Being an advocate for TIAK does not occur only during the legislative session. We need advocates throughout the year, especially during an election year. Here are a few helpful tips on how you can be a stronger advocate for our organization.
Don't underestimate your influence
Legislators pay attention to the issues raised by voters in their communities, especially during an election year. The hometown connection is essential to getting a legislator’s attention. Be sure you are registered to vote.
Know your legislators
Before contacting your legislator, do a little homework. Look up your legislator’s name, background, voting record and committee assignments. TIAK can give you websites that offer this information. One important website is www.kansaslegislature.org. You will find information on each legislator, legislative leadership and legislation.
Make a point of introducing yourself to your legislator every time you see him or her. Think of all of the places you may see your legislator: church, grocery store, sporting events, other school events. There are so many places and ways to meet your legislator. Use them to your advantage. Your legislator wants to know you more than you can imagine. You are a voter. That is very important to your legislator.
Don't forget the legislator's staff
During legislative session, get to know the assistant in your legislator’s office. They often have more time to devote to your concerns and have considerable influence with the legislator.
Identify yourself as a constituent. Being a constituent is most important, so always identify where you live and how you are connected to the community. Include your name, address, phone number and email address in all correspondence.
When legislators are out of session, they don’t have a staff. Be patient with legislators as they respond to inquiries and constituent concerns. If you speak to their family, get to know them.
Remember human nature
Like everyone else, legislators respond better to courtesy and appreciation. Legislators get many more complaints than compliments. Threats and ultimatums do little to convince a legislator to support your position. Be polite, positive and non-partisan.
Write a Letter
Here are some suggestions:
Don’t assume you need to be an expert in legislative advocacy. You are the expert. Make contact with your legislator as a concerned expert and voter about the issue important to you.
Say “thank you” before you say “please.” Open your letter by thanking legislators for their past support. If they are new to the job, thank them for their commitment to public service. Let them know you appreciate their efforts on your behalf. Even if you disagree with their positions, they are more likely to listen to you if you recognize them for their work to represent you.
Tell your story. Your own story is your most persuasive message. When contacting your legislator, ask for the action you want your legislator to take. Be positive and courteous. Again, always identify yourself as a constituent by including your name, address, phone number and email address in your correspondence. Thank them for their support.
Use your own words. The most effective letter is a personal one, not a form letter. If you are using a form letter as a guide, modify it to express your message in your own words.
Send an email. Write the email as if it were a personal letter. Identify yourself as a constituent.
Attend candidate forums, especially during an election year
Listen for your legislators’ responses to questions and how you can connect your issues with theirs. Ask questions from the audience – be respectful, appreciative, share your experience and your recommendations. Talk with your legislator after the forum and personalize your contact.
Once the legislative session starts, things happen quickly. Often, there is little notice before an issue comes up for a vote. There will be times when a legislator needs immediate feedback from you on an issue. TIAK emails and legislative alerts will keep you informed.
Know how an idea becomes a law
There are many steps and people that an idea must pass through before it can become a law. This PDF flow chart can help you understand the process.
Thank your legislator in writing for their work during the legislative session, especially on the issues important to us. You can thank them both in a thank you note and in an editorial in your local paper. Let others know that they supported your issue and suggest they thank them as well. Because this year is an election year, it is important to help legislators financially when possible. Donate to the TIAK PAC or your legislator.
Donate to the TIAK PAC
During highly competitive election cycles, including both primary and general elections, fundraising is extremely important to candidates, including incumbent legislators. The TIAK PAC is an opportunity for you to be involved in giving legislators donations and knowing your donation goes to someone who supports the issues important to TIAK.