How to Lobby
Members of Congress can take action in several ways:
- Authoring, co-sponsoring and voting for legislation.
- Signing onto letters to the President, demanding more action to stop the genocide
- Being a public advocate for Darfur, both locally in their districts as well as nationally.
- Members of Congress can attract press and attention to the issue in a way that others cannot.
Today you can help press Congress to do more to help the people of Darfur by meeting with your congressional representative or members of her or his staff.
: Schedule Your Lobby Visit
: Recruiting AttendeesStep 3
: Prepare and Practice for Your VisitStep 4
: Confirm Your MeetingStep 5
: Visit Your Congressperson's Local OfficeStep 6
: Follow Up
Step 1: Schedule Your Lobby Visit—4 weeks out
The first step in planning your lobby visit is scheduling your meeting. Since congress members' schedules often fill up quickly, it's best to contact them as soon as possible. Here's how to schedule your visit:
Find Your Representative or Senator: Visit congress.org and type in your zip code to find your member of Congress.
Send a Meeting Request by email or fax to the Scheduler in your senator or representative's office
Place a Follow-up Call
- Attach a news clipping from any of your events- attach a press report to your fax or include one in your email.
- Get a template meeting request that you can edit and use.
to the Scheduler in your senator or representative's office.Post Your Event Online
on Save Darfur's event central
so others can sign up to get involved!
- Type your info into the "Create an Event" box, and follow the instructions to set up your event.
TIP: Be flexible! The more flexible your schedule is, the more likely your representative will be able to meet.
TIP: Be persistent (politely)! It is important that our elected leaders hear our voices NOW, at this critical time of action for Darfur. Tell the congressional offices how many supporters your Save Darfur group has, and that you represent many other constituents in your request for a meeting.
Step 2: Recruiting Attendees—3 weeks out
Recruit community and activist leaders to take part in your lobby meeting. As you build the group of attendees for your lobby meeting, keep in mind the following:
Aim for 3-6 participants for your meeting—more than 6 people can lower the effectiveness of your meeting.
Make your group as strategic as possible, sending the message that the entire community is demanding action to stop the genocide. The most effective participants will be people who can represent their communities, and those who may have ties with the representative or senator. Also, the meeting may be a great opportunity to bring in influential groups that have not been as active on Darfur issues in the past. Examples could include:
- Clergy and leaders of religious communities that have been active on Darfur.
- Activists from your local Save Darfur group who have been diligent and vocal on this issue.
- Other community leaders (leaders of cultural, humanitarian and community groups).
Plan on being assertive at your meeting. Go to the meeting with specific items that you want your representative or senator to work towards and do not be afraid to tell them or their staff that you will be following up in a specific amount of time to see what has developed after your meeting.
TIP: When recruiting for your meeting, keep in mind the topics various participants will be discussing:
- An overview of local Darfur activism and recent events
- Meeting facilitation, and someone to be a contact for future communication with the staff afterward.
Step 3: Prepare and Practice for Your Visit—1-2 weeks out
Gather Endorsements. Contact the list of organizations who will not be able to attend the meeting, and ask if you can add them to a letter supporting the policy demands you will be making. Then bring the letter to your meeting to show support from the community.
Research Your Rep. Check to see if your member of Congress has taken any other action on Darfur. A great starting spot is the Genocide Intervention Network's score cards: www.darfurscores.org. Also, look on your elected official's website to find out what committees (s)he is on and what (s)he has done in the past.
Review Recent News. Brush up on the latest developments on the ground in Darfur. Check out www.savedarfur.org for the latest updates on the situation in Darfur.
Hold a Pre-Meeting Training: Sometime before your visit, bring together your group (if more than one person will be meeting with the representative/senator) for a simple, informal preparation and training session.
Prioritize: The lobby meeting should take between 30 - 60 minutes, but it could take as little as 5 - 10 minutes. If you only have a short meeting, be prepared to prioritize. The most important topics to get to in the conversation are:
Arrange a meet-up time
- Your asks - tell your representative or senator how you want him or her to vote, and what other action you would like them to take. You can always ask your elected officials to fully fund the items related to Darfur in the budget process. You can always ask them to engage on the issues of peace, protection and justice for Darfur. If you would like more specific items, please email email@example.com.
- Building a relationship with your congressperson or senator. You want to be known as a reliable source of information concerning Darfur issues.
Delegate: Now that you have set up everything it would be good to create roles for everyone that will participate. This will help to keep the meeting focused and on time. Below is a suggestion on how you could break up the roles. Depending on the size of your delegation, some people may have multiple roles that they play. Roles include:
- Facilitator - This is the person that will run the meeting, keep it on time, and often closes the meeting with the follow up plan.
- Policy Introduction - Educate yourself and be prepared to talk about upcoming Darfur legislation. This person could also be responsible for communicating the asks, but it's also fine to have it be another person.
- Local Grassroots - This person would talk about local grassroots activities. Be specific about numbers, "On April 28th, 1000 people gathered at the local concert hall in support of..."
- Note Taker - Someone should take notes and listen to responses so follow up questions can be tailored appropriately.
- Follow Up - While it may not be a big focus of the meeting, someone should be designated as the "point of contact" or follow up person after the meeting.
for your group to get together somewhere close to the congressional office 30 minutes before the start of the meeting.
Step 4: Confirm Your Meeting—2 days out
Confirm your meeting with the member's office a couple days before your visit.
- Arrange a future contact or meeting with the representative's staff to follow up on the congressperson's commitments.
Step 5: Visit Your Congressperson's Local Office—day of visit
* Remember that your time with your representative or senator may be limited, so prioritize in advance.
- Introductions: Everyone in the group should introduce themselves with a brief background on who they represent and, in some cases, a brief background on their connection to the issue.
- Thank you for past votes/Darfur efforts—If your elected official has a good voting record on Darfur (find out at www.darfurscores.org), then thank them. If possible, it is always be good to specific. This lets them know that you're paying attention to how they vote.
- Overview of local grassroots efforts—Again, give specific numbers: "We have 3000 activists, we've held 4 events," etc...
- Asks: If there is legislation pending, ask specifically, "Will you vote for ____?" Whether they say "yes" or "no" determines your next move:
If they're responsive, ask that they do even more:
- Invite them to one of your upcoming events.
- If they will vote for a bill, will they also cosponsor it?
- Ask them to cosign or write an op-ed piece in your local paper.
- Ask them to facilitate and participate in meetings with community leaders.
If they're unresponsive:
- Pressure them to give specific reasons for their failure to support Darfur legislation.
- Urge them to support Darfur legislation in the future.
- Communicate your disappointment, be assertive but respectful.
Looking Forward: What else does s/he see him/herself working on in relation to Darfur? What are his/her future plans for action? If you are provided with the opportunity, it can also be useful to find out if they have heard of other efforts that we should be aware of.
TIP: Meeting Conduct and etiquette are important things to consider when you meet with your member of Congress. Keep in mind:
- Balance Politeness and Assertiveness: This is the best (if not only) way to get serious attention and real action from your congressional office.
- Stay on Topic: Don't stray to other topics - stay completely focused on Darfur.
- Be as specific as possible: Especially when making your asks, make sure your question is specific: "Will you vote for _____?" or "Will you make a public pledge to support Darfur-related legislation?"
Step 6: Follow Up—day after visit
The follow-up to your meeting is sometimes even more important than the meeting itself. After your meeting, please:
Call or e-mail congressional staff. First, you should thank that person for the meeting. Second, you should ask if and when s/he will do what you asked - and continue to contact this person until s/he has done what you asked. Also, if the legislator asked for certain information, be sure you get back to the legislator with that information. Remember that one objective of your contact is to establish an ongoing relationship with your legislator and establish yourself as a reliable source of information.
Set up a time with the staff contact to follow-up on commitments your representative made during the meeting.
Local Commitments: Ask your member of Congress to participate in an upcoming event or hold a town hall meeting on Darfur.
E-mail SDC and tell us how it went! Did the member of Congress (or a member of his/her staff) agree to follow through on your "asks"? If not, why? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plan your next lobby visit. Continue developing your relationship with your elected official and her or his staff.