BE YOUR OWN LOBBYIST.
Direct lobbying to local, state and federal stakeholders is within your reach.
Lobbying trips to Sacramento or D.C. may seem like a job for professionals, but UCLA students have a number opportunities to visit lawmakers' offices directly. Meeting face-to-face with government officials ensures they’ll pay close attention to your concerns and, with the right preparation, leaves a lasting impression.
Lobbying as part of a larger constituency can increase the effectiveness of your visit. Any undergraduate student can sign up to accompany the EVP staff on a legislative trip, such as the UCSA Student Lobby Conference that takes place every spring in Sacramento. UCLA student groups can also easily apply for grants via the Bruin Defenders program, a travel fund under the USAC EVP Office that allows students to plan independent lobbying trips. If a student group receives a grant, the EVP office will work with the students to guide their legislative research and enhance their lobbying skills.
While not as common, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local district office to lobby there. It is also totally possible to schedule individual meetings with your representative by calling their office and speaking with the scheduler. Keep in mind you may end up meeting with an office staffer rather than the representative him/herself. Ask the scheduler to speak with the office member who works on the specific issue you’d like to discuss, or the office’s legislative director.
Here’s a checklist for preparing for a meeting with a representative:
- Utilize the representative’s website and news sources to thoroughly research where they stand on the issue of your concern.
- Outline your argument. You can augment it with printouts of data reports, articles, or other supporting materials to present to the official, as well as with personal stories. Remember to rehearse!
- If you’re visiting with a group, delegate tasks and talking points.
Guidelines for the meeting:
- Arrive early and appropriately dressed.
- Thank the official for their time at both the beginning and end of your visit.
- Feel free to break the ice with some lighter conversation before you dive into the issues, but be mindful that your time is limited.
- Bring materials to take notes on the official’s responses — remember that a good visit is a conversation, not just a presentation from your end.
- Conclude the meeting with a plan for moving forward.
- Exchange business cards/contact information to facilitate follow-ups.
- Above all, remain respectful. Burning bridges does not lead to positive change!
- Within a day of your meeting, send a follow up email to your representative recapping what you discussed with them/their staff and thank them again.
Q: How do I sign up to join EVP lobbying trips?
Q: What if the representative’s schedule is booked?
A: Keep trying! With persistence, you will eventually find a way in.
Q: How long should speeches be? How should they be formatted? Are there any examples?
A: If working in a group, you might not have as much time to present your speech, but don’t worry! Being concise is truly one of the best ways to get your message across. There is no set way on how you have to present your message, but starting with a brief introduction, presenting statistics on your issue, then sharing a personal story or opinion and ending with a call to action is an effective and possible outline. Check out an example of a lobbying speech here.
Q: What if the representative or staffer does not respond to my follow up email?
A: Office staff are extremely busy, but it is their job to get back to you. Allow them up to 9 business days to get back to you, and if no one has returned your email by then, call the office. Let them know when you met with them, who you met with (name of the staffer, since someone else will likely be answering the phone), what the issue was about, and if that person is available to talk to you. If they are, ask to be contacted directly when something new happens on the issue. If not, leave a message saying you would sincerely appreciate an email or phone update on the issue and what the office is doing to ensure your opinions are being listened to.