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What is a Lobby Day?

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.

Why Should My Organization Organize a Lobby Day?

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.

Can I organize my lobby day virtually?

Absolutely. The goal of a lobby day is to introduce legislators to your advocates to help personalize your issue, and that can happen over Zoom. Some organizations have even found more success with virtual lobby days because they aren't restricted by costs — they can invite as many advocates as they want rather than being limited to the number they can manage in DC or the state capital. Most of the strategies we've outlined below are relevant whether your lobby day is in person or virtual. Convinced? Consider these steps for success:   [post_title] => Lobby Day: A Guide to Success [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => lobby-day-guide [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-08-30 20:50:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-08-30 20:50:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://marketing-staging.quorum.us/resources/lobby-day-guide/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 1419 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'lobby-day-guide' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1419 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2021-02-10 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-02-10 00:00:00 [post_content] => (Lobby day planning already in the works and want to skip straight to the steps? Click here).

What is a Lobby Day?

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.

Why Should My Organization Organize a Lobby Day?

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.

Can I organize my lobby day virtually?

Absolutely. The goal of a lobby day is to introduce legislators to your advocates to help personalize your issue, and that can happen over Zoom. Some organizations have even found more success with virtual lobby days because they aren't restricted by costs — they can invite as many advocates as they want rather than being limited to the number they can manage in DC or the state capital. Most of the strategies we've outlined below are relevant whether your lobby day is in person or virtual. Convinced? Consider these steps for success:   [post_title] => Lobby Day: A Guide to Success [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => lobby-day-guide [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-08-30 20:50:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-08-30 20:50:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://marketing-staging.quorum.us/resources/lobby-day-guide/ [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] => 1419 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2021-02-10 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-02-10 00:00:00 [post_content] => (Lobby day planning already in the works and want to skip straight to the steps? Click here).

What is a Lobby Day?

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.

Why Should My Organization Organize a Lobby Day?

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.

Can I organize my lobby day virtually?

Absolutely. The goal of a lobby day is to introduce legislators to your advocates to help personalize your issue, and that can happen over Zoom. Some organizations have even found more success with virtual lobby days because they aren't restricted by costs — they can invite as many advocates as they want rather than being limited to the number they can manage in DC or the state capital. Most of the strategies we've outlined below are relevant whether your lobby day is in person or virtual. Convinced? Consider these steps for success:   [post_title] => Lobby Day: A Guide to Success [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => lobby-day-guide [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-08-30 20:50:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-08-30 20:50:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://marketing-staging.quorum.us/resources/lobby-day-guide/ [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] => bfc7dc0ae5bf514c98675267c5f85df6 [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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Blog

Lobby Day: A Guide to Success

Lobby Day: A Guide to Success

(Lobby day planning already in the works and want to skip straight to the steps? Click here).

What is a Lobby Day?

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.

Why Should My Organization Organize a Lobby Day?

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.

Can I organize my lobby day virtually?

Absolutely. The goal of a lobby day is to introduce legislators to your advocates to help personalize your issue, and that can happen over Zoom. Some organizations have even found more success with virtual lobby days because they aren’t restricted by costs — they can invite as many advocates as they want rather than being limited to the number they can manage in DC or the state capital. Most of the strategies we’ve outlined below are relevant whether your lobby day is in person or virtual.

Convinced? Consider these steps for success:

 

Steps for a Successful Lobby Day

1. Identify Your Target Advocates and Drive Sign-Ups

When organizing an in-person lobby day, it’s impossible to invite everyone—it’s expensive to fly hundreds of advocates to DC or the state capital. In this scenario, there are a few ways to identify which advocates you should invite:

  • Look to your ambassador or grasstops programs: These advocates make good fits for fly-ins because they’re typically better educated on your issues and already have relationships with key legislators.
  • Survey your advocates: Use a survey of your advocates to find out who in your network is interested in participating in a fly-in and what issues they are most interested in. This information can also help you segment your advocates into email lists by issue and level of participation an advocate is interested in (so as not to overwhelm advocates with communications).
  • Look at participation stats for past campaigns: For organizations who use grassroots gamification, consider setting a threshold so that advocates who earn a certain number of points are invited to participate in a fly-in. The point system helps identify your most active advocates if you don’t already have a formal grasstops program in place.

If your fly-in has a virtual component, it’s easier to cast a wider net of which advocates can participate. There are many benefits to including more advocates, particularly in diversifying the types of advocates who participate in fly-ins. It might open your event up to older or younger advocates who may not have been able to fly to DC or members of your organization who are newer to advocacy and may have been hesitant to jump right into a fly-in.

But advocates who have never participated in a fly-in before may not immediately self-identify as the right audience for a fly-in, even if it moves to virtual. So, it’s important to target outreach to these groups to make sure they feel included. For example, the YMCA of the USA targeted employee resource groups (ERGs) within their organization, such as their women’s ERG or the African American ERG, to diversify participants.

2. Organize an Advocate Training Program

You’ve identified the 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. Many organizations use the first day of their trip or the mornings before their meetings to run training programs for advocates during in-person fly-ins. However, more and more organizations have been adopting digital training resources — even before COVID hit. With virtual fly-ins opening the door to new advocates to participate, these resources are even more critical to prepare advocacy novices.

To train their members to participate in advocacy, the American Society of Anesthesiologists created video learning modules for each step of the 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 from “An Introduction to Federal Government” to “Ways to Be Involved” and culminating in “Meeting Your Lawmaker.” Each video includes a quiz afterward to verify that advocates took in the information shared in the video.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) also used this strategy to help fight Zoom fatigue. Since they knew the actual virtual event days would be jam-packed, they emailed their educational resources to advocates over several weeks.

3. Bring T-shirts, pins, and other gear

For in-person lobby days, you should use swag to get noticed around the halls of the Capitol or statehouse. With a brightly colored t-shirt, creative buttons, or other swag, it is impossible for legislators to miss that your organization is present on Capitol Hill and being active on your issues.

In a virtual world, these brand items are still important. While t-shirts or pins may not communicate scale virtually like they would if you were walking the halls of the Capitol, wearing your organization’s logo can still help legislators remember your brand. You can also create virtual backgrounds for advocates to use in their meetings that include brand colors and logos.

4. Help Participating Advocates Build Community

Beyond having a representative footprint of geographic areas to speak to a diverse set of legislators, lobby days also provide an opportunity for advocates to network amongst themselves and feel more connected to your organization. The YMCA has had success driving engagement with lobby days by reframing them as professional development.

“We’re trying to build an outlook on advocacy at the Y: that advocacy is a skill,” said Kelsey McKim, Communications Coordinator at the YMCA of the USA. “We’re looking at our upcoming national advocacy days as kind of a professional development opportunity where people can learn to strengthen their advocacy muscle.”

At in-person lobby days, these networking opportunities happen fairly naturally — grabbing coffee in the hotel, going out for dinner after a day on the Hill, or just waiting in the Rayburn building halls waiting for the next meeting to start.

Since these events don’t happen as naturally in a virtual environment, it’s essential to build them into programming. The YMCA and the FCNL have recommended the following ideas for how they are incorporating community building into their virtual lobby days:

  • Virtual “Coffees” in Zoom Breakout Rooms: At around 11 am, offer a Zoom link for folks to join if they want to connect with other participants. Then, use breakout rooms to create smaller groups more conducive to conversation. Incorporate icebreakers to help get the conversation started!
  • Promote a shared activity: One of the Y’s policy areas is healthy living, so they plan to send out a recipe for a healthy breakfast to all participants before the event so that everyone can make the recipe and share it during their morning session.
  • Share Your Talents: FCNL asked folks on their staff who play music to volunteer to play on Zoom in between speakers.
  • Create online communities through social platforms or email threads: FCNL also recommended considering email threads, Facebook groups, and other social platforms to give advocates from the same state a chance to chat outside of formal gatherings. These digital communities also have the bonus of creating a community where folks can ask questions and other advocates with more experience can answer them — taking away some of the staff’s burden.

5. Schedule Your Meetings with Legislators and Staff

You’ve got your advocates on board. Now you need to make sure that you have legislative offices for them to meet with. To schedule meetings at scale, it’s best to use an email tool that allows you to directly pull in staff contact information and personalize your emails in bulk.

While everyone wants to get a meeting with the Member, you should assume that you’re going to get a meeting with a staffer and that the legislator joining for a few minutes would be a bonus. So, start by sending the schedulers a request for a Member-level visit. Then, set a deadline so that if you don’t hear back from the scheduler in a certain amount of time, you’ll move on to the staffer who has your issue in their portfolio.

If you still don’t hear back, look in your team’s notes to see if you have any members of your team or advocates in your database who have met with that office recently, either in DC or the district.

“Because FCNL has on-staff lobbyists as well as really active grassroots advocates doing work in their own districts and states, if there were offices not getting back to us for whatever reason, I could look in a member’s profile and see that José met with this member’s office two weeks ago,” said Justin Hurdle, Organizing Data Strategist at FCNL. “I’m going to go to José and say, ‘Hey, the office isn’t answering us, but we have 20 people from California who want to talk about this issue. Can you connect me with the right staffer?’”

Even with a pre-planned strategy, you’ll have to be flexible. Whether in-person or virtual, legislative schedules change frequently. Make sure you have a way to easily communicate scheduling changes to advocates through your website.

6. Plan Your Lobby Meeting Roadmap

This is it—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. To make sure this happens, FCNL creates what they call a “Lobby Meeting Roadmap” that they train advocates on so they know what to do when they arrive whether in the office or a Zoom room.

The first part of this process is having advocates decide who will fill what role. Some roles that FCNL defined include:

  • Group Leader — Who is going to kick off the meeting and help the conversation move from one topic to the next? This becomes even more critical on Zoom when it’s harder to read social cues of who should speak next and there are awkward silences or people talking over each other.
  • Note Taker — Who is going to be responsible for tracking what was said in the meeting?
  • Storyteller — Storytelling is one of the most effective parts of a lobby day as legislators and staff can hear from the constituents who are directly impacted by a given policy. But when there are 10-20 advocates in one meeting, there isn’t time for everyone to share their story. Decide in advance who is going to take on this role.

Another critical part of the lobby meeting roadmap is checking in on how much time you have.

“The first thing we tell folks to do when they get on the call is to ask the staffer how much time they have. In the congressional office, if you get to 15, 20, 25 minutes, the staffer can find an excuse to start to push you out a little bit,” Hurdle said. “But virtually, especially if the staffer isn’t joining by video, you just don’t know what to expect. We wanted to make sure to prepare folks—don’t plan for an hour-long meeting. You’re not going to have that. Plan for 15, be excited for more than that.”

Their lobby meeting roadmap was also influenced by each member’s relationship to the meeting’s issue topic.

For their November 2020 virtual fly-in, FCNL focused on lobbying for the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act: they made sure advocates knew if the member they were meeting with was on the Judiciary Committee or was a cosponsor to the bill so they could tailor the conversation accordingly.

7. Engage Legislators on Social Media

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. 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.

8. Have Your Advocates Log Interactions

Your advocates can gain valuable insight from legislators in their meetings, so make sure they have the means to communicate legislators’ feedback to your organization. Offices may be more open and share more honest feedback with their constituents than they would a lobbyist.

One of the best pieces of intel you can glean from these interactions is what part of an issue a member especially supports or opposes. For the example of FCNL, they were hosting their lobby day to support the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, a piece of legislation with many different components. So, if a legislator voiced opposition to the bill, FCNL trained its advocates to ask a follow-up question of which part of the bill they opposed or which part of the bill they do support and to log that in their notes. This intel provides an opening for a lobbyist to continue the conversation.

FCNL has advocates log their notes using Quorum’s interaction logger which is integrated into their digital lobby day resources. What used to be done on paper and transcribed by hand is now automatically attached to a legislator’s profile. Notes are visible to the lobbyist moments after it is logged.

With all this intel, your lobbying team will be much better equipped for effective follow-up, so make sure they have a plan in place to keep the conversation going with legislative offices promptly after the lobby day.

9. Send Thank You Notes — to the Legislators and to Your Advocates

If your lobby day is in person, 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 the day is over.

Then, thank your advocates for their participation. At the end of a recent virtual campaign, the YMCA sent out a thank you email saying, “This time we just want to say thank you,” McKim shared. “There’s no ask in this email. We appreciate you. Your voice mattered.”

Learn more about Quorum:

To see how Quorum can make your lobby day easier and more effective