BoardSource has published this excellent guide for board members to learn more about how to work with their legislators.
One of the most rewarding things about serving as a nonprofit board member is the opportunity it affords to help create positive change.
Board members who are hesitant to get involved in their organization’s advocacy or lobbying efforts, however, may be missing out on a tool that can be very useful in advancing the cause they believe in.
One way that board members can stand for their missions is by meeting with legislators about important issues impacting their organization. Oftentimes, board members’ connections or standing in the community can help advance a meeting request. However, a board member’s role does not end after the meeting has been scheduled.
These tips can help board members adequately prepare to ensure the meeting is successful.
WHERE TO START
1) Fully understand your organization’s mission, programs, and constituents, and how public policy impacts your ability to serve the community. 2) Monitor public policy proposals at the local, state, and federal levels that could advance or harm your mission. Become familiar with the individuals leading the charge. 3) Strategically select legislators your organization should target and inform about the work your organization does in the community. 4) Identify the board member(s) most appropriate to take the lead in forming relationships with legislators based on personality, standing in the community, or career position. 5) Ask for a meeting. It is best to start with a formal email to the legislator’s office, then follow up with a phone call. However, if possible, making an appointment in person is the most effective method. Request a 30-minute meeting, but expect to only have 15 minutes with the legislator.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A SUCCESSFUL MEETING WITH A LEGISLATOR
Once you’ve identified the legislators your organization should target, the next step is to set up a meeting. To build a strong relationship with the legislator, you must be fully prepared for the first meeting.
Learn from more seasoned board members.
Whether you are a newly elected or a more experienced board member, identify a long-tenured board member to serve as a mentor for you when planning your meeting with a legislator. Simply by being with the organization for a longer period of time, he or she may have valuable insights into how to best discuss its work and accomplishments.
Your mentor can also help you practice your presentation and target legislators who are interested in learning about the organization.
Invest in building strong relationships early.
It can take time to develop a partnership with a legislator that results in him or her advocating for your organization and providing the support you need. Don’t expect too much too quickly, and work to establish a good foundation early on. Oftentimes, targeting recently elected legislators, especially ones in the minority party, can pay dividends later on. Additionally, don’t forget the aides and staffers. They will likely be the individuals you communicate with most frequently, so building a relationship with them is important as well.
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By BoardSource on Jan 23, 2021 in Nonprofit Boards