Remember that the legislative staff member you first talk to is probably an entry level position that may be handling all types of calls. The more important the legislator is, the more staff he/she has to help them handle things, and the harder it is to meet with them face to face. However, on the other hand, remember that their job is to serve you as a constituent. Having some type of balance between two perspectives will help you navigate the process.
What to Say Via Phone Call or Email
Take a minute to introduce yourself and say why you are calling. Let them know your current position and the location of your school.
For example: “Hi, my name is Joe Smith and I am the Head of School at Joe’s Christian School in Sevensville (establish that you are in their district). I am coming to the Capitol on DATE OF TRIP along with our group of New York Christian School Administrators. We are meeting with legislators and staff members regarding several important issues to our schools and the families that we serve. (If you know the issues, share a couple. If not, please ask us and we can give you talking points.) We would like to talk with the Senator/Assemblyman about the Educational Tax Credit, hiring issues, and budget issues that relate to our schools. Would the Senator/Assemblyman or a staff member be available to meet with me (or us) that day?”
**Note that meetings scheduled when the chamber is in session will mean they are in, but they may be busy. They may suggest a time. Try to accept if you can, but if you have something in mind, push to see if they can accommodate it.
If they tell you that there is no one available, try to push the idea of how important this is to you/our group that we get a meeting with them. Try to offer some flexibility if you are able (for example, “can I come to the city an hour earlier to meet or to stay after an extra hour?”) Something that communicates that this is very important to you. If they absolutely refuse, then ask when they can set up an appointment, or suggest a phone appointment.
Usually the fact that you are a constituent is enough. Remind them that you are representing XYZ school of 300 families (however many your school represents) and these issues are important to them. Or tell them that you would like to hear the Senator/Assemblyman’s perspective on tax credits.
If they still say they are too busy just say that you will drop by the office when you are at the capitol to see if anyone is available.
The idea is to be winsome and develop a relationship with the office and elected official. Sometimes the staffers will move from office to office and can be good sources of information. Invite the elected official to your schools so that they see the high quality programs you run. It is good for the students to know their officials and to pray for them. If you feel led, offer to pray for them! They are in hard positions and the power struggles are real.
Pray before you call – the Lord will direct you!
If you have any questions please reach out to us at ACSIPALeaders@champion.org.