Lobbying Decisionmakers 

Contributed by Bill Berkowitz
Copyright Community Toolbox

Yes, you could be a lobbyist.  Let's get our premises right out on the table: 

Lobbying has a bad image. Some of it is deserved. But lobbying is not necessarily something to avoid. Quite the contrary, lobbying can be a socially responsible thing to do. What is more, you have probably been a lobbyist before, in one form or another -- even though you may not have used that label. And if you've never lobbied for a cause, maybe you ought to learn how; so that if and when the time is right you can be an effective lobbyist, in a way that is doable and ethical for you. 

What do we mean by lobbying?

By lobbying, we mean persuading someone with more decision-making power than you, in a particular situation, to take a course of action that you support. It's that simple. No more (or less) than that. 

"Lobbying" is a broad term. The people you lobby, the decision-makers, can vary widely. Much (though not all) lobbying is political, and involves persuading political decision-makers. On a local level, this could mean a member of the town council, or the head of the zoning board, or the director of the library. It could also be a state representative, or a holder of higher elected or appointed office. 

But the decision-makers need not be in politics. They could be the editors of newspapers, the ministers of churches, the presidents of hospitals, the CEO's of businesses, a college board of trustees, or the officers of a volunteer organization. These people make decisions, too. And if you want to persuade them, in a real sense you'll be lobbying, in a broad but accurate meaning of the term. 

In this Toolbox section, our primary emphasis will in fact be on political lobbying, though many of the points we make will apply to other decision-makers as well. 

Over and above your lobbying target, (i.e., who you lobby) lobbying can take many forms. It can occur face-to-face, over the phone, through the mail (e-mail or postal), and in many combinations or permutations. This is of course true for persuasive attempts in general. In this section, we will focus on more personal types of lobbying, other than mail. 

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