Thank you for stepping up to be a Park Champion. As a Park Champion, you know effective advocacy begins with establishing a relationship with your members of Congress. The best way to begin or to build on a relationship is to meet with your members of Congress and/or their staff in person. Hosting an event is a great way to initiate this meeting and to leave a lasting impression, all while highlighting your park and recreation agency, facilities, and programs.
This year, NRPA's goal is to have at least one Park Champion event in all 50 states! Help us meet this goal by hosting a Park Champion event by using this toolkit.
We’re Here For You
If you ever have questions, need help reaching a Congressional office, or just want to brainstorm ideas, reach out to the Park Champion initiative coordinator, Jayni Rasmussen, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brainstorming Your Park Champion Event
- Be Creative: You have creative direction of your event; there is no playbook. However, keep in mind that the purpose of this event is to connect with your members of Congress.
- Be Effective: It is always helpful to educate your U.S. representative and senators about parks and recreation issues, but be strategic. The event should make a connection between federal policy and your projects. Ideally, your event will highlight a program over which your federal elected official has the most influence.
- Be Cooperative: Use the NRPA Connect group to coordinate with your fellow Park Champions. If there is more than one Park Champion in a Congressional district or state, tap into your fellow Park Champions’ existing connections and skills or combine your time and resources to create a larger event.
- Be Efficient: Do you already have an exciting event on your calendar? Build on it! Events are most effective when representatives and senators can interact with members of the community and see the value and popularity of parks and recreation. Whether it’s a park dedication, a program kick-off, or fun event, invite your members of Congress.
Planning Your Event
Here are some helpful tips on planning your Park Champion event:
Before choosing an event to invite a member of Congress to, first consult the 2017 Congressional calendar. Your member of Congress is far more likely to attend the event on weekends or when Congress is in not in legislative session, often referred to as "recess." If you cannot change the event date or choose another event, you should still invite your members of Congress, because their staff may be able to attend instead.
Be sure to research your members of Congress to see which congressional committees they are members of. Committee membership is a gauge of interest and influence. Members may be more likely to attend if the event you invite them to aligns with their interest and is relevant to legislation on NRPA’s legislative platform.
Example 1: If your U.S. senator is a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, consider inviting him or her to tour your USDA summer or after-school meal and snack program.
Example 2: If your U.S. representative is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, consider inviting him or her to tour your Land and Water Conservation Fund-funded project.
Click here to research your members of Congress and their committees (use the “Find your elected officials” tool)
Inviting Your Member of Congress
- Call the Washington, D.C. offices of your members of Congress and ask for the names and email addresses of the:
- Legislative Assistant (LA) handling parks and recreation
Click here to find phone numbers for the Washington, D.C. office of your members of Congress (use the “Find Your Elected Officials” tool).
- Prepare an email invitation
- Send the email invitation to the office Scheduler and Legislative Assistant
- If you don’t hear back within a week, follow-up regularly until you receive a response
Tip: Your members of Congress want to hear from you! However, their offices receive hundreds of emails a day. Follow-up is the key to receiving a response to an invitation — and Congressional staffers appreciate the reminder.
Preparing For The Visit
- Confirm with Congressional staff that the ember and/or their staff are able to attend, confirm the date, time and location, and make sure you know how much time you have with the member so you can make the most of their visit
- Identify participants and speakers for the event: State and local officials, agency staff, and community members
- Prepare activities for the member of Congress and their staff — for example, if your event is a park dedication, have the senator/representative participate in the ribbon cutting
- Visit the site ahead of time and make appropriate arrangements
- Arrange for dedicated staff to be on-site to take photos, or consider hiring a photographer
- Develop a detailed agenda
- Prepare informational materials on how your agency has benefited from federal parks and recreation legislation to share with the staff of your member of Congress
Rally The Media
- Confirm with the offices of all attending officials that it is okay to engage local media regarding their visit
- Coordinate on media materials and outreach to media with the press staff of the attending officials
- After confirming the approval of all attending offices, draft a press release
- Send the press release to local media outlets, including local access television stations
- Prior to the event, develop and distribute media materials to attending media outlets
During The Event
- Pay close attention to time and stay on schedule
- Welcome and introduce the member of Congress or their staff
- Share how federal parks and recreation legislation has benefited or could benefit your community
- Encourage the member of Congress to interact with community members and participate in activities
- Create good photo opportunities and take plenty of photos
- Capture quotes and comments made by the member of Congress
- Use social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) to distribute visit updates in real-time to your community — make sure to use the hashtag #ParkChampions and tag the member of Congress and, if possible, NRPA at @NRPA_News
After The Event
- Send out a press release recapping the visit and include any photos or quotes after confirming the approval of all attending officials
- Use social media to publicize the event
- Send photos, quotes, and takeaways to NRPA so we can share your story
- Send thank-you notes via email to all attending officials and staff
Park Champion Advocacy Event Checklist
- Review the NRPA legislative platform
- Identify your U.S. senator and representatives (Use the “Find Your Elected Officials” tool)
- Research the Congressional committees your federal elected officials belong to
- Brainstorm event ideas on the Park Champion NRPA Connect group
- Contact Jayni Rasmussen at NRPA with your ideas
- Use the Park Champion Advocacy Toolkit to invite your members of Congress and their staff to your agency
- Follow-up to ensure a response to your invitation
- Invite media to your event
- Host your Park Champion event
- Share photos on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
- Follow-up and thank your members of Congress and their staff for attending
Many Ways To Be A Park Champion
You can be a Park Champion even if you can't hold a Park Champion event. NRPA's Public Policy team is hard at work in Washington, D.C. tracking legislation important for parks and recreation on Capitol Hill, so we'll be in communication with you to enlist your help when it’s needed most. Here are some of the ways we’ll be asking for your help:
- Phone Calls : Call your elected official’s Washington, D.C. or district office
- Individual Letters : Draft and send letters via e-mail to your elected official
- Sign-on Letters: Send a letter to an elected official that the NRPA Public Policy team or a Park Champion has authored
- In-District Meetings : Meet with your elected official and/or their staff in their district offices