Before the General Assembly Starts: Find your peeps!
Make a list of everyone you can contact with legislative alerts. Include staff, Board members, volunteers, donors, former clients, current clients, allied professionals, women’s groups, students, and all of these people’s families, friends and children.
Some folks may not want to get every alert. Determine how you will divvy up the work. Maybe by topic – who is just interested in children’s issues, who wants to address housing, who is on fire about sexual assault laws…and/or see what people will do – have a ‘write an email list’, a ‘make a phone list’, a ‘write letters list’, and a ‘will travel to Richmond list’.
Determine the best way to contact your peeps. Some action alerts need immediate (within the day) results, some alerts are less time-sensitive. So how and who can you contact quickly? Fax/ Email? Phone? Phone tree? Are there people you can never contact at that last minute but will happily respond to an alert within a week?
Meet your legislators AND their staff!
Go visit the legislators and their staff in your service area. When you get to the General Assembly for Lobby Day you want them to already know who you are and what you do.
Invite your legislators and/or their staff to take a tour of your program. If appropriate, have survivors available to share their stories.
Send your legislators packets of information – anything with your name on it.
Make sure all your legislators are on your mailing lists. Newsletters, fundraisers, bulletins, special events, trainings.
You want your legislators to know who your are and picture your face, your program, your shelter residents, your support group members when they vote for or against issues that affect sexual and domestic violence victims.
Rally for Lobby Day!
Get February 1, 2006 on EVERYONE’s calendars.
Find someone(s) with a van to bring everyone to Lobby Day.
Bring extroverts who are willing to talk, and introverts who are willing to be present.
Educate folks on what the issues may be.
Make sure everyone has warm comfortable shoes and coats for the 4-block walk from our rally point to the General Assembly.
During the General Assembly
Have a plan!
Since you have done all your prep work, you will be ready to contact people, send legislative alerts, explain the issues. Test out your plan and see if it works.
Have a point person! And a back-up!
So you have a plan to share information with others, but who at your agency will be the point person to get the legislative alerts? And what happens if s/he is not at work that day? Who will follow-up with VSDVAA staff with any questions, clarifications, or results?
Come to Lobby Day!
Nothing is more empowering than bringing a whole slew of people from your community and en masse visiting your legislators. And walking the halls of the General Assembly and seeing other people just like you making a difference. You will learn more about the issues, reconnect with your legislators, and see the legislative process in action.
Last year our legislative advocacy efforts removed all marital exemptions from sexual assault laws and created a Domestic Violence Unit at Virginia Department of Social Services. We may not always be successful, but we are getting heard – we just need to keep at it!
Acknowledge the people who came to Lobby Day, made phone calls, sent faxes, wrote letters. Even if we do not succeed on a particular issue, we need to validate the efforts of all those who work with us.
Share the successes!
When we are successful, make sure to share the success with all your legislative alerters. No matter how big (we won!) or how small (we got the bill out of committee!) let everyone know so they can see that their efforts are making a difference.
Contact VSDVAA staff!
Do not hesitate to contact (via email, fax or phone) VSDVAA public policy staff (Stacy and Ruth) if you have questions. We may not be able to get back to you right away, but we will do our best. If you can’t reach one of us, try the other two. And there are NO stupid questions – if you are not clear on an issue, it is better to ask us than to not act on an alert, or share incorrect information. We are here for you!
Email: PublicPolicy@vsdvalliance.org. E-mail is not a secure form of communication. To ensure confidentiality please call the Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.838.8238 (V/TTY).