Hope for Life Toolkit: Engaging Indian Organizations
Outreach to Local Elected Officials and Community Leaders
(Source: Community Toolbox and the Leadership Conference Education Fund)
Step 1 – Identify who to reach out to:
- Elected Officials: to identify elected officials, visit: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials(link is external) to find links to how to contact federal, state, and locally-elected officials. To contact your state Elected Officials visit the following: ◦State governor: https://www.usa.gov/state-governor(link is external)
- State legislature websites: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/state-legislatures.html(link is external)
- On http://www.usmayors.org/meetmayors/mayorsatglance.asp(link is external), search by Mayor’s name, City, State, and Population to find your local mayor.
- Community Leaders, Organizers, and Activists:the following list includes examples of potential community members to reach out to (from the Community Toolbox): ◦Directors of human service and government agencies
- Legislative aides
- Grassroots activists
- Religious leaders
- Business leaders and owners
- Service clubs (Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Native American Boys & Girls Club, etc.) or the Chamber of Commerce, who are usually members of the business and financial sector
- United Way directors and Board members
- Senior citizen activists
Step 2 – Utilize your network to expand your outreach efforts:
- Community leaders, organizers, and activists are either already a part of or connected to your network.
- Among your current community and organizational partners, identify who knows community leaders and/or elected officials as a way to establish new connections.
Step 3 – Secure a meeting:
- Once you have identified potential new community partners, reach out to them via phone and/or email to explain your cause and request a meeting.
Step 4 – Prepare in advance for your meetings with elected officials, leaders, and organizations:
- Determine people’s interests: ◦Find out what types of organizations and coalitions the people you plan to meet with have been involved in.
- Find out if the elected official (or community leader) has recently been in the media and why; this indicates priorities and interests.
- Consider meeting with community leaders/organizations who have previously supported similar causes.
- Demonstrate how your goals align with the priorities of those who you’re meeting with: ◦Prior to your meeting, develop a list of common goals.
- Outline the type of support you need, so that you can be clear and direct about what you’re asking of the person/organization.
- Anticipate objections: ◦Brainstorm potential questions and/or concerns that could come up during your meeting and have clear answers prepared ahead of time.
- Examples of potential concerns include:
- Expected time commitment: the person may not have enough time to participate, or they may only be able to commit for a short period of time.
- Alignment of vision and goals: the person/organization you’re meeting with may not share the same values.
- Concern regarding community readiness and stigma around suicide:
- This concern can be addressed by providing examples of organizations and community partners who are currently in support of this project.
- Can also explain that the events will be focused on strength-based approaches and resiliency.
- Educate, educate, educate:
- Provide fact sheets, memos, and materials to leave behind with the person/organization you’re meeting with.
- Power in numbers:
- Enlist a group of people to attend your meeting with you to provide support and additional expertise; this is more effective for garnering support.
- Know your message, designate group members who will speak, and have a speaking order.
Step 5: Attending the meeting
- Acknowledge and thank the elected official and/or community leader for their recent work in the community.
- Pace yourself: ◦Remain mindful of the time you have set aside for the meeting so that you don’t run out of time.
- State the purpose of the meeting:
- Inform the person you’re meeting with what your role is, why you reached out to them, and what you would like to discuss during the meeting.
- During this introduction, provide any fact sheets, brochures, supplementary materials/reports.
- Explain what you are looking for as a result of the meeting: Clearly and directly state your issues and requests.
- Support your facts by sharing personal stories about how suicide is affecting your community.
- Be clear about the commitment level you’re expecting from the person/group you’re meeting with:
- For example, are you requesting a co-sponsorship, co-hosting of events, or help with recruitment and/or event promotion?
- ◾Provide several options if you do not have one specific thing to request.
- State the benefits that fulfilling your request will have for your target person:
- Address why the person or organization you’re meeting with should want to or be willing to do what you’re requesting.
- Allow time for the person you’re meeting with to respond with any questions or concerns.
- If you don’t understand your legislator or community leader’s opinion or concerns on the issue, ask for clarification.
- Be sure to leave behind several copies of your materials, as well as your contact information.
- Thank the person/organization for spending time with you.
Step 6 – Following up after the Meeting
- Email or call the person/organization after the meeting to thank them for their time.
- If they agreed to partner with you or take actions, remind them of their commitment and thank them; be sure to offer assistance as needed.
- If you promised to give them any additional information or answers to questions, provide the information as soon as possible.
- Share any information or insights you gained from the meeting with your fellow organization members and/or community partners to plan out additional needed follow-up.
- Maintain a relationship with people you met with by keeping them updated on your activities.