Assuming your organization does not have a professional lobbyist, all of your lobbying work will need to take place at the grassroots level. That is, the members of the organization must carry the program. Members will not only be responsible for developing the organization’s public policy agenda, but will also be responsible for carrying it out. In this case, telephones, letters, e-mail, coalitions, and a motivated membership are your best tools. Below are some pointers on creating an issue-oriented grassroots lobbying plan.
Make sure you and your membership understand the issue at hand.
Take the time to provide your members with research and background regarding the issue.
- What exactly is being proposed? Is there specific language available?
- Why is this important to each member of the association?
- Who is pushing for this change?
- Has this change been attempted before?
- Have similar changes been made in surrounding localities or states?
Be sure that your members support the association’s involvement in the issue.
- If your members do not agree with the position the association takes, it may lead to an inconsistent message from your association.
- If possible, provide ample time for your members to weigh in on the issue through meetings, conference calls, or emails.
- Do you have a specific task force or committee that will be evaluating legislative proposals?
Develop an action plan.
Who will make the decisions on your issue?
- Is this a local, state or federal issue?
- Is the proposal going to a subcommittee or workgroup prior to a full vote?
- Prioritize your time based on who is going to be voting on the issue first.
Who do you need to talk to before that decision is made?
- Contact the legislator proposing the change.
- Find out what motivated the change.
- Was this proposal an idea that came solely from the legislator?
- Was this proposal in response to a problem faced by an individual constituent?
- Is there an association or group that asked the legislator to make the proposal for them?
- Make sure he/she is aware of your position on the proposal and why.
- Use this as an opportunity to help educate the legislator about the impacts of this proposed change.
- Find out what motivated the change.
- Contact the chairman of the committee or workgroup to ensure he/she is aware of your position.
- Finally, contact other legislators who will be voting on the issue.
What is the timeline?
- The earlier you can get involved, the better.
- When will the proposal first be heard?
- What steps must it go through before being voted on for final approval?
- Is there a specific deadline for public comment?
- The timeline for local issues might be shorter than that for statewide issues, so plan accordingly.
What is the message?
- Are you trying to stop the proposal, support the proposal, or are you simply trying to make a modification to the proposal?
- Make sure legislators understand the overall impact of this legislation, not just what it will do to property managers.
- Will this change have a social or economic impact in your area?
- What other groups will be affected by this change?
- How will this change impact the average citizens in a district or jurisdiction?
Who will deliver the message, and how will it be delivered?
- Does the responsibility fall onto a single member such as the Association Chairman or Gov. Affairs Committee Chairman?
- Do you have a committee that can travel to the meetings together?
- Will you have time to meet with each legislator before the vote?
- Are you prepared to speak in front of a committee or council meeting?
- Have you delivered a written letter or set of bullet points to legislators outlining your position?
If possible, form a coalition.
- Coalitions are more effective politically than individual people, businesses, or associations. There is power in numbers.
- Coalitions can be made with members of the same industry, with many businesses representing many industries, or with non-business single issue groups (Sierra Club for example).
Be prepared to meet with legislators at the state level prior to the beginning of the legislative session.
- Forge a relationship with elected officials ahead of time so you are not starting from scratch when critical legislation comes up.
- Schedule a brief meeting at their office and make sure they are aware of which members will be attending the meeting.
- Take this opportunity to educate them about NARPM and the role of a property manager.
- Let them know of any potential changes affecting property managers that you see coming up in the next legislative session.
- Address elected officials by their appropriate title (Senator X, Representative Y, Delegate Z…).
- Understand that their schedules are very full so there may only be time for a 15-20 minute meeting.