. “The important thing is that the email is personalized from that advocate,” Elfreth said. “And always, always, always include an address, because my first question to my staff when they come in and say ‘we got 200 emails overnight’ is ‘how many of those were constituents?’”

Elfreth, who worked for years as the government affairs director of the National Aquarium in Baltimore before she was elected, said one common mistake is sending a bevy of form letters. “My first advice is to avoid form letters really at all costs,” she said. “I think they have become lazy advocacy strategy.”

Elfreth offered one more important piece of advice for those hoping to partner with state lawmakers: be ready to compromise. “All of this work in the legislative process is about compromise and consensus and deal making,” she said. “When an advocate comes to us wanting 100% or nothing, I’m much less likely to want to work with that person, because that’s just untenable.”

As she put it, “coming in knowing where you’re going to compromise is really helpful for us because our job, more times than not, is to find that middle ground.”

Election Work Provides an Edge

Organizations that help educate voters, whether through issue ads, GOTV work or other means, have an advantage when working with lawmakers.

This is especially true in situations that require legislators to take a vote that is unpopular in their district. Having an advocacy organization explain the issue to voters can be extremely helpful.

“I think it shows that this is a partnership,” Elfreth said. “I’m
willing to take difficult votes that are a challenge for me back home if my advocacy partner is willing to have my back and communicate the importance of that issue.”

Effective State Advocacy Strategies

While some advocacy is adversarial by necessity, most experts frame their work in terms of gathering support and building relationships. Here are some effective strategies to work in partnership with lawmakers.

  • Start With a Meeting. Most lawmakers appreciate learning about an issue directly, rather than through advertising or grassroots campaigns. Expect the meeting to be short—perhaps 15 minutes—and keep your briefing tight. Know exactly what you are going to ask for and be prepared for questions.
  • Use Personal Stories. Lawmakers want to hear from constituents, and not just because they represent votes. In order to justify policy positions and persuade colleagues, lawmakers need anecdotes—real stories involving real people. Personal stories from back home are common in floor speeches because they are compelling. Smart advocacy organizations provide those stories.
  • Bring Information. Most lawmakers don’t have the staff to conduct policy analysis on a regular basis. At the same time, many companies, associations and nonprofits are awash in data and statistics. Providing concise analysis is often appreciated, so long as it is accurate. Polling is also highly valued. “I’ve never met a legislator or statewide elected official who didn’t want to look at polling information,” Bolia said. “Polls are expensive. If your trade association is willing to do a poll on a series of issues that are important to you and it’s good information, it actually does resonate.”
  • Cultivate Allies. State officials talk among each other. When you ask for support from a state lawmaker, consider asking mayors, council members and other officials in that legislator’s district. It is easier for politicians to stand as part of a coalition than it is to stand alone.
  • Support Your Issues. When a lawmaker signs on to your issue, give them the support they need to do so with confidence. Support that position with op-eds, letters to the editor, petition campaigns and other activities that explain why yours is the right approach.

Advocacy experts say that organizations can also use the assets they have in the state to help build relationships. For example, a company with a factory or facility in the district can invite lawmakers or other state officials for a tour (Capitol Canary did that very thing when it moved from Washington DC to Virginia years ago as a young startup). For organizations that have large numbers of employees or members, getting them involved in grassroots outreach can be extremely effective.

“You’ve got to make sure your organization shows that you have statewide strength,” Bolia said. “For instance, I represent insurance agents [in Georgia]. They don’t have a lot of money to give, but there’s a lot of them. There are 40,000 licensed insurance agents and insurance agents spend their entire lives cold calling on the phone. If I give them a list of 10 or 20 people to call, they’re gonna call.”

As he put it, “I consider it a victory if my members have legislator cell phones programmed in their phones.”

Bolia also says that small acts of support can go a long way with lawmakers, who often have to reach thousands of voters every election cycle with limited resources.

“There are so many little things that you can do at the grassroots level that don’t cost you anything,” he said. “You can put up a yard sign that costs you absolutely nothing. You can put a bumper sticker on your car. You can show up to a campaign rally. … The reality is that a little elbow grease is going to go a lot farther than if I wrote a check and then disappeared.”

The Pros and Cons of Social Media

Social media is a major communication tool for many legislators. State lawmakers posted on social platforms roughly 1.6 million times in 2022, according to Quorum’s Trends in State Legislatures report.

It can be a potent weapon for advocacy organizations, too. Unlike email and phone work, social channels are public. They can also boost engagement with campaigns, allowing organizations to reach beyond their list as advocates share calls to action with colleagues, friends and family.

However, inbound social media advocacy is not always appreciated
by lawmakers. High volume on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram can be difficult to monitor with limited staff, and verifying who is  constituent can be a challenge.

“For me, the best way is any form of communication that I can track and ensure that there’s a follow up plan,” Elfreth said. “Anything on social media is a real headache for us internally in terms of constituent service.”

Communicating With the Governor

Reaching out to a governor is very different from communicating with legislators. Most governors have millions of constituents, adequate staffing and layers of resources to analyze policy before defining a position.

Unlike the legislative branch, where dealing directly with lawmakers is common, access to a governor may largely depend on the size of both the state and your organization. Thomas Doherty, a one time senior staffer to former New York Republican Governor George Pataki and now a partner at Mercury Public Affairs, explains that, “everybody wants him to attend to everything. You’re being pulled all over the place. I mean, scheduling a governor is one of the toughest jobs  because you’re saying no to everybody.”

The organizations that get an audience tend to be major employers or
organizations with a large footprint in the state. “If you’re sitting in the governor’s office and the head of Eastman Kodak calls you, he’s getting a call back and he’s getting a meeting with the governor or his chief of staff,” Doherty said. “If you are a local business confronting a problem in Binghamton, New York, that’s probably going through the state senator.”

But other experts say the situation can be different around the country. “I think it depends on the state,” Bolia said. “For instance, if your governor is an attorney, my guess is the trial bar can get a meeting anytime they want. If the governor happens to be a farmer, I’m sure that the Ag folks have a lot of access. Georgia’s governor was a bit of a developer, so he knows a lot of those folks. But he’s very accessible. If you’ve put in your time, and you’re willing to be slotted for a 15-minute meeting in two months, and you represent a small association, I’m sure you’ll get a meeting.”

Though gubernatorial time may be precious, Doherty says that, just like in Washington DC, staff meetings can be extremely valuable. “Actually, that is who you want to meet with, because elected officials come and go,” he said. “Knowing the lifers is important, because they’re the ones who understand. They know the numbers. They know the programs. They know what succeeded or failed in the past. So, getting in front of them and making your argument is the place you need to be.”

That argument, he said, should always start with how your organization’s position benefits the governor and the state. “The most important thing is to communicate why this is good for them,” Doherty said. “I’m selling you on legislative changes because this is good for you and ultimately good for your constituents. They are not going to do this because they know me, because they like me, or because I used to work there. They will do it because it is in their best interest.”