Constituent-centered advocacy over the years – the data behind RESULTS’ tried-and-true model
It has been almost a decade since I attended a webinar hosted by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) focusing on effective ways to communicate with members of Congress. Looking to a poll of over 250 Congressional staff, the researchers affirmed something that we, the staff and volunteers of RESULTS, already knew: personal communication and strong relationships with constituent advocates makes a difference in Washington.
Fast forward to 2017, an unprecedented period of activism after the 2016 election. CMF released a larger report that included 12 years of research from over 1,200 Congressional staffers. Key findings were:
- Face-to-face meetings with constituents have a huge influence on policy decisions – more than any other advocacy strategy.
- Constituents and organizations representing constituents who form relationships with staff and aides are highly valued by members of Congress.
- Constituents who were trained in advocacy strategy, tactics, and relationship building fared better in their interactions with Congressional staff compared to typical constituents.
The report also provided lessons for advocacy organizations that confirmed the effectiveness of RESULTS’ tried-and-true advocacy model. They found that an approach that centers constituent voices and their lived experiences leads to stronger relationships and greater influence with Congressional staff. The report further highlights that constituents who were trained in advocacy techniques, strategies, and tactics were able to build the strongest relationships.
So, what happens when in-person, face-to-face meetings become virtual Zoom meetings as they have this past year? A 2020 CMF report dug into this question with a new survey looking at Congressional communication in today’s all-virtual world. The survey of nearly 250 Congressional staff revealed a heartening finding that 89% of respondents agreed with the statement “My Member/Senator is more open to using technology to engage with constituents than they used to be.”
RESULTS advocates wasted no time increasing their comfort with virtual meeting technology as interactions with Congress became increasingly digital. Holding more than 500 meetings with Congressional staff in 2020 – mostly virtual – the tenacity and dedication of RESULTS volunteers influenced the largest U.S. commitment to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in history. RESULTS advocates also successfully pushed Congress to pass the emergency COVID-19 relief package in the final days of December, which included funding for low-income renters and struggling families of color, disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
The time our advocates spend doing this work matters, and their impact is enormous. With two months remaining in the First 100 Days of the new Congress and Administration, the need for constituent advocacy is extremely important. Keep up the hard work and get those [virtual] meetings!