What to Know: City councils do not have the political power to fund U.S. foreign assistance programs (only Congress and the White House do). The purpose of presenting to your local city council is to raise awareness of an issue and ask the council to reach out to Congressional leaders representing your city.
Two Minute Pitch Format
- Introduction: State who you are. For example, “I’m Joe Smith and I’m here as an ambassador for The Borgen Project. We are a national organization that works to engage citizens locally in efforts to see stronger U.S. leadership go toward improving living conditions.”
- Issue Awareness and Local Connection: “Like many U.S. cities, as global hunger rates were cut in half over the past 20-years, Tulsa has benefited from this. The rising number of consumers worldwide has opened new markets for Tulsa companies.”
- The Ask: “I’d like to ask the Tulsa City Council to send a letter to Sen. X, Sen. Y and Rep. Z letting them know that the council views global development programs as crucial for creating more consumers globally and new markets for Tulsa’s businesses.”
- Wrap Up: “Thank you for your time.”
- You need to make the local connection of how global poverty-reduction has created new jobs in America and in your city especially. Live in a small rural town with few companies? Look up where the local farmers are exporting their products.
- Bring background material. This will be distributed to the council. Include your contact information.
What to Expect? City council meetings are often formal. That being said, they can get very heated and intense. Go in with thick skin. It is rare, but when you’re advocating for something, snarky people might be ready to pounce.
You’re Going to Be on TV: Most city council meetings are broadcast on TV, so have someone record it for you! The meetings are often re-broadcast throughout the week as well. Send us the video! We love to watch these and will possibly share it on the site!
Success Story: Leah Schroeder
Leah is a Regional Director from St. Louis, Missouri who successfully had her City Council sign a letter to Congress to support the International Affairs Budget. Below is her account of her preparation, presentation and takeaways of the experience.
I prepared for the City Council meeting by having a short speech ready that I could deliver at the meeting. In the speech, I introduced myself and The Borgen Project, as well as discussed the importance of fighting global poverty and the positive impact that it will have on the United States.
The first meeting was in person, so I arrived early and submitted a citizen’s comment form. The meeting began. I was the only citizen speaking, so I gave my speech in front of the Board of Aldermen. They had a few questions and thanked me for my request. Towards the end of the meeting, they decided that they would be willing to see a draft of the letter.
I drafted the requested letter and had a lot of help revising it from a few members of The Borgen Project team. I sent the letter to the city administrator so he could distribute it to the board members. At the next meeting, the board reviewed the draft and addressed a few concerns that they had with it. Namely, they were uncertain about the International Affairs Budget.
The board revised and discussed the draft more, but it took three more meetings for them to discuss it formally again.
At the final meeting, they discussed the final draft of the letter, with the goal of each board member reviewing the draft prior to the next meeting. At this meeting, the Board of Alderman agreed to pass the letter, signed the letter and decided to send it at their next in-person meeting.
Overall, I was really pleased with the experience, and I learned a lot about governance. I was surprised with how much time it took for a letter to pass, but I was really glad that the board was very considerate about the issue. I was very nervous before the first time I spoke in front of the board, but throughout the experience, I learned that you must be confident and knowledgeable with your request.
The most important takeaway that I have from this experience is persistence. I had to be very determined and continue to follow up and speak with the board in order for them to seriously consider my request.