Political advocacy is about developing stronger relationships with elected officials. These relationships are built through consistent communication — beyond just asking your legislator to support a specific bill or voicing your disapproval over a vote. It is favorable to connect with legislators, even when no crisis exists.
Do you know there are legislators out there that never hear from conservation advocates? This means that they may not see firsthand the great work that conservation organizations are doing on the ground and may not understand why conservation policies are beneficial to the communities in their district.
Want to help? Connect with Legislators!
- You will need to know which legislators serve your organization’s service area. Click here and enter your address.
- Once you have identified your legislator(s), make an initial connection:
- Write a letter, introduce yourself and your organization
- Include a short story or anecdote that encapsulates your organization’s work (a recent landowner protecting his land; a conversation with a supporter, etc.)
- Send photos of places that you have protected in your district
- Make an appointment to see your legislator in their district office. There is no need to be nervous about that initial meeting. You’re just sharing news about your organization’s work with the legislator and their staff and helping them to understand why land conservation is important. Bring materials like newsletters, annual reports, photos, letters from landowners, and others to share your story.
- Try to meet with the legislator or their staff at least 1-2 times a year. Make a point of sharing your organization’s success stories of the past months.
- Develop working relationships with legislative staff. You should know which staffer is best to call regarding various issues and which staffers the legislator relies on for their decision-making.
- Invite your legislator(s) to your organization’s events. A few things to consider:
- If you want the legislator to attend, you’ll need to do more than send an invite. You’ll want to make a personal connection.
- Avoid dates the legislature is in session (see calendar at legis.state.pa.us);
- Keep in mind that the legislator’s calendar can fill up quickly – the more advance notice, the better.
- In election years, inviting the legislator while not inviting their opponent(s) may be perceived as an endorsement under federal election laws (learn more ).
- Clearly state the expectations of the legislator’s role in the event; for example, some legislators may expect to speak at an event if they plan to attend.
- Make arrangements with the staffer who is responsible for the legislator’s calendar.
- Host your legislator(s) by planning an event that capitalizes on a specific project or use of state funding.
- Invite your legislator(s) on a private tour of a conserved property. Take lots of photos.
- Consider bringing along landowners and supporters when you meet with your legislator(s). Encourage them to tell their story of why they protected their land or support your organization. Limit the number of people to 2-3.
- Thank your legislator for supporting programs and policies that support your work. Send a letter or make a phone call. If it isn’t an election year and you’d like to thank your legislator publicly, consider an article in your newsletter or on your website, a letter to the editor , and a post on social media.
- When an advocacy issue arises, contact your legislator(s) to vote to support conservation. Even though your legislator may have a fantastic record on conservation issues, the reality is that pressures within the body of the legislature can be very strong. They will not know how you feel about a particular issue unless you pick up the phone and call.
- Add your legislator and key staffers to your mailing list so they can receive your newsletters and other important materials.
- Stay vigilant! You can stay informed by signing up for alerts. When an issue arises, pick up the phone and call your legislator.
- Keep us updated on your efforts.
- See additional tips for how to communicate with legislators.