Deep Dive Breakout 2

Friday, August 4, 2017

9:55am –10:55am

Cody Lyon (American Farm Bureau Federation), Jennifer Fox (National Restaurant Association), Chris Bonnell (Western Governors University), and Stefanie Reeves (Maryland Psychological Association)

Prior to the Presidential Election, most of the legislative action was at the state and local level. Are you prepared to fight for your issues at a more local level? Are there opportunities to advance your agenda that may not materialize federally?

Have feedback on this session? We’d love to hear it! Submit it here.


Making a mark without stepping on local toes

  • Work within coalitions. You’ll usually work together, but sometimes issues will drive a wedge: each community has unique ones. Everyone may be working in good faith, but sometimes professions can clash on the services they provide. Always make sure to support each other because at the end of the day every organization wants to provide their services.
  • How can you best work together to get to your common goals? Sometimes you’ll find opportunities to go forward – and sometimes you won’t. If you have good relationships with your colleagues, then issues that separate you out won’t be permanent.
  • Incorporate input from your state partners and understand their capacity – they might have 2 or 3 people on staff. State or local associations should be deferred to as more knowledgeable about the area they live in. Get on the ground as much as you can, have meetings in person, or pick up the phone. It’s easier to build relationships that way than over email.

Identifying local advocates and relationships: grassroots/key contact programs

  • One association put together a grassroots outreach team to effectively advocate in direct contact from constituents with members of Congress and their staff as the best way to influence policy. To do this, they partnered with state organizations and got their input as to who should be a member of these teams. It takes a lot of intelligence and hard work to identify and train advocates that can succeed, and local input helps tremendously.
  • Always know who you need to outreach to and who can do it – that way when an emergency comes up and you need to make your voice heard, all you have to do is draft the talking points and communicate them to your frontline advocates.
  • Make friends before you need them to go on the offense. Meet with local officials and ask, what are they working on, and how can your organization help with their agenda? You’ll find a diversity of people: maybe an advocate will hire kids for summer jobs but never meet with the mayor. The former can still be a big win. Focusing solely on building relationships can make advocates much more comfortable before they need to make a serious ask.

How to collect good intel?

  • If you don’t ask, they won’t tell you. Survey members – you may find out that one member of your organization is very influential.
  • Never underestimate the power of a good lobbyist that will work with you at your budget. They can be on the ground during the legislative session at your state capitol every day. Even if they aren’t working on your issue, they might hear about something relevant to you – and then it’s in their best interest to notify and help you.
  • Under sources of local media and where they’re relevant. Use keyword alerts. Local consultants can also help you identify the right sources.
  • Let the legislative office staff or member talk! They can provide unique intel.

How can you work with existing state legislative groups like ALEC & NCSL to get issues into their process?

  • When you’re attending conferences or events, always have a goal: who do you want to meet with, what sessions do you want to attend, who do you want to be in the room with. Make your organization stand out with a creative booth and leave-behind materials.