Steps to Planning a Legislative Event
Hosting a legislative event is a strategic way to inform policymakers of the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign, as well as gain media attention. It is important that legislators in their local districts understand how beneficial a quality public education is to children and families in your communities. The following are action steps to take to planning your event:
- Set the date, time and site for the event. Work with your legislator’s aide to determine what days and times would be best. Pennsylvania’s General Assembly is in session Monday through Wednesday, allowing most legislators time in their home districts on Thursday and Friday. Please see Appendix A for schedules of when the House and Senate are in session. The site for your event should be chosen based on its potential impact on the legislator and the media.
- Make sure there is ample parking and A/V equipment hook-up available at your site.
- Your events should be no longer than 90 minutes.
- Send invitations to legislators. Ideally, the legislator should receive a personal invitation from a key constituent – someone who has a personal connection to the legislator. Once the legislator is committed to the time and date, it should be communicated that this event will be canceled if they cannot attend on that date (unless you have more than one legislator committed).
- Also send invitations to local officials including school superintendents and principals, county commissioners, the chamber of commerce president, other business leaders, faith community leaders, and presidents of local civic groups.
- Secure caterer if holding an event that requires food/refreshments.
- Make every effort to involve every education and advocacy organization that has members in your legislator’s district. This could include school district employees/officials, education organizations, community organizations and other endorsers of the campaign. Urge community non-profit organizations to invite their board members.
- When planning the agenda for your event, follow a schedule that would give parents, teachers, and other school officials opportunities to tell their stories about the benefits of adequate and equitable resources in schools. Make every effort to secure other speakers that demonstrate powerful community support for public education. Business and community leaders and local elected officials could be excellent choices to join school superintendents. Let us know if you need help reaching out to these groups – we can connect you with them through the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign.
- Follow up the invitations with a personal phone call and a confirmation letter once confirmation is made. This should also be done for the local officials.
- Make copies of materials to distribute at the event.
- Create indoor and outdoor signs and banners for the event.
One – Two Weeks Before the Event
- Develop talking points and/or scripts for the event and the order in which people will speak. You can use the sample talking points included in Appendix B. Include introductions for legislators. For biographical information about legislators, click on www.state.pa.us. Conduct a dry-run of the event with event coordinators.
- Draft a news advisory to announce the event and send it to your media list the week before the event. Refer to the news advisory template in this kit. All media invitations should be confirmed with phone calls a week prior to the event and then again the day prior to the event.
- Arrange for a photographer.
- Follow up with caterer to confirm food plans for event.
- Call legislators to confirm their attendance a few days before the event.
- Complete nametags for guests and speakers.
- Create a sign-in sheet.
The Day of the Event
- Distribute the news release at the completion of the event. Fax or email it to those members of the press who did not attend.
- Place signage at all key intersections leading to the facility to ensure that everyone who is invited arrives AND to give all participants a sense of attending a very important event. Consider making colorful signs and banners to post around the outside of the facility and in the halls and the meeting room where the event will be held.
- Supply a sign-in sheet so these advocates can be mobilized for other grassroots lobbying activities. Nametags should be provided for all participants.
- Make sure host/co-host recognizes elected officials and staff as well as other dignitaries in the audience.
Immediately After the Event
- Send personal thank you letters to all those who helped in the preparation for the event.
- Send thank you letters to all public officials and reiterate your key messages.
- Provide feedback to the Campaign to keep us informed of your reactions and comments from any legislators at your event. Include any tips or lessons learned for others planning legislative events.
- If your organization distributes a newsletter, write an article about the event and include photos. Send a copy of the newsletter to the legislator along with any photos they may be able to use in their own newsletters.
- Send a follow up news release with a photo of you and your legislator(s) to the local papers. Contact the Campaign at (717) 260-9900 for assistance, if necessary.