We are facing devastating climate change and a massive global extinction crisis. Solving these crises requires systemic change in our society, and that change needs to happen quickly. If you want to be part of creating this systemic change, one of the best ways to do so is through lobby meetings with elected officials. Lobby meetings are a tool that, when used correctly, can create fantastic momentum for change.
What is a lobby meeting?
When one or more people meet with an elected official in order to influence their position on an issue, that’s a lobby meeting. You can lobby your U.S. representatives or senators, your state legislators, your city council members, or anyone else who was elected to represent you. Lobbying can help address local environmental issues, like preserving wildlife areas or increasing renewable energy in a city, or national issues, like passing a federal climate action plan.
Why are they powerful?
Elected officials usually want to stay in office. Most are highly motivated by a desire to get re-elected. This means that they want to take action that is popular with their constituents — people who live in their district — because constituents are potential voters. Lobby meetings demonstrate that a particular issue is important to constituents. A well-organized lobby meeting can make an elected official take real action on an important environmental issue.
Lobby meetings are most effective when:
- You have clear demands. Instead of asking broadly for “climate action” or “environmental protection,” good demands are specific and measurable. For example, we might ask an elected official to introduce or support a bill or allocate more money to an important program. What we want to avoid is letting our elected officials make vague promises that they won’t feel compelled to keep.
- A large group of supporters shows up. There is strength in numbers; the more people in a lobby meeting, the better. A big meeting will make an elected official take notice because it shows that a lot of constituents care about the issue.
- You can demonstrate that the community is behind the issue. Showing that the wider community is on board can go a long way. Collecting petition signatures, getting local businesses or nonprofit organizations to sign on to a letter supporting the demands, or even posts on social media can help prove that there is public support for something. This kind of work takes extra time, but it makes lobby meetings exponentially more powerful.
How can you get involved?
There are two ways you can get involved in lobbying your elected officials about important environmental issues. The first is to link up with an environmental group that organizes lobby meetings. For example, the Endangered Species Coalition organizes the Stop Extinction Challenge every year in August, a massive lobby day where constituents meet with dozens of U.S. Senators on a single day to talk about critical wildlife issues. This type of coordinated nationwide event can create great momentum for environmental bills. By joining an existing organization or effort, you can make an important contribution to environmental advocacy.
The second way to get involved in lobbying is to organize meetings on your own. It may seem intimidating at first, but you can make a real difference in your community, your state, or our nation.
How can you organize a lobby meeting?
Decide what your demands are and who you will lobby. You can find contact information for your elected representatives online.
- Reach out to the offices of your city council members, state legislators, and federal representatives. You can usually contact them by email or phone to schedule a meeting time with the elected official or one of their staff. You may have to follow up to get a response.
- Once you have a meeting scheduled, you’ll want to recruit as many people as possible. Remember — strength in numbers.
- You’ll need to prepare an agenda for the meeting, and you may want to prepare talking points to share with the other attendees. You and your team may want to practice what you’ll say beforehand, to make the meeting as smooth, polished, and on-topic as possible.
- Dress professionally, show up on time, and attend your lobby meeting! Tell your elected official what your demands are. If you brought any petitions, letters, postcards, or anything to show community support, be sure to share those. Remain calm, cool, collected, and polite at all times.
Lobbying is a key tool for creating systemic change on environmental issues. With the climate crisis and extinction crisis worsening, there has never been a more crucial time to be politically engaged.
About the Author
Sarah Starman is currently the National Grassroots Organizer at the Endangered Species Coalition. She has been involved in grassroots organizing and advocacy for seven years and has worked on campaigns to stop offshore drilling, protect wildlife habitat, reduce plastic pollution, advance climate justice, and more.