Recently, the Congressional Management Foundation released a survey of congressional staffers and their thoughts on advocacy. The results were quite interesting. Among the findings, the survey identified the most important factor that influences an undecided Member of Congress. No, not the lobbyist or the media. It’s the legislator’s constituent. Whether it’s a Capitol Hill visit or an email, the average citizen has more influence than one would think. As a lobbyist, this is exactly the way it should be.
A good lobbyist is a “behind the scenes” person. My job is to talk to congressional staff about the technical aspects of a bill (i.e. how many people it would affect, the cost to government to implement, etc…). However, I’m only setting the stage for our association members to come in and give the bill a human touch. When I was with my previous employer, ASHA, I had a number of opportunities to accompany our members to the Hill to meet with their legislators. There’s nothing more eye-opening than having a speech pathologist explain how the increase in class size negatively affects the quality of care to each student or an audiologist discuss the challenges of treating a newborn identified with a hearing loss due to lack of sufficient follow-up. I depend on my members to give me and the congressional staff their day-to-day reality to drive home the message of why a bill should proceed or fail.
So the next time you’re solicited to join your association’s grassroots network, sign up to participate. You’ll have way more power than you ever thought possible.