Advocacy 101

Friends at Disability Day on the Hill
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Advocacy 101 – Tips for a Successful Meeting with your Legislator

Tip 1: It’s all about relationships! Life at the Legislative Plaza can be a lot like high school. The more people you know and the better you know them, the greater the influence you can have. Just like in high school, there are certain movers and shakers who you really want to build a good relationship with and these might include party leaders and chair persons of key committees.

Tip 2: It’s always better to build a relationship with a legislator before you need to ask their help with legislation. It’s not unusual for an organization to spend time building relationships a year or more before they have a bill that they want to introduce.

Tip 3: Don’t mix issues. If you are working with a legislator, then you want to focus on a single issue or bill, two at most. Don’t risk confusing or alienating a legislator by bringing up unrelated legislation.

Meeting with your legislator 

  • Courtesy - Always be courteous to the staff members. 
  • The Introduction - When speaking to the legislator or staff member, quickly identify yourself, the issue you would like to discuss, and the fact that you are from the legislator's district.
  • Prepare Ahead of Time - Write down key points to discuss in the meeting as well as any questions you might have.  Appointments move quickly, sometimes lasting only 5 to 15 minutes so be prepared to make your case simply and efficiently. 
  • Don’t forget to listen - The appointment is for both of you to talk and share ideas.
  • Agree to Disagree - Recognize there are legitimate differences of opinion. While you may differ on one piece of legislation, you may agree on others. Likewise, don't condemn your legislators as being too far to the left or to the right. Politics involves the art of compromise.
  • Thank You - At the end of the meeting thank the legislator and/or the staff for their time and later send a Thank You note to reinforce the conversation and build on the relationship..
  • HAVE FUN! - Take pictures, shake hands, and make memories.  With each meeting you will become more confident and effective.  


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Tennessee Disability Coalition

The Coalition is an alliance of organizations and individuals who have joined to promote the full and equal participation of men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. We work together to advocate for public policy that ensures self-determination, independence, empowerment, and inclusion for people with disabilities in areas such as accessibility, education, healthcare, housing, and voting rights.

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