Indivisible States: Organizing a Legislative Lobby Day

Constituents flooding a capitol building to lobby their legislators about the issues they care about is a beautiful display of democracy. Organizing a statewide lobby day can be an big undertaking but, if executed properly, can make a significant impact on the outcome of the legislative process while also promoting statewide Indivisible unity. In this toolkit, we walk you through everything you need to organize a lobby day at the state capitol.

A Note on State Lobbying Laws

Every state has its own laws about lobbying so it’s absolutely critical that you learn the laws in your own state so you can figure out if your activities count as lobbying and whether or not you need to do any registration or reporting on your activities. Check out some of the resources below to learn about your state’s lobbying laws:

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Collaborating with Other Indivisibles and Partners

As always, we encourage you to work with other Indivisible groups in your state to make your lobby day as effective as possible. You should also look to partner organizations for collaboration. If you want to lobby about one specific bill, you should absolutely investigate if there  is already acoalition of groups working on the bill to maximize impact in your lobby day. Other organizations may already be organizing a lobby day that you could offer to help with.

Choosing a Strategic Date for Your Lobby Day

You will first need to strategically choose a date for your lobby day based on your state’s legislative calendar. It is generally a good idea to choose a date leading up to a floor vote of your bill because all legislators will be voting when a bill goes to the floor. This also sends a message that you will be watching their vote and sets you up as a force for accountability. Note that you’ll likely have to reserve the space well ahead of time. Many other organizations may have similar plans so you want to make sure you reserve spaces/venues with enough time.

Many legislatures have a “crossover” deadline, or a date when bills must pass from the chamber of origin to the second chamber. It could be strategic to plan your lobby day before that deadline or in the final weeks of the legislative session when there is usually a flurry of votes.

Recruiting Participants

Once you have chosen a strategic date for your lobby day, you will need to recruit participants to attend your lobby day. You should aim to bring at least 20 people to lobby. But the more people you can attract for your event, the better! Ideally, you should look to bring people from across the state that represent various state legislative districts. This sends the message that your concerns are shared with constituents statewide.

Helpful tips:

  • Talk to your Indivisible organizer for help in recruiting other groups.

  • Be sure to create a way for attendees to RSVP for your lobby day and keep track of your participants.

  • Register your lobby day on our Indivisible map so we can help! If you register your event, we’ll send an email to let folks in the area know about it.

  • Ask attendees for their state legislative districts so you can be sure to match them with their own legislators.

  • Always contact all attendees the day before to confirm their participation (and ask them to bring a friend!)

Logistical Planning

Plan for a whole day event, with attendees arriving in the morning and departing at the end of the work day. You’ll want to spend some time at the beginning of the day gathering folks together and briefing them about the specific issues and bills that you will be lobbying about before groups actually start conducting their lobby visits. Make sure you plan times for meals and rest.

Sample Agenda

  • 9:30 - 10:00 Arrival + breakfast
  • 10:00 - 11:00 Briefing on bills and issues for lobby day visits
  • 11:00 - 11:30 Attendees meet in lobby teams and practice
  • 11:30 - 12:30 Groups conduct lobby visits
  • 12:30 - 1:30 Lunch
  • 1:30 - 4:30 Groups conduct lobby visits
  • 4:30 - 5:30 Debrief/ Social time
  • 5:30 Departure

Venue

While most of the activity will take place inside of your state capitol building, you may want to secure a venue to meet for your morning briefing and debrief, depending on how many people are attending. In some cases, it may be appropriate to just to meet outside the capitol building, but it can be more comfortable to have a room for folks to sit and listen to your morning briefing. If possible, try to find a location that is closely located to the capitol building.

Scheduling Legislative Lobby Meetings

This is the most important, yet logistically heavy task. You should try as best as possible to schedule meetings with legislators or their legislative staff in advance. Once your date is set, you should call or email legislator offices to request a 15-20 minute appointment for your chosen date. You may not be able to schedule a meeting with every single legislator you want so try to prioritize legislators that are on the fence about your particular bill (if you know them). For those that you are unable to nail down an appointment, you can instruct your participants to try to drop in the office. It’s also okay to schedule multiple meetings for the same time since you will be dividing up your participants into teams.

Sample Email for Scheduling Lobby Meetings

Dear <NAME>,

Indivisible <STATE> is planning to host a Lobby Day on <DATE> to discuss the issues that are important to the constituents of our state. Specifically, we are hope to discuss <BILL NUMBER> to urge <REPRESENTATIVE NAME> to <SUPPORT/OPPOSE> this legislation because <BRIEF REASON>.

Is there a 15-20 minute time period between <TIME WINDOW> on <DATE> that we would be able to meet with you or the appropriate staff member in your office?

We appreciate the opportunity to meet with your office on <DATE> to discuss the important matters facing our state.

Sincerely,
<YOUR NAME>
<INDIVISIBLE GROUP>

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Forming Lobby Teams and Schedules

After you confirm your RSVPs, you should divide your attendees into lobby teams of about 4-5 people per team. Try to prioritize geographical diversity in your lobby team so that each team seems to represent a wide variety of areas in your state. Distribute your scheduled appointments so that each team has approximately the same number of scheduled appointments. When assigning meetings, try to ensure that constituents get the opportunity to meet their own legislator’s offices.

Morning Briefing

Your morning briefing will set the stage for your lobby day. You may want to consider kicking off the briefing with some keynote speakers. For example, you could invite the legislator who is sponsoring the legislation you are there to lobby for, an expert in the field, or a directly impacted individual. Inviting keynote speakers to your briefing is also a great way to get media coverage for your lobby day.

After your keynote speakers, be sure to ask any press to leave so you can focus on the nuts and bolts training for the lobby day. In your training, you should be sure to cover:

  • Background on the issue and the problem that the bill is trying to solve

  • What the bill actually does

  • Main talking points and arguments for why this bill is necessary/important

  • Main opposition talking points and rebuttals

  • Training for how to do an effective lobby visit

Creating Materials for Your Lobby Visits

You will need to create several different materials for your lobby day. For each legislative office, you should prepare a packet for the lobby team to leave behind. Each participant should also have a packet of materials. You may also consider making a powerpoint for your morning briefing that discusses the main talking points and includes tips for good lobby visits.

Legislator leave-behind packet

Each team should leave behind some materials with the legislative office:

  • Fact sheet about each bill you discuss (not more than 2 bills max)

  • Any research or news articles that support your position, especially useful are editorials from papers that cover members’ districts

Participant folders

Be sure your participants have all of the materials they need:

  • Agenda for the day (customized by attendee based on lobby team)

  • Legislative office room numbers (map of building if available)

  • Bill talking points (overview of arguments to be made about bill)

  • Fact Sheet (same as in legislator packet)

  • Meeting report back forms (to be filled out after every visit so you can track the progress of the meetings)

Consider Holding a Rally

If you are able to draw a large attendance to your lobby day (e.g. 30+ people), you might consider kicking your lobby day off with a rally or other visible event in front of the capitol building to draw media and press attention to your event. Here are some things to consider when planning a rally:

  • Find out if there are other events happening in front of the capitol on the same day. Try to avoid conflict because other events may suck media attention away from your event.

  • Get a permit for your event. Most capitol grounds’ require a permit for an event.

  • Invite notable speakers to your rally (e.g. legislators, experts, impacted individuals).

  • Make sure you have a way to amplify sound, whether it be through a megaphone or a podium and sound system.

  • Ensure that you have good visuals for any photos (e.g. banners, posters, signs).

  • Reach out to press to get them to cover your rally.

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Getting media attention

If you’re hosting a lobby day, you should absolutely let local reporters and TV producers know to get the event some media attention. Read our resources about how to get press to cover your event and how to write effective press releases and media advisories.

Most reporter’s emails or phone numbers can be found online. Reach out to them - especially if an expert or impacted individual will be speaking at the lobby day. Introduce yourself, the organization you’re a part of and what you are trying to accomplish. Provide the reporters with an overview of your plan for the lobby day and any background that could be useful if they are not familiar with the issue. If you can mention something that makes your event stand out (good visuals, specific speaker, high public turnout, part of a larger political narrative, etc.) make sure to flag it. Oftentimes, TV producers will be more interested if they know an event will have good visuals or a lot of people so make sure to specifically flag this when it’s applicable.

During the lobby day, be sure to take lots of pictures and encourage your participants to do the same. Create a uniform #hashtag and make sure participants are posting about it using the hashtag. Tag the local reporters you follow in your posts.

Introduce yourself in person to any reporters that cover your event and ensure they have what they need for their stories. Reporters might want to ask follow up questions so it is good to exchange contact information. Send reporters (even those that didn’t show up to the event) any photos, video clips or quotes that they could use in their reporting.