Advocacy tips: How to engage with lawmakers during COVID-19

Publisher: Chris Boyster

Advocacy tips for organizations during COVID-19

Normally, I’d encourage our members to take advantage of this time between the spring legislative session and fall veto session to meet in person with their legislators and continue their advocacy efforts. However, this year isn’t exactly “normal” – which means adjustments need to be made to your organization’s advocacy activities.

The good news is that legislators are currently home in their districts and are looking for ways to safely engage with their constituents. This gives you the opportunity to talk about the important work that your organization is doing for Illinois’ populations most impacted by COVID-19. It’s also an opportunity to highlight your success stories and identify service barriers caused by the lack of adequate state investment over the years.

To get in front of your legislators during a time of social distancing and effectively advocate for the resources and policies needed to serve children, youth, and families, please see the following advocacy tips from ICOY.

5 Ways to Engage With Lawmakers While Social Distancing

  1.  Identify your representative: First things first, know which elected officials represent the areas you serve.  If you do not know this information, you can input your desired address into this “Find Your Rep” tool from Common Cause, which will help you find your elected officials, how to contact them, bills they’ve introduced, committees they serve on, and political contributions they receive. You can also contact ICOY at any time and we will be happy to provide you with the information.   

  2. Do a virtual presentation: If you have access to a web-based conferencing software such as Zoom, you can develop a presentation and invite legislators to learn more about the work you do to support their constituents. Don’t forget to invite staff to participate so that you can highlight your organization’s efforts and response to the coronavirus.

  3. Keep legislators in the loop: Make sure that you include legislators and their staffs on outgoing communications, including published newsletters, annual reports, etc.

  4. Schedule a conversation: While many legislators have closed their district offices, they are still listening to voice mails and checking emails. Contact them and schedule a time to talk or send a personalized email with your key message.

  5. Continue to extend invitations: If you are having a social-distant event, you can still invite legislators. Some will come if they are able. At the very least it opens up a door for further conversation.

Finally, continue to stay informed! Each week, ICOY will provide you with the most up-to-date information on state and federal legislative happenings in our Monday Digest and Thursday Update eNewsletters for members. If you don’t currently receive those, please contact ICOY Marketing Communications Manager Elise Povejsil to be added to the distribution list.

In addition, you can always sign up to be part of ICOY’s Quick Response Network (QRN)! This is a grassroots advocacy network where you’ll receive emails from us requesting you to contact lawmakers with support or dissent on policy issues affecting the lives of children and their families. You can sign up to receive action alerts here.

As always, please contact me or any member of ICOY’s Policy Team if you need any additional information!


-Chris Boyster
ICOY Chief Lobbyist

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