The most crucial component to changing affordable housing policy is engaging with your local, state, and federal elected officials. You can engage them over the phone and email, in a letter, at community events, by scheduling visits at their office, or even asking them to take action via a letter to the editor. Follow this link for more detailed information on these action steps.
Citizen Lobbyist Tips
The best lobbyists are citizens who schedule visits and respectfully talk to their legislators about issues that are important to them. As a citizen lobbyist you hold a powerful position traditional lobbyists do not: you are a voting constituent and you know other voting constituents.
One-on-one conversations can be a very effective means of conveying the message of affordable housing. Legislators often get the important information they need from the community through meetings.
1. Come prepared
- Research the legislator, their district, and the issue. It will be helpful to know the legislator's previous positions, their caucus/party and their occupation.
- Prepare fact-sheets, reports, and relevant materials ahead of time and bring them to the meeting.
2. Make a good first impression
- Dress respectfully, be punctual, offer a sincere compliment, be friendly and polite, and thank the legislator for taking the time to meet.
- Always introduce or re-introduce yourself.
- Identify yourself. Legislators want to know if they are speaking with a constituent, an organization's representative, a coalition member, or a combination of all three.
3. Start the conversation with a value statement
- An example of a value statement is: “Minnesota has the highest home ownership rate in the nation.” Starting with value statements that everyone easily agrees with helps to set an agreeable meeting tone.
4. State your purpose and explain the issue
- State your purpose. Provide a short fact sheet on the issue, and point out one or two highlights. Focus on one topic per meeting.
- Place your issue in the context of the legislator's own district, their interests or legislative priorities. Make it easy for the legislator to understand how this issue affects their district.
- Be clear about what legislation you are supporting or opposing. Use bill number's (e.g. HF 1111 or SF 2222). Explain your position and why you are asking her/him to vote for that position.
5. Ask the legislator their perspective
- Listen carefully to their advice and do not interrupt or criticize them.
- Never disrespect legislative staff, criticize other legislators, lobbyists, organizations, the opposition or other people. Even if the legislator talks about the opposition, exercise self-restraint and don’t jump in!
6. Press for a commitment and be a resource
- Assume the legislator is supportive, but press for their vote and try to get a commitment. If they seem unsure or un-supportive, offer to help them find the information they need to reach a decision.
- Never make up information to answer to a legislator's question. Rather, offer to find out more information and get back to them.
7. Follow Up
- Send a written follow-up note thanking both the legislator and their staff and summarize any action items from the meeting
- Remember that legislators are human beings. Be understanding of the complex pressures upon legislators.