In the world of effective advocacy, building strong and lasting relationships with policymakers and staff is critical for success. If you live outside of DC (as most stakeholders do), in-person visits are a great way to explain the urgency of an issue and meet a decisionmaker in person. However, what matters is what happens long after you’ve made the initial introduction through in-district experiences, thoughtful follow-up after fly-ins, and consistent updates that keep advocacy efforts top of mind.
Here are a few ways to be effective long after you fly home:
Advocacy beyond the beltway: While decisions might be made in DC, the heart of policymaking often lies in lawmakers' home districts. Engaging with your elected officials in their state or district offers a unique opportunity to connect the issue to their constituents. Organizing local events and industry roundtables allows for face-to-face interaction that can build a deeper understanding of your policy ask – far more than a 20-to-30-minute conversation in DC. By bringing policymakers closer to the constituents they represent, you can establish a foundation of trust that goes beyond typical DC-based advocacy interactions.
The power of follow-up: After the energy and momentum of a fly-in event in Washington, DC, it's easy to let those connections fade. However, the real work begins with what comes after those initial conversations. Promptly sending personalized follow-up emails reiterating the key points discussed during the fly-in keeps your issue top of mind. This step lays the groundwork for ongoing engagement, allowing for more substantial conversations in the future. The goal is to not only speak to staff once a year during your organization’s annual fly-in.
Keeping your ask alive and relevant: Staff in DC are busy and staying top-of-mind can be a full-time job. However, a small step to being seen as a reliable stakeholder is regularly providing updates on your cause, whether it be through newsletters, policy briefs, reports, or status updates.
Celebrating Their Wins: If the congressional or administrative office you met with takes a step forward aligned with your ask, make sure to follow up with a thank you - either through an email, statement of support, formal letter, or event back in the district. Showing that you’re paying attention to this work builds goodwill and credibility for future work together.