Communicating with lawmakers
Seeking the advice and support of policymakers and elected officials is an important part of
advocating for children. The best way to do this is establishing relationships, a cornerstone for effective
Here are some guidelines for communicating effectively with legislators:
- Your word is your bond. Do not ever promise something you cannot deliver. Credibility is what you bring
to a relationship with any public official.
- Talk in terms they understand. Avoid acronyms, abbreviations, or "buzz words" that are not easily
understood by someone unfamiliar with your issue.
- Organize your presentation. Prepare an outline of your talking points in advance. Focus directly on the
issues you want to cover. Be brief and to the point. Legislators are busy and appreciate concise, well-organized
- Position papers should be short and concise. If at all possible, cover your issue in one page. Short
bullets or paragraphs are effective. Also, using a different color paper helps identify you or your organization
with your issue. Always have your name, address and telephone number on any position paper so they can follow
- Be informed. Never promote a position without first studying the facts and the arguments on both sides.
- Do not underestimate elected officials and policymakers. With rare exceptions, they are honest, intelligent,
hard working, and want to do the right thing. Your job is to inform them about your issue and position.
- Treat them as you would like to be treated. Put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand their outlook
and goals. This will help you better communicate your point.
- Be helpful. Do not let your first contact be when you want something. Invite lawmakers to be guests at
meetings.Keep in touch with them throughout the year.