LOBBYING BY NONPROFITS:
THE HOW TOS
What is Lobbying?

Lobbying is a form of public policy
advocacy and educating government.
 Lobbying is communicating with legislators
and the executive branch to encourage them
to take action on specific legislation and in
some states – regulations.
 Lobbying is part of participating in the
democratic process.
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What is lobbying continued…

Lobbying can involve government, the
media, people nonprofits serve and even the
entire community.

Lobbying can be an effective strategy for
offering new ideas to government, holding
government accountable and securing better
public policies that affect nonprofits’
missions.
www.clpi.org
A little knowledge about the
following will get you started
lobbying:

The legislative process
 Setting up a legislative network
 Use of a government relations committee
 The role of media in lobbying
 The law governing lobbying by nonprofits
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The nonprofit lobbyist’s skills:

To start, the nonprofit lobbyist needs
to know:
– A few basics about the legislative process
– The main arguments for and against your bill
– How to communicate effectively with your
organization’s members, the public and the
media.
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The federal legislative
process:

The legislative process is controlled by people, not
institutions.
 Legislation usually moves from:
– subcommittee to
– full-committee to
– floor vote (in both chambers of a legislature) to
– conference between the chambers.

At each step it’s possible to influence outcome.
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The legislative process (con’t):

All members of the legislature are not
equal.
– Majority party members have more power.
– Senior members are usually more influential.

Senior legislative staff often wield
enormous power.
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Your leader in the legislature:

It is important to secure the support of a
Member of the legislature, preferably in the
Committee making decisions about the bill.
 It is important for this Member to become
the Champion.
 Almost equally important is the skill and
commitment of the legislative staff.
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Lobbying the Administration:

Sometimes persons within the Executive Branch
hold power over the prospects for legislation.

It is important to know who are potential allies
and who are potential opponents.

Developing strong relations with executive branch
employees can be important. Legislators may
come and go but often career executive branch
employees have invaluable institutional
knowledge and credibility for a given issue.
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Effective written lobbying
communications are:

Accurate
 Brief
 Clear
 Timely
 Followed up with a telephone call
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Current communication
technologies for mobilizing
grassroots support:

E-mail
 Web sites
 Faxes
 Telephone Routing Systems
 Zip Code Matching (targeting grassroots in
a certain geographic area)
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Effective communication
methods with Congressional
offices:





Spontaneous letters from constituents
Visits from constituents
Articles in state/district newspapers
Telephone calls from community and issue
opinion leaders
Telephone calls from constituents
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Your letter to your legislator:







Use personal or business letterhead.
One page -- your own words.
Ask legislator to reply - ask directly whether
he/she supports.
Don’t use threatening tone.
Don’t overstate influence.
Be certain letter arrives before the vote.
Say thank you.
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Meeting with your legislator:

Nervous? You know more about the subject.
 An advance appointment is important.
 A small group (2-3) is fine.
 Discuss the issue from your legislator’s
perspective.
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Meeting with your legislator
(con’t):
Can’t answer a question? Don’t bluff.
Gather information and get back.
 Leave fact sheet.
 Write -- say thanks -- remind legislator of
agreements reached.

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Presenting Testimony:

Keep statement brief -- include
a one page summary.
 First choice for presenter -- volunteer;
senior staff second choice.
 Get other groups to sign your testimony.
 “Plant” questions with supportive members
of the Committee holding the hearing.
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Presenting Testimony (con’t):
Don’t read the testimony.
 Okay to be direct in response to hostile
question, but always be courteous.
 Don’t have the answer? Say so - get
information.

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Telephoning:

Telephone call to Washington office can be
very persuasive.
 Keep it brief.
 Can’t get through, ask for aide.
 Can’t reach aide, leave message with the
receptionist.
 Calls to the legislator’s district office is
second-best, but better than nothing!
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E-mail and faxes to
Congressional offices:

90% of Congressional offices use e-mail.
 E-mail from outside the Congressional
district not relevant.
 Faxes and e-mail are acceptable but well
written, personal postal letters continue to
rank highest.
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Other ways to communicate:

Invite legislator to -– Visit your facility
– Speak at a meeting sponsored by your group
– Meet with your board
– Attend breakfast meeting at state capital
(Note: See CLPI tutorial, “Charitable Nonprofits and
Election-Related Activities” for important limitations
on the above activities during election campaigns)
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Grassroots Action through a
Legislative Network:
 “All
politics is local” – former Speaker
Thomas “Tip” O’Neill.
 Legislative networks are an organized,
systematic means of communicating with
local volunteers who have agreed to
contact legislators.
 Legislative networks don’t have to be
elaborate.
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Legislative Networks (con’t):

Volunteers are ultimately more
influential than paid staff.

To set up a network:
–
–
–
–
Get list of legislators;
Recruit volunteers;
Develop means of communicating quickly;
Work at it. Networks are absolutely essential -but atrophy quickly.
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Lobbying in Coalition:

The enactment of major legislation often takes the
effort of a coalition of people and organizations –
focusing the resources of many groups with
interest in the same issue.

Coalitions are always fragile, but have potential
for enormous influence.

Coalition leadership’s job is to build trust,
openness and honesty. “No surprises” is
paramount.
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Lobbying in Coalition (con’t):
Every coalition must have a “clearinghouse” to get
quick information to members.
 Coalition membership may change markedly over
time.
 Getting coalition information out can take time,
plan ahead of time how to get the information out.
 When a coalition effort is successful -- spread the
glory!

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Government Relations
Committees:

The role of government relations committee
is to establish and pursue legislative
priorities for the organization.
 A big mistake of such committees is to take
on more than one “number one” priority.
 An organization can follow 20 issues, but
all must be ranked.
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Government Relations
Committees (con’t):

A committee member may push staff to
emphasize his/her pet priorities. Don’t give in!
 Delegate authority to small group to make
pressure decisions on legislation when time
doesn’t permit convening your larger group.
 Subgroups will help.
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Government Relations
Committees (con’t):

Meetings tips:
– Agendas
– Cordial tone
– Physical arrangements
– Don’t let anyone dominate
– Use of name tent cards
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Role of Media in Lobbying:

Legislators note organizations that media
quote.
 Congressional staff rank news articles and
editorials in daily newspapers very high.
 A person with experience in media relations
(a volunteer is fine) is invaluable.
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Role of Media in Lobbying
(con’t):
 Several
points to keep in mind:
– Send only “news worthy” information
– Recognize the “herd instinct”
– “Off the cuff” quotes should be well-
rehearsed
– Keep list of journalists who have contacted
you or have done a story on your issue.
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Role of Media in Lobbying
(con’t):

An effective press release:
– Include the most important information in first
paragraph
– Put the rest of information in descending order
of importance
– First page should answer five “w’s” -- who,
what, when, where and why.
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Role of Media in Lobbying
(con’t):
 Press
conferences
– In most major metropolitan areas, it’s difficult
to get press conference attendance because of
competition.
– You will need to know:




Hour, day press most likely to attend;
Location that will attract reporters;
How far in advance press must be notified;
How best to notify.
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Role of Media in Lobbying
(con’t):
 Press
Conferences (con’t):
– Give a reminder call on day of conference
– Have a well-written press statement and
background piece
– Be certain audio systems are flawless
– Keep it short; time for questions
– Keep a list of attendees for follow-up
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Role of Media in Lobbying
(con’t):

Letters to the editor:
– Keep letters tightly composed;
– Use specific examples;
– One point per letter;
– Accurate, up-to-date information;
– Don’t attack opposition;
– Always sign your name; include address and
telephone number.
www.clpi.org
Role of Media in Lobbying
(con’t):

Radio and Television:
– Radio and TV offer public service time.
– Don’t forget news directors of radio and
television stations when circulating press
releases.
– Have a visual angle for TV news story.
www.clpi.org
Role of Media in Lobbying
(con’t):

Radio and Television (con’t)
– Keep public service television spots short -- 9
to 10 seconds;
– Radio, 20 to 30 seconds;
– Get well-briefed spokesperson for your group
on radio, television talk show;
– Give local radio, TV your ideas for editorial.
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The Law Governing Lobbying
By Nonprofits

See the CLPI tutorial, “Lobbying,
Advocacy, and the Law” for important
information on the law governing
nonprofits’ ability to lobby.
www.clpi.org
Have additional questions
regarding your lobbying
efforts?
Contact CLPI staff
at (202) 387-5048 or at
[email protected]
WWW.CLPI.ORG