Grassroots Lobbying Via Advocacy Teams
by Louise Lansberry
Founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) lobbies Congress and the Administration to advance peace, justice, opportunity and environmental stewardship. FCNL fields an expert team of lobbyists on Capitol Hill and works with a grassroots network of tens of thousands of people across the country to advance policies and priorities established by a Governing Committee. FCNL is a nonpartisan organization that seeks to live the values of integrity, simplicity and peace as it builds relationships across political divides to move policies forward.
Three years ago FCNL established a new strategy for enabling people at the grassroots level to get involved. The goal is to get groups of Quakers (and non-Quakers) in a legislative district to work for change in a fairly systematic way. Called Advocacy Teams, these groups (6-10 people) first participate in a training program to learn how the Teams operate and what are the best strategies for lobbying their House member and two Senators. In addition, people begin to educate themselves regarding the particular issue that FCNL is focusing on at the time. This year that focus has been reducing the military budget so as to allow for a more moral budget that addresses the social safety net. Team members participate as well in a monthly call-in from the DC staff to learn about specific bills that may be coming up as well as hear from the experts on the issues.
Additional parts of the organizational set up include members who learn what other groups around the country are doing, and members who are working to set up times to meet with our Representative or Senators (more likely their staff). A major goal is to build relationships with the reps and staff by meeting with them several times a year so that they can get to know and trust us and we get to know them. Advocacy Teams want to learn what is important to the representatives and what motivates them to vote in a particular way. One other focus for the Teams is to get to know the editorial boards of local newspapers and other media in order to encourage them to take stands on issues we deem significant.
Surveys of hundreds of Congressional staff conducted by the Congressional Management Foundations confirms that in-person lobbying with members of Congress are the most effective way to influence policy decisions. As of November, 2017 there are 83 Advocacy Teams in 35 states involving some 1300 members.
If you have any interest in becoming a member of the Seattle group or forming a group outside of Seattle, feel free to get in touch with me. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-789-5565