Lobbying for a cause is an important part of the political process and a key way all citizens can impact government decisions. There are many ways to advocate for a cause. Here are seven important points to consider when regarding how to lobby for a cause important to you.

7 Ways to Lobby for a Cause

  1. Know background information. Having a holistic picture of an issue and understanding all sides will allow you to have more effective and productive conversations.
  2. Have a clear objective. No matter how broad your cause may be, have specific points to address and keep the focus on a clear goal, such as signing a bill. Refer to bills and pieces of legislation by their specific name and number, and remain up to date on events that could affect your objectives.
  3. Be persistent and personal. A crucial part of lobbying for a cause is building a relationship with members of Congress and their staff. Introduce yourself and tell a story that explains your personal connection to a cause. Bring photos or documents relevant to your story if you have them. These personal touches can make an issue significant for a politician. Similarly, persistence reiterates the importance you place on a cause and is vital for building relationships with your representatives.
  4. Listen. Try and have a conversation with others about your cause rather than doing all of the talking yourself. Pay attention to what questions are asked regarding the cause and your objectives as well as common themes in differing viewpoints. Listening will allow you to better formulate your argument in a way that addresses concerns and dispels misconceptions.
  5. Find allies. Being part of a group not only provides a strong support network that will help you learn how to effectively lobby for a cause, but also shows a Congress member the cause is important and personal to many constituents. Spreading awareness and advocating for a cause is more effective in a group. Beyond other supporters of a cause, also remember the important role staffers play in pushing a cause through. Do not underestimate the importance of your relationships with staffers, and know that they can advocate for you and your cause as well.
  6. Remember the power of positive reinforcement. Do not forget to say thank you and acknowledge tiny positive actions. Whether it is for signing a piece of legislation related to your cause or just taking the time to meet with you, using positive reinforcement in your interactions paves the way for building strong relationships. Collect business cards and contact information from staffers and be sure to follow-up interactions with thank you messages.
  7. Don’t get discouraged. Even if your Congressional offices do not support your cause, remain polite and persistent. There are a myriad of factors influencing political decisions, so do not be discouraged if your objective is not supported immediately or even after years of work. There is no recipe for how to lobby for a cause with 100 percent success. It is important to remain focused on the personal connection you have with this cause and continue to build relationships and find allies to support your work.

Learning how to lobby for a cause takes time and often requires one to re-evaluate their strategies in order to convey their message most effectively. Remaining persistent and listening to all sides of an issue are crucial aspects of lobbying for a cause, and over time can lead to successful results.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr

A crucial part of the political process is to engage in dialogue with one’s representatives at the local, state and federal level–this is what it means to lobby politicians. State definitions of the terms “lobbying” and “lobbyist” vary, but the common perception of lobbying is influencing government action through written or verbal communication. As such, compensation does not define the lobbying process. However, it is a necessary component of being a professional lobbyist.

Some state regulations place thresholds on the amount of money and time required to categorize lobbyists properly. Others use reimbursement of any form to classify the activity under statutory laws. Types of compensation may include food, entertainment and other recreational activities furnished to legislators. There are exceptions to lobbying activities in many states such as journalism, written correspondence and testifying.

Often, the term lobbyist carries a negative connotation: big money, special interests and a rigged system. The term may be used to describe those who are employed professionally: corporate advocates who fight for favorable policies. The term is also used to described citizens engaged in the prodding of politicians to improve representation. This article discusses the latter.

So, how does one lobby politicians? Here are 10 tips to effectively lobby for a cause, bill or issue you are passionate about.

  1. Download mobile apps, such as TrackBill or Countable, to monitor the progress of legislation through Congress. Find bills to support or reject and request your representatives to co-sponsor them or vote accordingly.
  2. Write letters to your senators and representatives or email them through The Borgen Project. Another quick and effective tool is to lobby politicians through social media platforms, such as Twitter or Facebook.
  3. Email the White House to inform the president of your views on various regulations, policies and tax issues.
  4. Attend an on-site or virtual town hall event in your congressional district.
  5. Schedule an appointment to meet with a congressional staffer or your representative face-to-face in one of their multiple district offices. These meet-and-greet opportunities may sway a vote on the floor of the house or senate; never underestimate the power of a 30-minute meeting. Prepare beforehand – research the politician, their views, prior votes and legislative positions. Be knowledgeable about counter-arguments to your position and use data whenever possible.
  6. Call your congressional representatives frequently and add their numbers to your phone. At the very least, leave short and concise messages. Staffers compile a weekly legislative report on the number of calls, letters and emails on issues or bills received from engaged citizens. These reports are used by politicians to enhance or redirect their legislative agenda.
  7. Join and donate to nongovernmental organizations, such as The Borgen Project, to support their mission and charitable work. Lobbying efforts on an organizational level carry financial strength, unbridled energy, citizen mobilization, clear legislative agendas and media outreach.
  8. Do not complain about a piece of legislation: offer an amendment to grant exemptions. Take time to develop a viable solution and present it to your leader.
  9. Craft letters to the editor based on interactions with legislative staff and congressional representatives. Such correspondence enriches political discourse and may inspire readers to take action.
  10. Mobilize others to become involved in politics. Call leaders, write articles, organize events and march for a cause. Meet with politicians to bring awareness to issues which matter most to your family, friends, organization or community. Perhaps you are an expert in a particular subject which your representatives are not; lend them your recommendations. If you have an idea for improving policy, make it known.

Citizen advocacy, or personal lobbying, is a vital element of participatory democracies. Individuals who are unaffiliated with a political party, nongovernmental organization or special interest groups may participate in the political process through email, letters, phone calls and congressional meetings on matters of interest. Download legislative apps, track legislation, contact your leaders, mobilize your friends and family, post on social media, utilize personal connections and take action!

JG Federman

Photo: Flickr

To most, the word “lobbyist” usually inspires images of big corporations influencing politicians. However, this image is not entirely accurate. Lobbying is actually a useful tool that average people can and should use. It is a form of advocacy that focuses on educating or influencing representatives in our government. You do not need money or power to lobby.  You need only a voice, and by following these three steps, you can learn how to be a citizen lobbyist.

Step 1: Know who you are and the power you have.
American citizens ages 18 and older have the power to vote and are essential pieces of the country’s democratic system. However, few know that they are also constituents. Essentially, a constituent is a member of a community or a part of a whole.

Every citizen is a constituent to three individuals in Congress, and it’s paramount to know whose constituent you are. These three individuals are the two senators representing your state and the congressman or congresswoman representing your district. These representatives represent you and your interests in the legislation they vote for, and it’s important to know you have the power to influence their vote.

Members of Congress will listen to their constituents over other citizens because those are the people they are elected by and represent. For example, senators are not too interested in listening to citizens of another state. They would rather like to know what their constituents are thinking and worrying about. You can find out who your three representatives in Congress are on the Borgen Project’s Who Are My Leaders? page.

Step 2: Know what you can do as a constituent.
Members of Congress are voted in by their constituents, and it would be foolish of them not to listen to their constituents. Now that you know you have this power over them, it is helpful to know how to use it. Using this power is easy.

Simply put, it’s all about getting your word out. Representatives are not mind-readers; they are politicians. The best way to get politicians to vote on something you may be passionate about is to talk to them about it. You don’t have to walk into their office and proclaim your dream of a poverty-free world. An email, call or written letter all get the job done, and you can always do all three. You can even write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper discussing a certain bill or use social media to contact your representatives.

If you are the outgoing, adventurous type, try attending events where your representatives will be speaking or schedule a meeting with them. The more you meet with your representatives or attend their town hall meetings, the more they and their staff will get to know you and your cause.

Step 3: Practice.
Now that you know how to be a citizen lobbyist, it is your job to practice being an active citizen.

If you are shy, start out with phone calls or emails. They can be as simple as mentioning you are a constituent, your name and the bill you would like them to support. For the more outgoing, show up at the next town hall meeting.

Once you get a representative to support a piece of legislation, ask them to co-sponsor it as well. Co-sponsoring is like getting your representative to represent the issue to other members of Congress and asking them to support the bill as well.

By following these three easy steps, you too can learn how to be a citizen lobbyist.

James Hardison

Photo: Flickr


lobby congress

Outline of a Typical Lobbying Meeting

  1. Introduce yourself and any supporters you may bring with you.
  2. Overview of The Borgen Project and your role.
  3. Cover how addressing global poverty helps create jobs in the U.S. and improves national security.
  4. Speak directly about the bill(s) you are pushing, but don’t go too in-depth with details.  Introduce the bill itself, state its current status (including how many people are currently cosponsoring it) and convey the importance of this particular bill to the constituents of the district and/or state.
  5. Ask if there are any questions or concerns you can address regarding the bill(s), or anything else.
  6. Make the “Ask.” Let them know you would like them to cosponsor the bill.
  7. Thank the Member of Congress or staffer for their time and consideration and ask them for their business card so that you can follow-up with them within the next week or so.
  8. Optional: Take a photo with the Member of Congress or with the staffer you meet with. You can also take a photo of yourself outside the building or outside of the office!



Listen to Audio from Inside an Actual Lobbying Meeting

After the Meeting

  1. Within the group, send a Thank You email to the congressional staff who were present at the meeting about one week after the meeting. Include any relevant info (link to bill discussed, PDF of one-pager on bill). An example of a Thank You can be found on this page.
  2. Fill out the Lobbying Report Form
  3. Email your lobbying report form to [email protected] (and cc your manager). Ensure the subject of the email is ‘Lobbying Report Form’.


Lobbying Tips

  1. Lobbying is simply having a conversation with a person and communicating what you would like to see happen. Don’t spend too much time thinking about the do’s and don’ts. Go to the meeting, try to find common ground and form a connection with the person you’re meeting with.
  2. Likeability is everything. If you walk out of the room with them liking you, then they will be more likely to give your issue more attention and have you back for more meetings. Be positive and professional.
  3. Use trigger words and tailor your message to the Member of Congress you are speaking with. For instance, when speaking with a Republican about the Global Poverty Act, focus on the connection between alleviating world poverty and improving U.S. national security as well as the wide-ranging economic benefits.
  4. Meet Their Needs. When you’re in the meeting, keep in mind that…

The staffer has to determine if they should ask their boss to cosponsor the bill. The staffer probably won’t read the bill, but they might write an overview and briefly discuss the bill.  From you, the staffer needs to hear talking points that the leader will be responsive to (economic reasons for addressing poverty, national security reasons, etc.).

The political leader has to return to their congressional district and explain to voters why they’re sending money overseas. From the group, they need to hear talking points that they can relay to voters (improves the economy, etc.). This is where it’s really important that you generate lots of calls and emails to their office regarding the bill.  Political leaders frequently justify their vote on unpopular bills by saying they had lots of people contact them in support of it.


A survey of congressional staffers revealed that meetings with constituents have more influence over leaders than meetings with corporate lobbyists.




“Citizens who participate in the democratic process are overwhelmingly the most influential component in any lawmaker’s decision-making process.”

– Bradford Fitch, Former Congressional Staffer