Plan a Successful Lobby Day
One of the most effective ways of letting elected officials know your views on state legislative issues is by communicating through a face-to-face meeting. When a group of people from an elected officials’ district requests a meeting regarding a particular issue, the elected official usually will hear their point of view. Sponsoring a lobby day provides members of your state legislature with the information they need to make the best decisions for their constituents.
Lobby Day Schedule
Before you begin planning your lobby day, it is essential to review your state lobby laws.
- These laws can vary greatly from state to state. For more information on your state laws please visit these state lobbying law websites.
Selecting a date
The first thing to consider when planning your lobby day is the legislative calendar, pick a date when the legislature is still in session.
- A date earlier in the legislative session is important so that your issues remain in play, and you can make an impact on the process. However, you don’t want to plan so early in the legislative session that you have a hard time making appointments and preparing materials.
- Mid-February can be the ideal time to plan a lobby day for a state legislature that convenes in January and adjourns in late spring or early summer. In some cases, it may be necessary to sponsor a lobby day early in the session as well as later in the session if your legislation is moving towards passage and needs extra support.
- You may also want to have an idea of when other organizations, opposing as well as supporting groups, are planning their lobby days.
- Be sure to inform the CCA of your efforts so that we can help in promoting your lobby day. You can also promote the lobby day or any event on the CCA Blue Star Calendar.
Setting up a legislative appointment
Once the date and format of the lobby day is decided, appointments need to be scheduled.
- If an appointment is not set with the legislators’ office, it is highly unlikely that an attendee will have an opportunity to meet with a legislator or a staff member working on a particular issue.
- It is imperative that you determine early who will set-up the appointments. Scheduling appointments can be a huge undertaking for one individual, however; if appointments are set in one central location, you can better determine the number of members attending each appointment.
- Scheduling of appointments should ideally start no later than 30 days before the lobby day. Many offices will not confirm a meeting until 1 week out. If appointments are set by participants, be sure to have them notify the organizer so that an overall schedule can be maintained.
- Meeting with the legislative aide is also very beneficial if the senator or representative is unavailable.
Appointment Report Form
The best way to keep track of appointments is with the Excel program, or something similar. Information to include in the report form:
- Name of Legislator (w/ state/district they represent).
- Name of Scheduler.
- Phone number of Congressional office.
- Name of staff person who may take the meeting.
- Time requested/Time confirmed.
- Attendees (with contact information—e-mails/office #/cell #).
- Meeting location.
- Date appointment is confirmed and who confirmed it.
Determine what issue(s) you will be lobbying
Because the status of legislation changes on a daily basis, it can be a challenge to select the issue(s) on which you will focus your attention.
- Your issue(s) have to be determined before a scheduling letter is sent to elected officials regarding the lobby day. Most offices will not set up appointments if they do not know what they will be discussing. Remember, you want to get the largest benefit from your lobby day.
- Legislators usually have limited time. At a meeting, the participant should educate the elected official on one or two issues and shore up his or her support.
- Trying to discuss too many issues will only result in confusion and no commitment from the elected official. Information on other issues can always be sent later.
- You do not want to overwhelm the official but you do want him or her to leave the meeting with a better understanding of the issues, concerns, or legislative initiatives.
- A "leave behind” is the perfect way to provide your representative or their staff with follow-up information.
Determine the staging/meeting location for your lobby day
This is a very important decision and will affect transportation, food and hotel decisions.
- If you select a venue that is not within walking distance of the legislator’s offices, you will need to consider providing transportation to the State Legislature.
- When selecting a staging site for your lobby day activities, be sure that the location’s capacity is large enough for the number of participants expected. In addition, make sure that all of the technical equipment you might need is accessible. Your location should also be accessible to people with disabilities.
- Ask your volunteers to arrive 1 hour early and position them to assist participants with directions. Position one of your volunteers as a greeter for your guest speakers. Collect cell phone numbers, if you don’t already have them. Set up your table with folders, name tags and additional copies of important documents (maps, talking points, etc.).
Determine the contents of your lobby day packet
In order for the participants to have a positive lobby day experience, a lobby day packet is essential to guide them through their daily meetings. Packets should include but are not limited to:
- Agenda of the day’s activities.
- Appointments list.
- Map of office locations.
- Letter from CCA’s CEO to the elected official asking them for their support.
- Talking points on the issues.
- Educational information on the issue that can be given to the elected official.
- Lobby day meeting follow-up report form.
- Sample thank you letter.
Determine whether to invite the media to your lobby day
This is where the appearance of power comes into play.
- If you can get your local or statewide media to cover your lobby day, that can determine its success.
- If the media covers your lobby day and mentions the issues about which you will be meeting with legislators, pressure will be added to the legislators to support your view, especially if the media in their districts covered the lobby day.
- Try to use all media outlets, including television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet.
- How to get media coverage, sample press release and letterhead
Lobby Day Wrap-up
A successful lobby day has adjourned but there are still many tasks that need to be completed before a lobby day is over.
- It is important to follow up a month or 6 weeks later if your legislator or their staff person did not give you a clear answer, or gave you a positive answer but then did not follow through with their commitment. Whether this is done by phone or e-mail or even in person at a home state site visit, the staffer and legislator will know you are serious if you follow up.
- Thank you letters should be sent to members who participated in the event as well as the legislators via e-mail or mail. Each participant should be encouraged to send a personal thank you to the elected official or staff they visited.
- A thank you letter from the CCA’s CEO on behalf of the organization should also be sent to ensure that every elected official involved receives an acknowledgement.
- Inform the CCA of your advocacy efforts and we will include an article in the CCA newsletter. The article could include the number of participants, legislative offices visited, the number of legislators that supported the issue, the names of those legislators that still need to be persuaded, and photographs.
- Photos of legislators can highlight the notion of successful meetings with them.
Evaluation comments from lobby day participants can provide keen insight into how well the event progressed, determine the value of briefing sessions and handouts, and highlight details requiring attention in the future.
- If you decide to ask your participants to complete a survey, you should prepare this within 2 weeks of your event, so that their memories are fresh. Upon completion, review your evaluations or survey results and note where you could do better next year in implementing your lobby day.