Know the Staff.
Often, the staff of a legislator may be the most knowledgeable person in the legislator’s office about your issues. Find out which staff person works on your issue and get to know her. Inmany cases state or local legislators will have one staff person or none. Members of Congress usually have many staff. Send staff your information packet. Meet with them as appropriate.On occasion, invite them to speak to your members.
Use the telephone.
Make telephone calls to your elected officials about pending legislation, regulations, or other priority public policy matters to describe how a change in law would affect your programsand constituents. Urge your members and volunteers to do likewise by mail or broadcast fax.
Write a letter.
Recent surveys show that a well-written letter from a constituent is one of the most influential ways of communicating with a legislator. Be sure to include how your members, community and those you serve would be affected by a proposed change in the law. Send a copy to the legislator’s staff and to the chair of your public policy committee.
Email is not necessarily effective.
Recent surveys show that some legislators treat email with the same value as a regular paper letter and others treat it with low value, like bulk mail communications. When in doubt, fax your letter to avoid postal delays and stand out from email messages.
Initiate grassroots support.
In two hours you can write an action alert to your volunteers, donors, members and constituents urging them to contact their elected representatives about policies and pending legislation affecting your cause. Remember to thank those supporters who do contact their legislators in response to your request.
Your organization has expertise that is needed by legislators before they make decisions about the budget, regulations, or new laws. Find out when the appropriate committees in your state legislature are holding hearings on subjects related to your mission and ask for permission to provide testimony in-person. Remember to include your testimony, data about the impact of your services along with your recommendation for action on the public policy issue.
Demonstrate your organization’s effectiveness and values.
Provide a one-hour tour of your programs for one of your elected officials. Be sure to have a board member on site to show their support.
Cover all the bases.
Contact local, state or federal government agency staffs that you work with to let them know how pending legislation or regulations will affect your ability to deliver your programs.Write a similar letter to your Governor.
Share information and be inclusive in decision-making.
Convene a small meeting of your key board members, constituents and volunteers with one of your elected officials to explain how pending public policy may affect your constituents and community.
Give credit when credit is due.
Write a letter of congratulations to one or more of your elected officials when they act in a helpful way to your cause. Remember to thank all those who volunteered time and money to help your public policy efforts.
Provide leadership opportunities.
Host a speaking opportunity to provide an opportunity for an elected official to articulate his or her support for your cause and position on important legislation. You may also want to delegate the tasks of developing an analysis, organizing constituents and/or others served by your organization, to a volunteer who has demonstrated reliability and leadership in public policy work.
Inform the media.
Write a letter to the editor of your local or regional newspaper about how a pending public policy issue would affect your cause.
Build relationships with the media.
The media can be a powerful ally in your public policy efforts. In one hour you can meet with the writer who covers the beat most closely related to the work of your organization. Also meet with a member of the editorial board of your local paper to pitch a story idea about community needs that your organization confronts through its public policy work.
Inform and educate your public.
Write an article for your next newsletter about a public policy issue and how it may affect your cause. Be sure to let your readership know how they can be supportive and receive more information
Learn how your community ranks in academic attainment, income stability and health. Use the United Way Common Good Forecaster, a powerful online tool that lets people see for themselves how improving the education level has a positive impact on several key economic and social measures.
Engage With Your Community
Host a community conversation with your friends, coworkers or neighbors. Learn about what people say are their aspirations for your community and talk about how you can work together to address challenges.