It’s finally summer, and much like the temperature, the Park Champion initiative is heating up. NRPA members all over the country are inviting their U.S. Representatives and Senators to attend events in their communities that highlight their parks and recreation agencies and programming.
NRPA’s Public Policy team recently sat down with two expert Congressional staffers during the May Park Champion Webinar, “Speak Like An Advocate.” Here are some of their top tips on getting the attention of your federal elected officials:
1. In-person meetings with members of Congress and/or their staff are effective — especially when you work with news media and utilize social media
In-person meetings and events are one of the top preferred methods for reaching and informing members of Congress and their staff. Meetings and events are excellent ways to provide your U.S. Representatives and Senators with real-world examples on how federal legislation impacts local communities like yours. Events, like park dedications and summer meal program visits, can leave a particularly lasting impression on your federal elected officials. To increase the impact of your event, work with local media and take advantage of social media by inviting your local television stations and newspapers and posting plenty of photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
2. Follow up!
Congressional staffers are incredibly busy and receive hundreds, if not thousands, of emails a day. If you do not receive a response to your invitation or email communication, follow up! It will bring your request to the top of their inbox and the staffers will appreciate the reminder.
3. Lead your meeting with an ask
Lead your meetings by making a specific ask, such as requesting that your member of Congress support a specific bill that would benefit your community, like the Summer Meals Act of 2015. Leading with an ask sets the tone for the meeting, guides the conversation and allows the member of Congress and their staff to clearly understand what you want them to do for you.
4. Bring background materials to leave with the member of Congress’ staff
Always bring 1-2 pages of background materials to leave behind with the staffer. Be sure to provide staffers with any fact sheets about your agency or community. Be sure to email any important facts or figures not included in the leave behind materials to the staffer following your meeting.
5. Meeting with staff is important and has an impact
Meeting with a member of Congress is a great way to leave a lasting impact, but if their schedule simply doesn’t allow an appearance, continuing the meeting or event with a member of their staff can be just as effective. Congressional staffers do a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes legwork on Capitol Hill, including writing federal legislation and rallying support for a bill. Having their ear means having the ear of your member of Congress.
Are you interested in inviting your member of Congress out to your community this summer? Learn more about the Park Champion initiative.
What would you show and tell your member of Congress if they were to visit your community? Leave a comment below or tweet us @NRPA_News using #ParkChampion.
Jayni Rasmussen is NRPA's Advocacy and Outreach Specialist and our Park Champions champion.