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What is in this guide?
- What do you use lobbying for
- Important things to know about lobbying
- How to lobby
- Support base
- Aides, PA.s and secretaries
- Lobbying exercise
Lobbying means persuading individuals or groups with decision-making power to support a position you believe is right. When you do your organisational planning it is important to identify other stakeholders whose co-operation or influence you need. So you lobby people with power to act in support of the needs and interests of those who do not have direct power and influence. Lobbying can be used to influence anyone with power for example:
Parents can lobby the school governing body to provide after care at school
Shoppers can lobby the manager of the local supermarket to stay open for longer hours
Civics can lobby the council to write off arrears
Conservatives can lobby the President to bring back the death penalty
Lobbying is mostly used by organisations to persuade politicians or others with power and influence to support the organisation’s position. There are many ways of lobbying. You can:
- make submissions
- write to individuals
- go to meet decision-makers or invite them to meet people in your area
- get other powerful people to influence them informally, etc.
It is important to understand some basic principles of effective lobbying before we look at methods.
Some basic rules for lobbying:
- Be clear about your issue, your facts and your position
- Use lobbying only for important issues that will improve life in the community and make very sure that your position is the right one before you start lobbying
- Be careful not to speak "on behalf of people" unless you have consulted them and involved them in developing your lobbying strategy (See section on Planning for guidance on analysing the problem or issue)
- Target the right people - analyse who has the power to make a decision on your issue and target your lobbying at these people
- Build a lobby group - analyse who [individuals and organisations] can influence the decision-makers and try to mobilise them to support your issue – never try to lobby alone. People with political power are often most sensitive to grassroots mobilisation that represents their voters.
- Prepare for opposition - analyse the opposition’s position and develop counter arguments to that since they may also be lobbying the same person
- Think about your target audience - how the decision-maker can benefit from agreeing with you and include this in your arguments – most decision-makers will agree more easily if they can see how your proposals link to their concerns
- Never use blackmail or bribery or even gifts and favours to persuade someone. That is corruption, not lobbying.
In this section we cover the most common lobbying methods. Read through the whole section and then choose the methods that best suit your organisations’ goals. The lobbying exercise at the end of this section will help you to plan which methods to use.
You should never, never lobby alone. Try to get organisations or individuals who support your cause to also use the methods discussed below. Whilst politicians are always sensitive to organisations, they also respond well to lots of appeals from individuals.
Letters are the easiest method to use to lobby but they are not always the most effective. Many people in positions of power have administrative staff who read their mail and summarise it for them. Make letters as personal as possible and avoid getting different organisations and individuals to all send exactly the same letter. See the format under submissions for the issues that should be covered in a letter.
Submissions are usually made to committees, or chairpersons of committees in government, and it is important to structure them in such a way that you get your points across powerfully. Here is a recipe you can follow. State clearly:
- The group or organisation you represent, and contact details.
- The topic or issue that you want to make a submission about
- Why your group is making the submission e.g. your concern, how you are connected to the issue and your expertise or experience on the issue.
- The specific actions you would like the committee to take.
- The reasons why you would like them to take this action – this is where you give the facts and make your main points. Be as brief and accurate as possible.
- The reasons why the actions you recommend will be good for the interests of the committee – e.g. how it will improve the quality of service, make a contribution to the welfare of the community, save money or generally please their constituents.
- It is sometimes useful to outline briefly what would happen if no action is taken. Be careful not to sound as if you are threatening the decision-maker.
- Offer further information or face-to-face meetings on request
Aides, PAs and secretaries
Most decision-makers have staff that deal with documents, do research, and prepare briefings and programmes. Sometimes it as important to influence these people as their bosses. Make sure that you get to know them and spend time explaining your issues to them and building relationships. If they take you seriously it will be easier to get access to, and attention from, the decision-maker.
Ask if you can have face-to-face meetings to present your case. Visit the person in their office or invite them to attend a meeting in the community. Always state the importance of the meeting clearly and provide an agenda and a list of possible outcomes from the meeting. Remember to stress what is in it for the decision-maker e.g. "This meeting will provide you with the opportunity to make direct contact with more than 100 people from the community and to hear their concerns on the issue."
Invite decision-makers to come and make on-site inspections if it is appropriate, e.g. to come and look at the bad condition that the school is in. It sometimes helps to get publicity for inspections and you can then say in your invitation that you have also invited the press to witness the inspection.
Get as many people as possible to phone the decision-maker. Also use faxes and e-mail if possible. Try to get some influential and well-known people to also phone. It will not always be possible to speak to the decision-maker and everyone who phones should leave a clear message e.g. "We are phoning to object to the council closing the local clinic."
Media attention is a powerful persuader and the more publicity you can get for your issue the better. It always helps to make individual contact with a reporter who is prepared to follow the issue through.
Petitions are a useful way of showing popular support for your issue. You can use a petition to get as many signatures as possible from people in the community who are affected by the issue or you can get a smaller number of key individuals or organisations to sign a petition in support of your submission.
Note: Keep very careful records of all the communications with the decision-maker.
- What exactly do you want to lobby for? (State clearly the result you want to achieve)
- Who has the power to make a decision on that issue?
- Who else can influence the decision-maker and how can we mobilise them?
- What will the opposition say?
- How will the decision-maker benefit from the result we want to achieve?
- What lobbying methods should we use?
Gender | Media and media liason | Running campaigns | HIV and AIDS Campaigning | Advice work | Lobbying | Guide to making posters & pamphlets | Public Speaking | Getting to Know your Community and their Needs PDF | Starting a Small Business
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