[10 on Tuesday] How to Lobby for Preservation: Ten Essential Steps


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Casting your ballot in the voting booth may be the most fundamental of democratic acts, but talking to your elected official -- called lobbying -- is the indispensable next step. Preservationists, like every other group of citizens joined in common cause, have the prerogative and the responsibility to let members of Congress know that the legislation they enact has consequences, positive and negative, for historic preservation goals back home.

The good news is, if you’re making the case for preservation in your community and encouraging others to take action, you already are an advocate. Lobbying calls for the same communication skills, knowledge of preservation and its benefits, and concern for local communities. Other than that, no specific training or experience is required.

This toolkit offers a broad foundation on how to approach this type of advocacy on the federal, state, and local levels. Every person has the ability to be a grassroots lobbyist, and these tips will give you a good place to start.


Note: These tips were adapted from the 2002 edition of A Blueprint for Lobbying which was first published in 1984 by Preservation Action. The first edition was written by Mona B. Ferrugia, edited by Nellie L. Longsworth with Julia Churchhman, Kathryn Nichols, Elle Wynn, and Chas A. Miller III contributing. The 2002 edition was substantially expanded and updated by Susan West Montgomery.

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[10 on Tuesday] How to Lobby for Preservation: Ten Essential Steps

  1. 1. Advocating for Preservation10 Essential Steps for Effective Lobbying Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
  2. 2. Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation1. Do your research.Look up the pertinent members of the House of Representativesand Senate to find out what types of historic resources are intheir districts, what type of interests they have, what committeesthey sit on, and where they stand on preservation-relatedlegislation. Also research what your state, tribal, and localpreservation organizations are doing.
  3. 3. 2. Consider your timing.The best time to lobby is when a representativeor senator is considering writing or sponsoring abill that will benefit preservation. If you makeyour position known at this stage, you have agreater opportunity to influence the legislation.Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
  4. 4. 3. Make a specific request.Any contact with your legislativemembers should include a clearstatement of the action you wouldlike them to take. Possible actionsinclude introducing a bill, becominga cosponsor, voting in committee oron the floor in favor of a bill oramendment, or contacting anotherkey member. Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
  5. 5. 4. Have accurate info onhand.It’s important to know as much as possibleabout the bills you’re lobbying for. Your case willbe improved if you use accurate, factualmaterial to substantiate your position, and thisground work will be reflected when yourrepresentative or senator makes an informeddecision on an issue. You may also want toprovide rebuttals to arguments your opponentsare making on the issue.Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
  6. 6. 5. Use real-life, local examples.Connect the legislative issue you are discussing with examples of howit will benefit historic resources in your community, such as naming thehistoric districts and buildings that would benefit from historic taxcredits. Only you can make it real and relevant for your legislators. Photo courtesy Susan West Montgomery
  7. 7. Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation6. Establish an ongoing relationship.Check with your member’s offices on a regular basis, not just whenyou need them to do something. Invite them to local events and keepthem informed of local preservation issues and updates. Ideally theoffices will eventually reach out to you for advice and information onpreservation issues.
  8. 8. 7. Contact the D.C. office.Your first communication to theWashington, D.C. office of a member ofCongress is likely to be directed to thelegislative assistant who handles preservationissues. To help your case, provide concise, well-organized presentations, including material onhow the issue plays out in that member’sdistrict.Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
  9. 9. 8. Contact your districtoffice.Senators may have six or so officesaround their state. A congressman in asmall district would only have one; in alarger district, two or three. While staffmembers who work in the district officeare not directly involved in the legislativeprocess, they are more readilyaccessible and familiar with local issues.The member’s schedule in his homedistrict is usually arranged by theseoffices as well. Use them often! Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
  10. 10. 9. Remember to hit all levels ofgovernment.Although federal laws have a tremendous impact onpreservation, the success or failure of preservation may bedetermined at the local level. Fortunately, all of the same rulesapply; “lobbying is lobbying,” regardless of the office the electedofficial holds. Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
  11. 11. 10. Polish yourcommunications.Whether lobbying in person or by email,phone, or letter, certain techniques hold true.Remember to identify yourself. Be succinctwith your request. Ask specific questions.State your position on the issues. Have yourresearch on hand. Keep your exchangesshort and to the point. Always follow up onany questions or requests. And mostimportantly -- say thank you!Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
  12. 12. Ten on Tuesday features ten preservationtips each week. For more tips, visitblog.PreservationNation.org.