July 2014 U.S. Poverty Action
Set Up Face-to-Face Meetings with Members of Congress in August and Include the “Real Experts” on Poverty
This month, we’re using the momentum created at the RESULTS International Conference to prepare for the next opportunity to push members of Congress on expanding economic mobility in America: meeting face-to-face with members of Congress during the August recess (August 4 – September 5). During these meetings, we will urge them to protect and expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit (CTC), and Financial Security Credit. As most RESULTS volunteers know, face-to-face visits between local constituents and members of Congress is the most effective way to influence policymakers. As confirmed by the Congressional Management Foundation (graph below) – 97 percent of Congressional staff said that in-person visits from constituents have the most influence, far more than paid lobbyists!
The face-to-face meetings are far more effective when those who have firsthand experience of poverty are there to make the conversation “real” and tell stories about how these programs make a difference.
Call the Scheduler to Set Up a Face-to-Face Lobby Meeting
For additional tips on how to schedule your face-to-face meeting, check out our Activist Milestone: Meet Face-to-Face with Your Member of Congress and our accompanying PowerPoint.
Research Shows Effective Advocacy Happens Back Home, and Stories Make a Difference
RESULTS has known for years that effective advocacy involves relationships with Congress, individual stories, and personalized communication. Similar to the research of the Congressional Management Foundation, the Advocacy Gap Report confirms what we’ve known all along – our model is effective. The report asked senior congressional staffers about which advocacy tactics work and don’t work. One of their findings said: “The majority of Hill staff we spoke with volunteered in-district activities as more important and influential than Washington, DC based activities. Rallies, constituent visits, and earned media were all mentioned specifically as tactics best based in-district for maximum impact.” Or, as Representative Jan Schakowsky said recently on a RESULTS National Conference Call:
I just love RESULTS, it’s a fantastic organization…The RESULTS volunteers that are coming to visit me now are just fantastic. All the people in the world are really lucky to have such hardworking and committed advocates working for their cause. I’ve met with RESULTS in the district and in Washington — it really makes a difference — I can’t emphasize that enough. Think about it, there are so many issues on every member of Congress' desk and even on their agenda. How do you lift something so important as this out of the pile? It’s because of the grassroots work that you do. I’ve been on both sides of the aisle as an organizer, as an activist, as a member of Congress. I think sometimes people on the activist and volunteer side aren’t aware of the impact it can make — but I am the living example of how much progress RESULTS has made in helping me be a better advocate.
In addition, one of the Advocacy Gap Report’s authors shared that personal stories that connect to something the member of Congress cares about are the single most effective tactic for moving a Member of Congress to support a policy. The research backs this up; stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts or figures alone. At this year’s RESULTS/REF International Conference, we once again had a session where “real experts” on poverty – those who have experienced poverty firsthand – told us their stories. Panelists included RESULTS Albuquerque volunteer and former Circles Leader LaNae Havens, Witness to Hunger Bonita Cuff, and Randi Schmidt of the Children’s Leadership Council. In addition, Michael Blake shared his powerful story of going, as his mother says, “from no house to The White House.” Many other RESULTS conference participants also shared their direct experience of poverty during conference sessions or while lobby meetings on Capitol Hill. Conference participants will tell you that these stories made a huge impact on them during their time in DC. As highlighted in anti-poverty publications recently, politicians writing anti-poverty legislation many times have no experience with poverty and it’s high time they stop making assumptions about poverty and start listening to the truth about it.
Up your Advocacy Game in August by Including “Real Experts” of Poverty in your Lobby Meetings
We’ll use the August recess to educate lawmakers about the realities of poverty in America and solutions that will actually make a difference in people’s lives. To maximize the impact you can create, include people in your lobby meetings who can speak to the issue of poverty from experience. Here are a few key steps to get started:
- Work with your group to brainstorm a list of people or organizations to reach out to. If you don’t have those connections, here are some potential allies to contact: Circles USA affiliates, Witnesses to Hunger, Community Action agencies, local Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs, food banks and food pantries, Head Start programs, faith communities, etc.
- Draft a Laser Talk to introduce yourself. Focus on what inspires you about RESULTS; tell a story about how you/your group have made a difference, and share about the difference it will make for them to share their expertise with policymakers.
- Pick up that phone – or even better, drop by in person – to start building those relationships with these new allies. Check out this blogpost on building relationships on our website for ideas of how to approach others to share their experiences.
- Create a plan and timeline to check in regularly with others in your RESULTS group about your outreach efforts.
- Once you have a “real expert” confirmed to attend a lobby meeting, schedule time with them to overview what to expect in the meeting and how they can share their story for maximum impact. We’ll share more resources to help train others to tell their stories in the coming weeks, and check out our Laser Talk PowerPoint and our PowerPoint on telling your story using "Public Narrative" for resources to help you train others.
On the July 2014 RESULTS National Conference Call, we’ll review the events at the recent RESULTS/REF International Conference with stories from groups across the country and talk about how we can all keep up the momentum from the conference over the next few months. The call is Saturday, July 12 at 2 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 by 1:58 pm ET.