Project Wonderful

Monday, March 20, 2017

How to Lobby like a BAMF Part One: What is Lobbying?

(Editor's Note: This a guest post and part of a three part series from the amazing Carly Pildis, an OFA alumna whose bio is below. It is part of my continued effort to share tools and information to help our community feel empowered in the Trump era. Thank you so much to Carly for sharing your wisdom!)

Since Election night, my phone has been exploding with questions. I am being asked everyday how to be heard, and the voices asking are filled with fear. What makes me qualified to answer? I serve as Senior Associate, Advocacy and Organizing for RESULTS, a movement of passionate grassroots who have been fighting for an end of poverty at home and around the world for over 35 years. I spend most of my time with RESULTS training grassroots on how to make change, particularly geared towards influencing Congress. I run the REAL Change Organizing and Advocacy Fellowship to Fight Poverty, with Fellows having approximately 300 lobby meetings a year. Since so many people are interested in lobbying these days, I am doing a three part series on Lobbying. I am so excited to be writing for Campaignsick!

While I write this I am watching my 3 month old daughter sleep. Like many of you I am concerned about the country she is going to grow up in. Will it be a place where my values of inclusivity, empowerment, and shared prosperity reign? Or will it become a place I don’t recognize?. Lobbying is a great way to affect the issues you care about in a real tangible way.

Members of Congress and their staff WANT to meet with constituents. You are the people who hire and fire. You are the people who volunteer and donate to campaigns. You matter INFINITELY more than a paid lobbyist. A recent study from the Congressional Management Foundation confirms what we’ve known for decades: Members care first and foremost what you think!

Like organizing, lobbying requires you to build muscle memory of best practices that you use religiously, and pair those best practices with dogged persistence. Future blogs will cover step by step instructions, but first let’s define what lobbying is and isn’t

Lobbying is:
-A chance to influence policy and public funding.
-A chance to educate your MOC about an issue they may not know much about.
-Most important of all, a lobby meeting is a chance to build relationships with people who have the power to affect policy and funding. Even if you don’t get what you want now, building that relationship is critical to influencing members and their aides on issues you care about in the future. Show them that you are an engaged member of the community whose opinion they should court and you’ll be shocked how much influence you can garner.

Lobbying is not:
-A venting session. Save that for Happy Hour. Friends on the Hill tell me of constituents who call everyday to SCREAM at them. These people get ignored. Wouldn’t you ignore them?
-A place to protest. This a time for persuasion and dialogue. You're already in the room - protesting is for when you are struggling to get inside it.
-A place for long academic debate or philosophy lecture. It would be awesome to give your MOC a 20 slide presentation on the history of systemic racism. Unfortunately, this will not happen for you. Your meeting will last 10 minutes, 15 max. I have had ones as short as 5 minutes. Expect to introduce the issue, talk about your personal connection to it, a make one or two key points backed up by statistics and then make a hard ask. Have some small talk at the beginning to keep it friendly.

Now that you have a clear understanding of lobbying as a tool and a strategy, you're ready to get started! Thanks for reading and for raising your voice!


Carly Pildis serves as Senior Associate, Advocacy and Organizing for RESULTS. She manages the REAL Change Organizing and Advocacy Fellowship to Fight Poverty. She also managed candidate engagement around the 2016 POTUS primary, and works closely with both the legislative team and grassroots team on RESULTS campaigns. Prior to her time at RESULTS, she served as Operation Vote Director for the DC office of Obama for America, working to organize people of color and other constituency groups in support of the 2012 reelection campaign. Additionally she has served as a Fellow for Jubilee USA Network, and as a Advocacy Consultant/Field Organizer for American Jewish World Services on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. Want to join her in the fight to protect foreign aid and stop budget cuts that would threaten the futures of millions of people living in poverty? Email her Cpildis@results.org or follow her on twitter @carlypildis