Cooperative Network organizes several lobby day events for members during the state legislative sessions. Co-op managers, staff, and directors receive a briefing from Cooperative Network staff on priority co-op issues, receive tips on how to be effective citizen lobbyists, and organize in teams for legislative office visits. Legislators and agency officials also speak directly to the member groups on key issues affecting particular co-op industries.
You possess the most valuable commodities in your representative’s and senator’s line of work—a vote and first-hand knowledge. Here are a few tips to get you started in grassroots lobbying.
Plan your meeting. Start with your state representative and your state senator. If you go as a group, decide who will lead the meeting and what each person will contribute to the discussion to ensure that you hit the key points. You will likely have only 15-20 minutes for your meeting.
Make an appointment. Call your legislator's office and ask for an appointment in your home district if possible. Travel to the Capitol as an alternative. Be on time, be flexible, and don’t be surprised if the appointment changes. Legislators often have last-minute hearings or committee meetings.
Know your audience. Do a little research about your legislator if you don’t know him or her. Discover something you have in common through small talk to break the ice—but keep it brief. Seek out his or her position on your key issues ahead of time.
Define your message. Tell your legislator that you are visiting to ask for support of your issue. Have two or three observations or arguments ready that get at the heart of your position.
Invite comments and questions. Engage your legislator in dialogue. Don’t worry if you don’t have an answer—simply tell them you don’t know, but that you’ll find out for them.
State only what you know. Don’t overstate your case, fudge the facts, or guess. It helps to provide your legislator with brief, written information for further reflection. Make sure it contains the local angle for your district if possible.
Ask for a commitment. If you don’t ask for action, you won’t see any. If your legislator declines, encourage him or her to think about it and say that you’ll keep in touch.
Follow up. Send a thank-you note to your legislator expressing appreciation for his or her time. If you promised to get additional information, provide it or indicate when it can be expected.
Stay in touch. Continue to visit with your legislator to discuss issues and make requests as you have them. Be a reliable source of information by delivering what you promise, avoiding overstatement, and communicating clearly.
Become an expert. Bill sponsors often seek experts in the topic area of their proposed legislation to testify when the bill is under committee review prior to reaching the Senate or House floor. If you can your honest and knowledgeable assistance in helping the bill (and therefore the legislator) succeed, you will have an important ally in future dealings at the Capitol.