Are you raising funds from your legislators? If so, here are a few useful tips from my experience:
• Meet with the legislative staffers and be nice to them – they know a lot and can be very informative on processes, current relevant bills, and in giving suggestions on others to speak with. They are the gate-keepers.
• Remember you are working on a compelling issue so be passionate, but also remember the staffers and legislators are busy. Enthusiasm is contagious, but especially when phrased succinctly.
• Meet with members of both the majority and minority parties, and definitely with members of the majority party in each chamber.
• Use their websites. You can find the names and contact information for the chairs and ranking members of all committees related to your issue. For example, if you work in addiction treatment, you’ll want to learn who the members are of the Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, the Health Committee, and perhaps the Ways and Means Committee (for budget and allocation process insight).
• Legislatures have staff supporting each elected official and central staff supporting the committees. The best time to meet with the central staff is when the legislature is out of session; the best time to meet with the congressmen and women and their staffers is when it is in session (unless you live near their regional office).
• If you are a regional organization, you can get allocations from your senators and assemblymen or Representatives’ discretionary funds.
• I suspect that you have a better chance of securing larger allocations when you work with a group of your peers across the state or country to push for a budget line-item for your issue area, e.g. supporting first responders in under-served areas, or supporting workforce development initiatives among at-risk-youth.
• There are often several ways of accomplishing something, sometimes the processes are very clear and sometimes their very subjective, so ask questions, ask staffers for suggestions on the path to pursue and the documentation to collect, and then make it easy for them to help you.
• This work takes time – whether it’s finding and meeting with your potential supporters, or getting the budget line-item approved, or getting the financial support to your organization’s bank account – building consensus takes time, as do the approval and financial disbursement processes
• Be confident, this process is about connecting your legislators to their natural constituents-the people who elected them!
Good luck on your work with legislators. Do any of the above particularly resonate with you or surprise you? Do you disagree with any and/or do you have other suggestions? Post a comment at our blog. I look forward to our exchange.