Last week, in my group, Students Against Modern Slavery, I gave a short lesson on how to lobby and thought it would be valuable to share with you tips on how to lobby, in case you want to take your awareness about human trafficking to the next level by persuading a legislator to support anti-trafficking legislation. As I described in an earlier post, I lobbied Zoe Lofgren about the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act and successfully convinced her to cosponsor it. I also learned much of what I know through International Justice Misson’s Freedom Commons, so definitely check them out for more insight (I will include more resources at the end).
When you are lobbying, you essentially want to effectively articulate a specific request in a short amount of time. It is crucial that you establish a context for your meeting, explain the issue, how you want your legislator to solve it, and leave having made a feasibly accomplished request. In order to accomplish this, you will need to have 1) done a good amount of primary research (which, lucky for you, I will help out with!) and 2) a clear meeting plan.
The planning stages:
It is important to have a strong basic knowledge of
- the legislator** you are speaking to (check out how they have voted in the past on other trafficking-related bills here for the House or here for the Senate). Also, definitely do a little bit of research about the legislator and the issues that he or she cares about via his or her website.
- the bill you are meeting with your legislator to discuss (Look up any piece of legislation here).
- any potential issues about the bill that people have debated, things that may come up in the meeting (check out blogs or other articles written about it).
Then you should outline your meeting and rehearse it (no shame in talking to yourself in the mirror!) so that you are confident when you are sitting in front of the legislator. I learned the “4 Cs” of lobbying from the International Justice Mission and would highly recommend organizing your meeting in such a way.
Briefly introduce yourself (2 minutes max) and establish yourself as an authority on the topic, explaining why the legislator should want to listen to you. This could include where you live (especially if it is in his or her constituency), the organization you are representing, and/or the work you have done/ way you have been exposed to human trafficking. If you have any way of forging a more intimate connection with the legislator, this would be the time to do it. (“My daughter goes to the school you went to.” “I saw you speak at such&such convention.” “We go to the same church.” “I was from Boston myself!”… whatever it may be!)
This is where you establish why you are there and what you have come to talk about. I would suggest transitioning from connect to context by putting the legislator in his or her context. For example, you may begin with, “As your voting record shows, you are already quite aware of the prevalence of human trafficking. I would like to thank you for voting for XYZ bill.” Make them feel good and appreciated. Legislators work hard and get a lot more backlash than praise, so showing that you recognize that they do positive work will set your meeting on the right foot. Once you’ve provided a context of why you are there specifically, give some context on the issue as a whole. This may mean giving some data, but also giving a short tidbit of how that data looks in the real world. Stories and statistics are always stronger together than alone, so try to give both, but no matter how you decide to capture human trafficking, ensure that you are painting it in its pervasiveness, not just as one sad story you heard about in India or whatever. Based on your research of the legislator, you will know how expansive his or her knowledge is about the topic. Some you may just need to say, “As you surely know, 27 million people are still enslaved to this day,” while others may need a more comprehensive definition of human trafficking and all that it entails. As well as short context on human trafficking, you will need to establish the specific reason you are there–basically the bill (what the problem is and how the bill will fix it). Read here about how I explained this problem-and-solution concept in terms of the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act. Basically, I told Zoe about the strength and comparative effectiveness of the Trafficking in Person’s Office in DC, yet how it is prevented from having the full capacity of impact because it is not a bureau (and thus does not have a seat at the table when State Department decisions are being made). I explained that this bill sought to promote it from an office to a bureau. It was simple and clear cut–a problem and a solution.
Now that the legislator understands the issue, you need to have him or her commit to a specific plan of action (hint: this is the reason you are there!). By doing research on the bill and where it is in the legislative process (on this website), you will know what you should ask the legislator for. It may be to cosponsor it. It may be to have them talk to the head of someone on another subcommittee to encourage that person to move it along. If the bill is in their subcommittee or scheduled to be on the floor for debate, your request may even be to vote for it. Make sure your question is direct and clear, “Can I count on you to cosponsor this bill?” If they are unable to commit at your meeting, organize a time to follow up with them.
Look towards the future. Offer yourself as a resource in case they have any further questions, but more importantly, determine when you can follow up with the legislator or an aid about your request (make sure to pick up a business card). “Can I email you in two weeks for an answer? I will be available any time for information.” Give them your own contact information and also leave them a folder with further resources (statistics that you did not have time to address in the meeting, the full text of the bill, etc). And, of course, thank the legislator for his or her time.
After you leave, shoot off an email or letter of thanks to acknowledge the time and energy the legislator set aside for you.
SETTING IT UP:
While you are preparing, you need to actually set up your meeting~~on the legislator’s website, there may be a section to “Set Up A Meeting” or a contact page (look for the scheduler or chief of staff). Basically, just keep sending stuff (tactfully… wait a few days between emails) until you get a response. Usually, legislators are very busy and it may take a little while for a response, but if you show your resiliency, you will likely be rewarded. Also, the legislator may be in his or her DC (or state capitol) office when you want to meet. In this case, you can either meet with a staffer (totally recommended, see below) or wait until he or she comes back to your area. Either works, it is really up to you.
I am going to include a list of more resources (some repeated from the above links), for your research pleasure. Good luck and go get involved! Politics are so much more accessible than people think! And at the end of the day, politicians want to hear what you have to say~~show the passion (but really show that you intellectually know what you are talking about) and they will want to work to put it into practice!
Find your rep: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
The meeting I did as an example:https://docs.google.com/document/d/1N4GSgNNZ4K93TCsJVlAWo41sBHA_VT_ZWiF3iqMTauU/edit?usp=sharing
Read the bill (if you want to lobby about the same one as me): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:H.R.2283:@@@P
Check out how your congressperson is doing (what they’ve voted for in the past): http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/house-scorecard
ALSO COME TO THIS ADVOCACY SUMMIT:http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/action-alert/advocacy-summit-2014-action-alert
More Resources: http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/resources/resources-your-district-meeting
(a TON more resources for preparing for your meeting).
Kate Case: (to contact if you want to set up a meeting on the West Coast or just for further advice~~The first time you email her, just say that I (Izzy Ullmann) gave you her info… she’ll know who I am)
Kate Case | Regional Advocacy Coordinator, West
Government Relations & Advocacy
INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE MISSION
916.335.6934 | @IJMcampaigns
**every time I say “legislator,” this could also be a staffer~~do not be disappointed if you end up meeting with a staffer instead. They actually are the ones doing the research and passing it on to the legislators along with their own recommendations.