Lessons Learned from Lobbying with ANA in May, 2009
What did we learn about lobbying Congress through our participating in ANA DC Days?
by Claire Gosselin, co-chair of WILPF Disarm: Dismantle the War Economy Committee
Fifteen WILPF members participated in the 21st annual ANA DC Days lobby training day and three days meeting with Congress. ANA – the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability – demonstrated best practices for effective grassroots lobbying. Links to more information on lobbying and ANA are listed at the end of this article.
Best practice #1: Prepare for the visit ahead of time with a clear focus on the meeting’s purpose.
ANA’s members have regular discussions in their subgroups on nuclear weapons, power and waste issues via conference calls to keep abreast of political developments. For DC Days, they spend several weeks preparing clear and succinct, issue specific fact sheets with designated “asks” as well as talking point documents. Participants are sent materials in advance, including tips on how to do advance media in their local area before DC Days. A select set of fact sheets and other information are compiled into a packet to leave with the Congress person or staff.
The training consists of a full day of presentations, discussions and workshops appropriate to the specific issue areas. In the months before DC Days, ANA staff set up meetings with Congress based on the priorities and requests from DC Day registrants. Near the end of the day, the sign up sheets for each scheduled meeting are set out for attendees to select from – by that time we have enough information to consider our priorities. There are generally not more than 5 allowed per meeting.
Best practice #2: Join with others to lobby with a small group with a designated team leader.
Team leaders are assigned by ANA staff based on their experience lobbying, knowledge of the issues and skills in engaging participants in the hands on lobbying experience. One rule that is applied firmly is the need for each team to have a pre-meeting before the Congressional visit. Participants who skip that meeting will not be allowed to join the visit. Participants divide up their responsibilities for topics, their rationale and specific asks, and one or more persons are assigned to take notes. At the end of the meeting, hand the packet to the Congress person or aide.
Best Practice #3: Prepare individually for the basic points you will present.
Review materials and rehearse how to state information clearly and concisely. Be sure to make eye contact, listen and be respectful. Office dress code is recommended for these visits.
Best practice #4: Debrief and follow-up
Immediately after the meeting take a few minutes to review what happened, sharing impressions and notes. ANA has report form for that purpose that is very useful and is retained for continuing the relationship with the Congressional office. Complete a thank you note, assign follow-up tasks as needed and return the report form to the appropriate party.
Best practice #5: Exchange and share information with the broader group
It would serve WILPF to follow ANA’s example in a practice of further discussions and sharing across the different subgroups. In ANA’s case, 1 or more members of each of the alliance’s member groups attend a retreat to exchange information more broadly, review their past work and develop plans for the coming year; this is coupled with a business meeting of the board. Each of the subgroups also have opportunities to meet for several hours to develop work plans and share them across the group.