So you have a cause or initiative that you are passionate about and want to seek help from your government for your cause? Well, here’s what you need to know – as a constituent in the good ole U.S. of A., you really do have a right to have your voice heard. No, I’m not saying you can pick up the phone and call President Obama to state your case. There is a certain protocol to advocating for changes.
If you’ve read Part 1 to this post, you’ll know that I recently had a chance to advocate for change in support of an initiative called Shot @ Life.
5 Key Steps to take to Become an Advocate for Change in your Community:
1. Contact your local House Representative or Senator (see instructions below). As their constituent, they are actually willing and wanting to hear from you!
2. Send them a personalized note sharing the details of your cause. Here is a Sample letter to Congress for your reference.
3. Ask to schedule a meeting. You may not be able to meet with your representative directly, but a member of their staff will also be adequate for stating your case and communicating the information. Here’s also a Sample scheduler request for your reference.
4. Make sure you have an “ask.” In other words, make sure you have a specific request to communicate to your Representative (a specific funding request, support of a specific bill, etc.)
5. Follow up is key! Even if you meet with a staff person, be sure to follow up with that person as well as your actual representative to both thank them for their consideration and to recap what was discussed.
Note: You will likely have to do all of this more than once. Turnover is high on Capitol Hill and you will want to make sure your cause does not fall by the wayside. The Shot at Life Initiative actually does an annual lobby day to make sure it’s important to make sure it’s on the top of the minds of whoever is on the staff at the time.
What if my cause is not supported?
Not every cause or initiative will be immediately supported. Just like any other organization, there is some red tape and considerations of budget and other agendas can hinder support. If that’s the case, follow the squeaky wheel rule. Find or form a group of supporters to demonstrate numbers, have everyone writing letters and lobbying for your cause.
How to Contact Your Member of Congress
1) Call the Capitol Hill main line: 202-224-3121
2) Ask to be connected to your Senator’s or Representative’s office.
3) The front office will answer the phone. Tell the staff member who answers the phone that you have an opinion on [whatever topic you are sharing (i.e. global health)] that you would like to share with the member of Congress and ask if you can leave that opinion with the staffer.
4) Deliver your talking points to the staffer.
For the Shot at Life Campaign, we delivered the following:
a. Vaccines against diseases like polio and measles are one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries. However, despite significant progress, one in five children still lack access to life-saving immunizations.
b. The US government has a long history in being a leader in global health and global vaccines. From working with partners like UNICEF and the World Health Organization to procure and deliver vaccines, to the direct efforts of USAID and CDC to provide vaccines to children in developing countries, decades of bipartisan support from Congress has paved the way for major progress and lives saved .
c. State the ask: “With these points in mind, I ask that you please [INSERT ASK]
5) Ask if he or she requires any follow-up information. Most Congressional offices track phone calls by area code. Some may ask for your name, some may not.
6) You may also ask if the member has a current stance on [topic]
7) Thank the staffer for his or her time.
8) Follow up.
While it’s not always easy to become an advocate for change, I promise you, it is so worth it! Just follow these steps and remain diligent for your cause and when it’s all said and done, just repeat after me…