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When policy leaders hear from constituents, they often use this information to determine priorities for communities, states and the country. Using the information and tools below is an easy and essential way to make sure that elected officials and other leaders know that afterschool programs are critical to helping America’s families, keeping kids safe and inspiring students to learn. Here are some tips to help you be successful.
Before making contact, learn key background information
Visit a Web site to find information on national, state and local elected officials. Be sure to note the following:
- Political Party of Member
- Committee assignments
- Key positions on your issue
Identify constituent connections
When you send an email or contact an office, it is important to establish that the elected official represents you. If you know him or her personally, a member of the staff, or even family members or children, be ready to mention this information.
When you call, email or meet in person
- Be specific. Tell the official why you are there and what you want. Your interaction might only last a few minutes.
- Establish yourself as an expert information source. Elected officials have limited time, staff and many competing issues to deal with every day. If they sit on a committee that covers afterschool as part of its work, they might be quite familiar with the facts, but many are not. That’s why advocacy is so important. You can fill their information gap and become their “expert.”
- It’s okay to admit you don’t know something. It gives you a reason to follow-up with the official or staff after you have researched an answer.
- Don’t “burn bridges.” It is easy to get emotional about issues, especially if you are at opposite ends. Work to find some sort of consensus and always leave your dealings with elected officials on positive terms.
- Remember, elected officials work for you! You should be courteous but not intimidated.
After a Meeting
- Follow-up. Thank the official and staff for their time. If you promised information, be sure to get back in touch quickly. If the elected official offered to do something, follow up on that offer after a reasonable time and be sure to thank them for any action they took.
(Special thanks to the Afterschool Alliance for this information.)