Lobbying is one of the key tools for getting a decision-maker to act. You can lobby a state or federal legislator by meeting with them (or their staff) at the statehouse or in DC, by visiting them while they’re in-district, or even by inviting them to come to campus.

Steps for setting up a lobby meeting:

  1. Send in a request by letter or fax. Your request should introduce who you are, when you would like to meet with the legislator, and the purpose of your visit.
  2. Make a follow-up call. Many legislators will have a staff member who manages their scheduling.
  3. Confirm the details. You may need to call back several times to settle all of the details. You should always make a confirmation call the day before the meeting is scheduled, as legislators’ schedules often change.

Tips on how to effectively advocate for your position:

  • Be prepared. Be on time. Have materials ready. Be presentable. Have a pen and paper.
  • Have a constituent in the meeting, if possible. Legislators are far more likely to listen to people they actually represent. Personal stories from constituents make a visit more effective.
  • Be conversational. It’s better not to read facts and arguments straight from fact sheets or notes. If you need to, take time to memorize your points beforehand.
  • Be confident! Legislators are regular people and they are there to listen. They represent you; you have a right to tell them what you want.
  • Listen. These legislators have important feedback for you and your issue. Give them time to respond – don’t just talk at them.
  • Stay on message. Have a clear, simple message and stick to it.
  • Make a strong ask. Ask them for their support clearly and directly.
  • Stay calm and polite. Some legislators may be strongly opposed to your position and you should respect their perspective, just as they should respect yours. Always be polite to legislators and their staff.
  • Be honest. Never lie or make up information. If a legislator asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, simply say, “I don’t know the answer to your question, but I will get back to you with the answer.” Then, be sure to follow up and answer their question.
  • Keep it short. Legislators and their staff have full schedules. Take enough time to make your case and ask for support, but don’t take too long. Always thank them for their time.
  • Thank them. Always send a thank you note after you meet with a legislator, and have everyone that attended the meeting sign it.
  • Keep track of the results of the meeting. Write down the details of what happened at the meeting to share with the rest of your student government.

Sample lobby meeting agenda:

  1. Introduce yourself and your organization.
  2. Thank the legislator for something – either for their past support on an issue that’s important to your campus, or just for meeting with you.
  3. Introduce the issue you wish to discuss.
  4. Present your position. Remember to include personal stories, in addition to the facts.
  5. Get their feedback – whether they are supportive, opposed, or undecided.
  6. Make your “ask.” If they are supportive of your issue, ask them to make a specific commitment such as co-sponsoring a bill. If they are opposed or undecided, ask what would convince them.
  7. Create a plan to follow up.
  8. Thank them.