NFP’s Virtual MEETING How-To Guide:
COVID-19 has forced many of us to stay indoors and away from our workplaces, friends, and loved ones. But legislators are as eager as ever to connect with the constituents and communities they represent. Follow the steps below to plan virtual meetings with your legislators and click here to check out other virtual advocacy tactics:
Scheduling a VIRTUAL MEETING
Step 1 – Identify you legislators
Start planning your virtual meeting by mapping out which federal legislators represent your local NFP program. You can easily find this information by entering your address here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members. You can also reach out to NFP-NSO staff if you have questions about which legislators to invite, and we can provide you with the most accurate contact information.
Once you find out who represents you in congress and your state legislature, check their websites, recent news and events, press releases, and social media feeds to get a sense of how the office is currently operating and what kinds of live and virtual events they have been participating in during this time.
Step 2 – Determine the type of virtual event you want to request
To do this, ask yourself the following questions:
Who? – Are you inviting federal, state, or local policy makers to participate? Who will be present?
What? – Is the invitation to participate in a virtual meeting? A phone call between agency members and legislators and/or staff?
When? – Identify a few different times that work for you to suggest to the office/legislator/staff.
Where? – Are you able to host an online meeting over Zoom, Teams or another similar platform? Is a phone call or conference call what works best for you and your agency?
Why? – The importance of advocacy, or connecting with legislators and asking them to support NFP, cannot be overstated. Inviting legislators to participate in a meeting with your agency will give them crucial insight into how important the NFP model is to families’ security, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
Step 3 – Identify and invite your NFP representatives
Make sure to identify one person to be the “host” of the meeting. This person should be the contact person for legislative staff, as well as the moderator during the meeting. Also, identify and encourage other nurses and moms to participate.
Lastly, work with all participants to ensure they have access to virtual meeting platforms and identify two or three available times to present to your legislators.
Step 4 – Invite your legislators
Invite your legislators using the NSO’s sample draft invitation letters via email or submit your invitation through the legislator’s online request form. You will likely need to follow-up with the legislator’s office to finalize the meeting arrangements. Don’t be afraid to be persistent, and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone! Reach out to NFP-NSO staff to find contact information for your legislator’s scheduler, then call them directly to follow up on the invitation. Then, remember to inform NFP-NSO staff that you sent your invitation so they can reinforce it with the staff in Washington, DC.
Note: Be prepared to be flexible and give the office(s) a chance to let you know which platforms they are currently using and have access to, so you can meet them where they are at.
Hosting a VIRTUAL MEETING
Step 5 – Prepare
Once your legislator(s) have accepted your request, prepare a schedule for the meeting. A sample schedule can be found here.
Also, prepare to share your story with your legislator. To help nurses prepare to share their stories, have them review the Nurse Story Guide to assist in formulating their stories. To help moms prepare to share their stories, have the client/graduate review the Parent Story Guide. Additionally, the NFP-NSO Parent Advocacy Coordinator can help shape the mom’s story by coordinating a one-on-one phone call with the client, upon client/graduate approval.
Step 6 – Practice
Do a test run with your NFP representatives to make sure that all technology is working prior to the meeting with your legislators. Additionally, take time to practice telling your stories, explaining what life has been like during the COVID-era and sharing the support you need from your legislator(s). (For helpful talking points, reach out to your state government affairs manager!)
Practicing the meeting beforehand is crucial. The last thing we want is to ask an impatient legislator who we kept waiting for more support.
Remember: practice makes perfect!
Step 7 – Perform
Do the damn thing! Remember that you and your agency deserve support and belong in this meeting.
If your legislator asks you a question that you do not have the answer to, don’t panic! Respond by saying you need to confirm the information and offer to follow-up with his/her staff – then follow up with the appropriate information within a day or two.
Also, remember to take pictures! Make sure to have each client (and their child if they make an appearance) fill out an Image Release and Consent Agreement form so your photos can be shared! Snap a photo after the meeting of your legislator and team and be sure to send a copy with your thank you letter.
Lastly, before ending the meeting, remember to thank your legislator for participating.
Step 8 – Promote
Securing a meeting with a legislator is great content to promote! Utilize your social media platforms to call attention to the meeting.
Similarly, you may consider issuing a press release noting the event or meeting you hosted and the legislator’s participation. Elected officials appreciate media attention for events they participate in, so offer to coordinate with their office to maximize press, media, and social media coverage. Be sure to tag your legislators accurately on social media.
After the Virtual MEETING
Step 9 – Thank Your Legislator
Send a thank you letter and include materials for a “leave-behind packet,” such as the NFP National Snapshot, NFP benefits and costs summary, NFP public policy priorities, and your state’s NFP profile. Thank you letters serve as a reminder of your request for legislators and give you an opportunity to deliver any follow-up materials you may have promised. Be sure to CC the staff that attended your meeting or shoot them a quick thank you via e-mail.
Step 10 – Long Term Follow-Up
A virtual meeting can serve as the “first date” with a Member of Congress or state legislator, or it could be the culmination of a series of past meetings. Wherever you are in cultivating a relationship with your legislator(s), site visits can play a vital role in engaging policymakers and setting the stage for future opportunities. Keep them engaged by sending updates about the program, media recognition you may receive and additional opportunities for their involvement.