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Why Lobby? Ten Reasons To Lobby For Your Cause

Discussion in 'Get Involved' started by Archived_Member16, Jul 13, 2010.

  1. Archived_Member16

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    Jan 7, 2005
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    Why Lobby? Ten Reasons to Lobby for Your Cause

    1. You can make a difference. In Toledo, Ohio, a single mother struggling to raise her son without the help of a workable child support system put an ad in a local newspaper to see if there were others who wanted to work for change. There were. Over time, they built the Association for Child Support Enforcement, which has helped change child support laws across the country.

    2. People working together can make a difference. Mothers Against Drunk Driving convinced dozens of states to toughen their drunk driving laws. As a result, the numbers of drunk driving deaths are lower nationwide.

    3. People can change laws. History is full of people and groups that fought against great odds to make great changes: child labor laws, public schools, clean air and water laws, public schools, clean air and water laws, social security. These changes were not easy to achieve. They all took the active involvement - the lobbying - of thousands of people who felt something needed to be changed.

    4. Lobbying is a democratic tradition. The act of telling our policy makers how to write and change our laws is at the very heart of our democratic system. It is an alternative to what has occurred in many other countries: tyranny or revolution. Lobbying has helped keep America's democracy evolving over more than two centuries.

    5. Lobbying helps find real solutions. People thinking creatively and asking their elected officials for support can generate innovative solutions that overcome the root causes of a problem. Through such work, abused children have found rapid placement in safe homes, and restaurants have been able to donate excess food-to-food shelves.

    6. Lobbying is easy. Lobbying is not some mysterious rite that takes years to master. You can learn how to lobby - whom to call, when, what to say - in minutes. There are a few simple reporting rules that your nonprofit organization needs to follow, but they aren't complicated.

    7. Policy makers need your expertise. Few institutions are closer to the real problems of people than nonprofits and community groups. Every professional lobbyist will tell you that personal stories are powerful tools for change. People and policy makers can learn from your story.

    8. Lobbying helps people. Everything that goes into a lobbying campaign - the research, the strategy planning, the phone calls and visits - will help fulfill your goal whether it be finding a cure for cancer, beautifying the local park, or some other cause that helps people.

    9. The views of local nonprofits are important. Because local governments often decide how to spend federal and state money, local nonprofits have even more responsibility to tell local policy makers what is needed and what will work. Your lobbying can have an immediate, concrete impact on people in need.

    10. Lobbying advances your cause and builds public trust. Building public trust is essential to nonprofit organizations and lobbying helps you to gain it by increasing your organization's visibility. Just as raising funds and recruiting volunteers are important to achieving your organization's mission, so is lobbying.

    Adapted from "Ten Reasons to Lobby for Your Cause" from CharityLobbyinginthePublicInterest. at Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest


    1. What do you use lobbying for
    Lobbying means persuading individuals or groups with decision-making power to support a position you believe is right. When you do your organisational planning it is important to identify other stakeholders whose co-operation or influence you need. So you lobby people with power to act in support of the needs and interests of those who do not have direct power and influence. Lobbying can be used to influence anyone with power for example:

    Parents can lobby the school governing body to provide after care at school

    Shoppers can lobby the manager of the local supermarket to stay open for longer hours

    Civics can lobby the council to write off arrears

    Conservatives can lobby the President to bring back the death penalty

    Lobbying is mostly used by organisations to persuade politicians or others with power and influence to support the organisation’s position. There are many ways of lobbying. You can:
    • phone
    • make submissions
    • write to individuals
    • go to meet decision-makers or invite them to meet people in your area
    • get other powerful people to influence them informally, etc.
    1. Important things to know about lobbying

    It is important to understand some basic principles of effective lobbying before we look at methods.
    Some basic rules for lobbying:

    • Be clear about your issue, your facts and your position
    • Use lobbying only for important issues that will improve life in the community and make very sure that your position is the right one before you start lobbying
    • Be careful not to speak "on behalf of people" unless you have consulted them and involved them in developing your lobbying strategy (See section on Planning for guidance on analysing the problem or issue)
    • Target the right people - analyse who has the power to make a decision on your issue and target your lobbying at these people
    • Build a lobby group - analyse who [individuals and organisations] can influence the decision-makers and try to mobilise them to support your issue – never try to lobby alone. People with political power are often most sensitive to grassroots mobilisation that represents their voters.
    • Prepare for opposition - analyse the opposition’s position and develop counter arguments to that since they may also be lobbying the same person
    • Think about your target audience - how the decision-maker can benefit from agreeing with you and include this in your arguments – most decision-makers will agree more easily if they can see how your proposals link to their concerns
    • Never use blackmail or bribery or even gifts and favours to persuade someone. That is corruption, not lobbying.
    1. How to lobby

    In this section we cover the most common lobbying methods. Read through the whole section and then choose the methods that best suit your organisations’ goals. The lobbying exercise at the end of this section will help you to plan which methods to use.

    1. Support base

    You should never, never lobby alone. Try to get organisations or individuals who support your cause to also use the methods discussed below. Whilst politicians are always sensitive to organisations, they also respond well to lots of appeals from individuals.
    1. Letters

    Letters are the easiest method to use to lobby but they are not always the most effective. Many people in positions of power have administrative staff who read their mail and summarise it for them. Make letters as personal as possible and avoid getting different organisations and individuals to all send exactly the same letter. See the format under submissions for the issues that should be covered in a letter.
    1. Submissions

    Submissions are usually made to committees, or chairpersons of committees in government, and it is important to structure them in such a way that you get your points across powerfully. Here is a recipe you can follow. State clearly:

    1. The group or organisation you represent, and contact details.
    2. The topic or issue that you want to make a submission about
    3. Why your group is making the submission e.g. your concern, how you are connected to the issue and your expertise or experience on the issue.
    4. The specific actions you would like the committee to take.
    5. The reasons why you would like them to take this action – this is where you give the facts and make your main points. Be as brief and accurate as possible.
    6. The reasons why the actions you recommend will be good for the interests of the committee – e.g. how it will improve the quality of service, make a contribution to the welfare of the community, save money or generally please their constituents.
    7. It is sometimes useful to outline briefly what would happen if no action is taken. Be careful not to sound as if you are threatening the decision-maker.
    8. Offer further information or face-to-face meetings on request

    1. Aides, PAs and secretaries
    Most decision-makers have staff that deal with documents, do research, and prepare briefings and programmes. Sometimes it as important to influence these people as their bosses. Make sure that you get to know them and spend time explaining your issues to them and building relationships. If they take you seriously it will be easier to get access to, and attention from, the decision-maker.

    1. Meetings

    Ask if you can have face-to-face meetings to present your case. Visit the person in their office or invite them to attend a meeting in the community. Always state the importance of the meeting clearly and provide an agenda and a list of possible outcomes from the meeting. Remember to stress what is in it for the decision-maker e.g. "This meeting will provide you with the opportunity to make direct contact with more than 100 people from the community and to hear their concerns on the issue."

    1. Inspections

    Invite decision-makers to come and make on-site inspections if it is appropriate, e.g. to come and look at the bad condition that the school is in. It sometimes helps to get publicity for inspections and you can then say in your invitation that you have also invited the press to witness the inspection.

    1. Phone calls

    Get as many people as possible to phone the decision-maker. Also use faxes and e-mail if possible. Try to get some influential and well-known people to also phone. It will not always be possible to speak to the decision-maker and everyone who phones should leave a clear message e.g. "We are phoning to object to the council closing the local clinic."

    1. Publicity
    Media attention is a powerful persuader and the more publicity you can get for your issue the better. It always helps to make individual contact with a reporter who is prepared to follow the issue through.

    1. Petitions

    Petitions are a useful way of showing popular support for your issue. You can use a petition to get as many signatures as possible from people in the community who are affected by the issue or you can get a smaller number of key individuals or organisations to sign a petition in support of your submission.

    Note: Keep very careful records of all the communications with the decision-maker.

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  3. spnadmin

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