Over and over again, members of Congress say that what people in their state or district want them to do is front and center to their decision-making. When staffers in 450 congressional offices were asked about the most effective lobbying strategies, overwhelmingly they identified constituent visits.
The interfaith group that gathered in Rep. Chris Gibson’s Kinderhook, NY district office in fall 2014 had come together over a shared concern for climate change. They didn’t know it, but their meeting was about to jump-start bipartisan congressional dialogue on climate change after years of partisan fighting and inaction.
In the visit, they persuaded Rep. Gibson to introduce a resolution declaring climate change is real, related to human activities, and requires congressional action. Over the next year, FCNL lobbyists and constituents continued the conversation with his office, and opened new ones with the offices of other Republicans. As a result, Rep. Gibson introduced his resolution with 10 Republican cosponsors on the eve of the Pope’s visit to Washington. Since then, the resolution has opened the way for Republicans and Democrats to begin the conversations that can lead to greater progress on environmental legislation.
The partnership between FCNL’s lobbyists in Washington and constituents in the district is powerful.
This story gives hope for congressional movement, even on issues that have established partisan lines. Digging a little deeper illustrates how FCNL’s prophetic, persistent, and powerful lobbying moves policy — and the essential partnership between FCNL’s lobbyists in Washington and people like you to make that policy change happen.
One element of this story is about strategy. FCNL lobbyists assessed that no legislation on climate change would move forward without Republican backing. They analyzed public statements and worked with constituents to identify the members who might be open to leading a Republican effort on climate change. They articulated an approach to help those members take a public step, appealing to faith and moral values and the need to care for God’s creation. As FCNL tries to do in all its lobbying, they strove to talk with, and listen to, everyone to find common ground and a way to move forward.
The partnership between FCNL’s lobbyists in Washington and constituents in the district is powerful. Our staff are knowledgeable about the Washington landscape and work closely with congressional staff on Capitol Hill. But the people with the most influence on a member of Congress are their constituents, especially when those constituents are persistent with their actions and build relationships over the long term. When your advocacy as a constituent can be informed and reinforced by the knowledge and strategy of FCNL staff, your influence is magnified.
The work constituents did with Rep. Gibson demonstrates the effectiveness of this partnership, as well as the value of persistence and dialogue. With FCNL’s encouragement and advice, the constituents who met with their representative on that fall day had been communicating with him steadily for several months. They had listened to his concerns about climate change, shared why his action on this issue mattered to them and to their communities, and talked about how to move forward. These conversations helped make it possible for Rep. Gibson to act on their request.
One office told an FCNL supporter that their boss won’t express support for a bill unless at least one constituent has asked for it.
Over and over again, members of Congress say that what people in their state or district want them to do is front and center to their decision-making. When staffers in 450 congressional offices were asked about the most effective lobbying strategies, overwhelmingly they identified constituent visits. One office told an FCNL supporter that their boss won’t express support for a bill unless at least one constituent has asked for it.
Whether you share your position with your members of Congress through direct conversations, phone calls, letters to the editor, emails, questions at town hall meetings, or social media, the most important thing is that you share your opinion effectively.
We encourage your persistence over the long-term. Even in this election year, when public and media attention shifts to candidates and their positions, we have opportunities advocate for policy change.
Why does it matters that you are part of this work? Members of Congress work for you, even when you don’t agree with their point of view. Democracy is not a state of being. It is about what we do. Sharing your perspectives with the people who represent you is a key part of the process—and everyone can participate.
When you act with FCNL, you are part of a prophetic, persistent, and powerful effort to steer U.S. policies in the direction of peace and justice. Your individual action, multiplied by that of others in FCNL’s network and of our coalition partners, multiplied by the strategy and knowledge of FCNL’s lobbyists, multiplied by the strength of conviction that we share, has an impact that lasts beyond just one lobby visit or email. Sometimes, those efforts lead to the kind of opening that happened in Rep. Gibson’s office last fall. Sometimes, they lead to a willingness to continue the conversation and a hope that, next time, the member can be an ally. Always, those efforts make a difference.