Effective advocates know that getting their message across to policymakers requires more than a letter or meeting. Results are based on developing long-term relationships with policymakers and their staff.
Here are some tips for building relationships with legislators, other key policymakers, and their staff.
- Research your legislators. Find out about their personal history, legislative activities, voting record, and political background. But don’t limit your search to your representative and senator. Research other legislators who have been champions of disability issues in the past and those in leadership roles such as committee chairs and caucus leaders. Research other key policymakers such as the Governor or state department heads. For information about the personal and political background of your policymakers, visit Who Are My Legislators?, BESE, and Governor. Many policymakers have personal webpages or social media accounts. Don’t hesitate to google them.
- Make contact. Communicate with your policymakers by phone, email (or regular mail), social media, or by arranging a meeting and introducing yourself. Click here for How to Call Your Policymaker.
Click here for How to Write/Email Your Policymaker.
Click here for How to Visit Your Policymaker.
- Be visible. Attend DD Council and LaCAN events, as well as, other community events. Re-introduce yourself and let policymakers get to know you before you need them. Click here for upcoming Legislative Committee meetings.
Click here for upcoming BESE Meetings.
- Be a resource. For the most part, policymakers and their staff are not experts on disability issues, but you are. Make sure that policymakers (and their staff) know that you are available to answer questions or provide information on disability-related issues.
- Always express gratitude and appreciation. After a meeting with a policymaker or if a policymaker offers to support your issue or sponsor a bill, follow-up with a thank you note.
- Stay in touch. Relationships require constant nurturing. Connect with your policymakers during the legislative session and in the interim. Stay up-to-date with what they are doing by following the media. Congratulate them on their successes.
- Hold your policymakers accountable. Check their voting records and follow-up on their commitments. Do politely express your disappointment; however do not burn bridges! For information about how to get legislators’ voting records, click here to see our Navigating the World Wide Web: A How-to Guide for Advocates.