Be the Change: How to Lobby Legislators

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SEATTLE — For many organizations, groups and people who want to make a change, knowing how to lobby legislators is important. Lobbying is asking an elected official to vote a certain way or to take a specific stance on a piece of legislation, issue or policy. It is a critical component of advocacy campaigns and can propel policy change. Lobbying also builds relationships with and educates elected officials.

Knowing your legislators and the issue you support are two important components of advocacy. Researching the lawmaker before you lobby is one key factor to success. It can help to know whether the official already supports or opposes your cause; what his or her voting record is on similar issues; and what legislation he or she has recently co-sponsored. You should make sure to know how your issue might affect the elected official’s district or state, when it’s coming up for a vote and even who else is lobbying for or against it.

Setting up a personal visit, calling or sending a letter are three ways to contact your legislator. Knowing how to lobby legislators in each of these ways will help make your case stronger.

  1. Meeting with your legislator is perhaps the most effective way to lobby. The legislator can connect your name with your face and you have a chance to establish yourself as a constituent. Attending a town hall held by your legislator is also a way to meet them informally.
  2. Calling your legislator is also another way to effectively lobby and it is always a good idea to remind the legislator of any previous contact you’ve had before to show your genuine support of the issue. You will typically speak with an assistant, who will take note of your support for your cause.
  3. Sending a letter to your legislator regarding a specific piece of legislation helps express your support. The amount of mail regarding that piece of legislation will also help determine how the legislator will approach the issue at hand. Although petitions can be effective, well-written letters often carry more weight.

When trying to obtain support from a legislator, lobbying is a common approach. It’s a great way to express your support for an issue as a constituent. The Borgen Project provides a list of current U.S. global poverty legislation up for consideration, as well as an easy tool for finding and contacting your congressional representatives.

Danyel Harrigan

Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Danyel Harrigan

Danyel lives in San Antonio, TX. Her academic interests include sociology. Danyel is a military dependent who has lived in a number of places and has also traveled up and down the east coast.

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