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Basic Advocacy Tips from Cal-AACAP: Do’s and Don’ts of Lobbying

  • Be Prepared − Do your homework. Legislators have relatively small staffs, and they depend on lobbyists and constituents for much of their information. Providing legislators with organized, useful, clear and concise information will assist them in making informed decisions.
  • Be Reliable − When you make an appointment with a legislator or their staff, keep it. Be punctual but don’t be surprised if you’re asked to wait. If you tell a legislator that you will send them additional information, do so promptly.
  • Introduce Yourself − Introduce yourself as a constituent if you live in a legislator’s district. Your opinion will have more impact if a legislator or staff know you are one of their voters.
  • Be Honest − Your word and your credibility are your bond, and your integrity will be judged by your honesty. Do Not hesitate to say: “I don’t know, but I will try to get that information for you.” Do Not guess or make-up an answer.
  • Be Brief − State your views concisely and clearly:
    • Do Not Waste Time. Some legislators may have only a few minutes to meet with you, so be succinct. Avoid getting sidetracked and stay on message.
    • Know the Basics, but don’t worry that you’re not an expert (you’re not expected to be). Present arguments from the perspective of your needs.
    • Give Anecdotes. “Hook them” with a personal story that creates an image. Legislators need to hear the “real world impact” of the issues they vote on.
    • Anticipate Tough Questions. A simple “I don’t know” will prevent awkward situations. It’s your task to advocate for your issue, not to provide solutions to the state’s problems.
    • Do Not Overkill. Recognize when you’ve gotten what you came for, or as much as you’ll get. A legislator and/or their staff will avoid you in the future if you ramble or otherwise waste his/her time. Be an active listener and be sensitive when a legislator wants to talk.
  • Be Specific − Tell legislators exactly what you want them to do: support a bill/budget item; not support a bill/budget item; change it to make it better; or write a letter to one of thir colleagues.
  • Be Respectful and Polite − Always address legislators properly. If you disagree during discussions, say so in a straightforward way. Focus your
    arguments on facts and reasons behind disagreements − not personalities. If a legislator currently does not support you on an issue, accept that fact yet continue lobbying efforts through letters and/or district office visits. Always remember that the same legislator could be your ally on the next issue you advocate for.

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