Maximize Your Effect on Legislators When Your Organization Rallies at the State Capitol

August 20, 2013 by Crescerance

Rally to Prevent Gun Violence. by Jay Baker at Annapolis, MD.If you have ever been to your state Capitol during the legislative session, you know that it is a busy place. In addition to the legislators, you have the lobbyists who spend their day watching the proceedings and you have legislative staff working on various issues. But you also have constituent groups who hold rally days at the capitol. In many instances non-profits and associations will ask their members to come to the capitol and make a show of strength to the legislators. Groups ranging from motorcycle riders promoting helmet safety issues to disabled citizens seeking more focus on state support programs will rally at the capitol. Doctors, educators, PTA members, college students, women’s groups, children’s support groups, and virtually anyone who has a stake in the state budget or a law that will impact them will rally at the capitol.

On a daily basis during the session, there is a new group at the capitol every day. Looking at this form of advocacy, we asked ourselves, if there is a new group every day, how do they let the legislators know that they have constituents attending? We asked some local associations and they indicated that they send invitations to the entire legislature inviting them to their rally day. Our question: What is more effective; have the lobbyist for an organization invite the legislators, or have the members that are attending invite the legislator from their district? We heard that it would be best if there were a way to have the people attending the rally contact their legislator to tell them they’d would be attending and hoped to see the legislator at the event. But unfortunately, the non-profit or associations membership tools did not have a means to connect the attendees to their legislators.

Capitol Impact is in a unique position. We develop association management software and we are a developer of advocacy software. Our Event Impact system operates from the same database as our membership management system, which also drives our grassroots system. Our grassroots tools include geo-coding member’s addresses to their correct legislative districts so the organization can quickly list all their members in each district. When a client sets up an event to have people sign up for their rally day at the capitol, the event system has an option to dynamically send an email to the person’s house or senate member or both. The organization can set up the text of the email and personalize it with the first and last name of the legislator so that the email starts with “Dear Honorable Samuel Jones” for example. Then they set the text so that all the emails to legislators will say the same thing, such as, “I am attending Disability Day at the Capitol. I hope to see you there.” Because the person is registering for an event, we know their first and last name and can sign the email for them.

When the registration goes live, attendees fill in that they are coming and they see an option on the registration that asks them if they would like to notify their legislator that they are going. The form displays their legislators, they click “yes” or “no”, and if they click “yes” then when they submit their registration the event system sends out an email to their legislators.

Our experience has shown that attendance by legislators increases dramatically when they get notices like an email from their constituents. If you would like to learn more about integrated association management tools and advocacy tools, please contact us at Capitol Impact. Our goal is to make you more effective in many areas of association management.