Effective Advocacy: Learning the Basics with Lobbying 101 The Humanist TheHumanist.com

On Monday, February 12, the American Humanist Association’s (AHA) Policy Coordinator Isabella Russian and the Secular Coalition for America’s (SCA) Director for Policy and Government Affairs Scott MacConomy led a webinar on Lobbying 101. The webinar  provided introductory information to those with an interest in, or those having little familiarity with, the process of lobbying.

Included below are only toplines of the discussion as they pertain to lobbying as a private citizen. If you wish to view the entire comprehensive conversation, the recording is available for viewing here.

We invite you to join the AHA and SCA for future lobbying opportunities, including SCA’s 2024 Lobby Day. Remember: legislators need to hear from their constituents in between elections.

What Is Lobbying?

Lobbying, in the simplest terms, is the act of attempting to influence government decisions. Lobbying itself is a component of advocacy. While advocacy can refer to the broad stroke of showing support or educating around a certain issue or cause, for example, by attending a protest, or building a coalition of like-minded organizations, lobbying gets more specific, and refers to the action of taking a stance on legislation and engaging with public officials.

Why Is Lobbying Important?

When you lobby, you communicate directly with decision makers that have the power to create, execute, and interpret the law: therefore, lobbying is an integral tool utilized by advocates within our democracy to realize tangible change.

When you participate in lobbying, you’re showing up for your community and its values. For example, if you’re a humanist, lobbying raises the profile of the humanist community and agenda, because not only are you identifying yourself as part of a community, but as a community having agency, unique perspective, and most importantly, concern.

Meeting or communicating with your elected officials can be one of the most effective means of securing their commitment to protect the issues that are important to you. Humanists are well aware that civil liberties and human rights are not given: they are fought for. Whether it be issues under the separation of religion and government umbrella, immigrant rights, labor laws, sustainable environmental policy, or voting rights—you can lobby on all of these with ease.

Challenging a Fear of Lobbying

You may ask yourself, “What gives me the authority to do this?” Or, “What if I don’t know this issue in and out?” As a person subject to the laws elected officials make, you have the authority to make your voice heard on the issues you care about—and, you do not have to be an expert to speak to elected officials.

Don’t let a fear of public speaking, or a fear of making your opinions public, stop you from standing up for what you believe in. Those who wish to desecrate civil liberties and human rights, the environment, or ethics will not be too shy to lobby—and you shouldn’t be either.

The Power of the Constituent

As a constituent, you are an elected official’s boss. You elect them, and they both need and want to listen to you. Because public officials need votes to remain in office, it is in their interest to meet you and to try to accommodate your political needs whenever possible. Elected officials need to hear your perspective on how a bill or a problem affects you, because it fosters understanding of a viewpoint through a personal note.

Your persistence as a concerned, credible, and well-organized constituent is your most powerful tool, and an asset to your cause.


Remember to always be respectful in your correspondences with elected officials, no matter the medium and no matter the level of agreement. Representing yourself, your community, and your ideas with decorum benefits not only your own personal relationship with a member’s office, but also your cause, and those who follow in your footsteps.

Federal Lobbying

Your first step is to identify what your issue and your request is. Second, you should find out who your representatives are. Do some research into the issues your member champions.

Members’ official Congress websites have tabs where you can request a meeting as a constituent. Submit the information that is requested, and expect to hear back from the office. Follow any firm appointments with confirmation.

If you’re lobbying on a piece of legislation, it will be helpful to know where the bill is in the legislative process—but don’t fret if you’re not familiar with the legislative process.

Next, decide who will accompany you, if anybody. Think of inviting people who show broad support on the particular issue you will be discussing or who have personal stories to tell that are related to this issue.

Meetings will typically last fifteen to thirty minutes, so you need to ensure that you plan and structure your remarks efficiently and persuasively. Make sure your comments are supported by thorough research you have done. Be aware things may not go exactly as planned.

Be on time to your meeting. Once it commences, continue as you have prepared. Answer any questions to the best of your ability, but never lie or guess at an answer. The best answer you can ever give is “I don’t know, but I’d be happy to find out and get back to you.” This supports your reliability as a resource.

After any meeting with an elected official’s office, send a follow up note thanking the office and briefly reiterating your request.

State Lobbying

Much of the law that affects your daily life is directly debated and voted on by state and local governments and elected officials, so it is very important to pay attention to them and get involved.

Lobbying your state representatives follows many of the same tips and steps that pertain to federal lobbying. Regarding state legislatures, familiarize yourself with when state legislative sessions are held, and be aware of the bills being introduced into the process.

Lobbying from Home

Lobbying from the comfort of your own home can be the easiest way to advocate for pieces of legislation or policies that matter to you. There are multiple ways that this can be done. Submit an action alert through the Humanist Action Headquarters, or HAHQ. Call a legislative office and express your concerns. Email, or mail a letter.

Additional Resources:

Find Your Representative
Humanist Action Headquarters
Secular Coalition for America’s Lobby Day 2024
American Atheists’ State Policy Tracker

The post Effective Advocacy: Learning the Basics with Lobbying 101 appeared first on TheHumanist.com.

Remember: legislators need to hear from their constituents in between elections.
The post Effective Advocacy: Learning the Basics with Lobbying 101 appeared first on TheHumanist.com.