A common thing we hear at NCADV is, “We need better laws to protect domestic violence victims.” And we couldn’t agree more. That’s why NCADV has a public policy office to influence legislators when they are considering bills and laws that impact the lives of domestic violence survivors. Many voices are better than one, especially when it comes to lobbying for change with our Nation’s leaders. So, how do you lobby to create the change you want to see in the world?
In a series of blog posts, we’ll be discussing how to effectively lobby Congress on behalf of domestic violence survivors, victims, and advocates on critical issues. In the first post, we reviewed what grassroots lobbying is as well as the legislative process and some basic vocabulary.
In the second post of our series, “The Art of Lobbying,” you will learn…
- how to contact your legislators and their staff
- the 4-step process to an effective conversation with a legislator or his/her staff
- what broomsticks and jetpacks can teach us about the art of lobbying
Contacting Your Congressional Representatives
Who Are My Congressional Representatives?
Every citizen in the United States are represented in the Senate and the House of Representatives. A Senator represents the entire state, while a House Members represent one district within a state.
To find your Representative to the U.S. House, click here.
To find your Senators, click here.
How Do I Contact My Member of Congress?
There are plenty of ways to contact your legislators’ offices about the issue you are lobbying on. There are multiple opinions about which is the most effective means of influencing your legislators; you can read more about what former Congressional staffers believe to be the best method here and here. Communications with your representatives and their staff can be classified as one of the following:
- Email — Search your federal legislator’s personal website for a “Contact Us” form. If you are contacting a local legislator, his/her email address should be available on his/her website.
- Find Twitter handles for your Senators and House Representatives or reach out to them on Facebook or other social media platforms
- Find mailing addresses for your Senators and House Representatives (due to heightened security, traditional mail can take six-to-eight weeks to reach their offices)
- In-Person Meeting — Can be with your legislator and/or their staff members
4 Steps to an Effective Conversation with Your Legislator
It’s important for you to be prepared for any conversation with your legislator. Know your facts, and brainstorm possible questions or pushback you might encounter. If you are making an in-person visit with a group of people, decide in advance who will address each topic. Discuss one topic at a time, be concise but thorough, and most of all …
Introduce yourself and identify the relationship you have with a legislator’s state or district. Be yourself, and remember that you’re having a conversation, not giving a formal speech. Sometimes you’ll connect with people, and it’s fun; sometimes people are cold, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t listening.
Make it personal
Identify and be prepared to discuss ways the issues impact you, your loved ones, and your community. Make it personal by sharing a story so they understand how it impacts real people.
Ask for something
Even if you are educating a legislator or one of their staffers about a broad issues, you are contacting them for a reason. Make sure he or she knows what it is, and if possible, ask them for a commitment.
Example in Action: What Broomsticks and Jetpacks Can Teach Us About the Art of Lobbying
Let’s put this into context with an example.
You are a lobbyist on behalf of the Alliance for Broomstick Safety. You are promoting S.9182/H.R.2819, a bipartisan, bicameral bill requiring all flying broomsticks to have a built-in jetpack to reduce injuries from crashes.
Before you contact your legislator, Senator Smith, you do some research on the facts and practice talking about broomsticks and jetpacks.
- Currently, more than 500,000 Americans own broomsticks, and the number is increasing by about 75,000 annually
- 15% of broomstick flyers have crashed. Of those …
- 10% have broken at least one bone
- 5% have gotten a concussion
- 1% have died
- By automatically giving a height boost immediately before a crash landing as determined by angle and speed of descent, jetpacks reduce the velocity of impact, reducing the frequency and severity of injury
- Studies have found that built-in jetpacks
- Reduce crashes by 30%
- Reduce injuries by 75%
- Reduce fatalities by 90%
When you call Senator Smith’s office, you say …
“Hello, my name is Jane, and I’m calling from Springfield on behalf of the Alliance for Broomstick Safety. I am calling to tell Senator Smith that Congress needs to pass S.9182 to require all flying broomsticks have a built-in jetpack. Fifteen percent of broomstick flyers have crashed, resulting in broken bones, concussions, and even death. Jetpacks give an immediate height boost just before a crash landing and can reduce the velocity of impact, thereby reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities. They are wildly successful, reducing injuries by 75% and fatalities by 90%! This issue is very important to me because my best friend was killed in a broomstick accident that could have been easily prevented with a built-in jetpack. Will Senator Smith support S.9182?”
So, now you know how to contact your legislators, the 4 steps to having an effective conversation with them, and what broomsticks and jetpacks can teach us about the art of lobbying.
What’s Next: Domestic Violence and Firearms
In the next post of our Lobbying for Change series, “Firearms and Domestic Violence,” we’ll be learning more about firearms, domestic violence, and their connection to lobbying on behalf of domestic violence victims and survivors. When you read our next installment in this series, you will …
- Understand the lethal intersection of domestic violence and firearms
- Know the current federal laws in place and the gaps they present to the safety of victims and survivors
- Learn about specific bills in Congress that could close those gaps