Virtual Lobby Days 101

July 20, 2020  |  Richard Gabrintina

For many nonprofits engaging in advocacy work, lobby days are an important part of every legislative session. An opportunity to put your organization’s supporters directly in front of their elected officials can play a huge role in swaying important policy decisions, and it’s a great way to get volunteers involved in an activity they’ll love. In 2020, a year unlike any other, most in-person, indoor events have been called off, including lobby days. However, don’t despair – with a few digital tools you’ll be ready to take your lobby day virtual, maintaining the impact of a standard office visit in a social distance-approved setting.

What is a Lobby Day?

A lobby day aims to bring supporters to meet with legislators to address and advocate for a particular cause. This type of event – which is also known by other names like fly-in, advocacy day, advocacy summit, Hill day, etc – is an effective method in influencing a decision due to the direct interaction between constituent and decisionmakers. More than 90% of surveyed congressional staff agree that “in-person visits from constituents would have some or a lot of influence on an undecided lawmaker.”

Lobby Day, but make it virtual

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused nonprofits to adapt to the evolving situation by switching to mostly virtual events. With COVID-19 cases still rising and creating unsafe conditions for indoor events, many nonprofits are taking their lobby days virtual. Just like a standard lobby day, virtual lobby days will look slightly different for each organization, but will often involve conducting a virtual information session for your advocates, followed by scheduled virtual meetings for the advocates and their legislators.

Let’s take a look at some of the tools that will make planning a virtual lobby day a breeze.

Event management with Zoom integration

Any event, whether it’s in-person or online, requires a dedicated level of preparation and management. You’ll still have the typical responsibilities required for an in-person event, such as promoting the event, setting up registration, and sending email and text reminders. Those requirements – as well as actions like creating RSVP and check-in forms, attendance reporting, and more – aren’t any different when it comes to planning a virtual event.

EveryAction now offers Zoom integration, which offers security, accessibility, and reliability in capturing data for your database. Using multiple digital tools can cause unnecessary duplication of work if they are not integrated with each other, but with EveryAction’s Zoom integration there is no need for manually transferring data between the two systems – the data is automatically captured and stored in your database and Zoom account.

Virtual Informational Sessions

Before your scheduled lobby day even takes place, your organization might consider hosting a virtual town hall, webinar, or other online informational session to prepare your advocates with all of the information they’ll need for conversations with their legislators. A virtual town hall brings together subject matter experts, community leaders, and general members of the public for interactive discussion. Your nonprofit might consider hosting a preliminary virtual town hall or webinar leading up to a lobby day to put together an informational program, led by experts and leaders, in which attendees can ask questions (in advance and live during the event) and provide responses to the discussion. This allows attendees and viewers to learn about issues from individuals leading the fight and will help prepare them for the day of action.

Click to Call, Tweet, and Email

Click-to-Call and other digital advocacy tools can be great options for legislative contact if supporters aren’t able to attend a scheduled lobby day. Calling legislators is one of the most effective ways of bringing an issue to their attention. Social advocacy forms allow users to mobilize supporters to tweet at their elected official, get the issue trending, generate grassroots momentum, and keep the issue on their legislator’s agenda. Using an advocacy form to prompt emails to a legislator makes the process easy for all in parties involved. Providing different options for advocacy gives supporters the opportunity to participate, and these options can also be a great follow-up after the lobby day has ended.

In addition to impacting legislation, lobby days give nonprofits the opportunity to raise awareness about a specific issue or the mission of their organization, build community, engage with their supporters, and drive acquisition. For more on nonprofit advocacy, read our article, “Advocacy for Everyone: 6 Ways to Help Supporters Take Action.” For specific tools to help you execute your strategy, check out EveryAction Advocacy.