Legislation – Advocacy Dos and Don'ts

When meeting with a legislator or other elected official, it is important to follow some basic guidelines for how to conduct the meeting and yourself. The following “Dos and Don'ts” will help you plan your meeting and ensure that it is successful.

DO

Identify yourself and who you represent every time you make contact. Legislators and local policymakers meet hundreds of people and they can't remember everyone.

DO

Know the issue or the status of the legislation. Refer to the legislation by bill number.

DO

Be brief (10 minutes or less). Legislators are very busy.

DO

Be specific and practical. Relate arguments to situations in the legislator's home district.

DO

Thank legislators.

DO

Keep the door open for further discussion even if you don't agree at the time. There's a reason they say, “Politics makes strange bedfellows”.

DO

Talk with legislators even if their positions differ with yours.

DO

Think of yourself as a consultant to a legislator. You have expertise and insights that help the legislators understand the bill.

DO

Be honest. NEVER lie. Acknowledge opposing arguments and any political liabilities.

DO

Ask the legislator for support.

DO

Leave behind a one-page fact sheet summarizing your position. Highlight important facts and arguments. Include your name, address, and telephone number so you can be reached if there are any questions.

DON'T

Arrive with a crowd. One to three well-prepared supporters are enough.

DON'T

Back legislators into a corner.

DON'T

Overwhelm them with too much information or jargon.

DON'T

Get into lengthy arguments.

DON'T

Be afraid to say you don't know. Offer to find out and send the information soon.

DON'T

Confront, threaten, pressure or beg.

DON'T

Expect legislators to be specialists. Their schedules and the number of bills make them generalists.

DON'T

Ask the impossible...too often.