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Working with Congress: Activist Milestone #11
Get Your Member of Congress to Take Leadership on One of Our Issues
This milestone is not for the faint of heart and doesn’t provide a neat set of practical steps to take . . . other than the complete array of Activist Milestones already available to you. At yet this milestone is very achievable!
Getting your member of Congress to take leadership on one of our issues requires the commitment to building a relationship and the courage to make requests as that relationship is being established.
As you build that relationship, it will be helpful to refer to what we call our Champion Scale. The scale will inform your journey toward a significant relationship with your legislator. Read how the actions of your legislators, both proactive and reactive, let you know where they are in the process of becoming a champion for our issues. Take some time to evaluate where each of your legislators is on this scale and use that knowledge to plan your next move.
Build the Relationship
If you have been moving through the Working with Congress Activist Milestones, you have already been hard at work building a solid working relationship with your member of Congress. Congratulations!
Next, think about where you have come to this point. Has your member of Congress now built a track record of voting in favor of our issues? Has he/she been consistent in adding his/her signature to a sign-on letter supporting one of our campaigns? Has your member responded positively to media you generate on our issues? If you are finding this to be the case, your legislator may be poised to take a significant leadership action on one of our issues if asked to do so.
Make the Ask
Watch for the opportunity to offer your member of Congress a powerful action related to the issue he/she has been consistently supporting. Is the time right to ask him/her to initiate a sign-on letter to ask for robust funding for one of our campaigns? Maybe now is the perfect time to offer him/her the chance to author a dear colleague letter that leads support for one of our issues. Frame the task as a partnership opportunity that you and your group will help facilitate with up to date background information and research, as well as support back in the district through media that you and your group will promptly generate. Consider having handy a packet of media pieces you have had published in the previous year, along with a packet of issue-focused research material from our website. This will help your legislator know you are serious about real partnership.
If the legislator is resistant to your request, simply ask why and see if you can quickly address those concerns. Perhaps a deeper conversation, with more information, is all that is necessary to clear the way for your member of Congress to take the leadership action you have in mind. However, if your legislator remains resistant, stay cordial and collegial; through vigilance, persistence, and the continual building of the relationship, you’ll find another opportunity for leadership to present to your member of Congress.