I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I’m guessing most advocates would take the “win”. But is it possible or even likely you’ll always win? Probably not, but it’s certainly something to strive for! Let’s take sports for example. There’s only a very few sports where a game or match can end in a tie. Most usually go into overtime until there’s a decisive winner.
So what’s this have to do with summer advocacy? Today is May 10, 2018 which means you’re in the second quarter. And if there’s only four in a year, halftime is quickly approaching. As you reflect on your relationship-building efforts thus far, will you be ahead, tied or way behind at the start of the second half?
If you’re behind…don’t panic. The year is far from over so you still have time to get in the game. In our on-going series of interviews with Florida’s leaders, we asked State Representative Bobby DuBose to share his thoughts about working on that relationship during the summer.
“The best advice I can give is to spend time with state elected officials outside of session. Engage them locally when they’re at home. Show them why you’re unique and different and the impact of what you do. Have a real conversation with them about how certain policies can impact your municipality or organization. But don’t just have the conversation about the negative effect, also share some of the positive policies that can work hand in hand to benefit your community.”
But how can you do that if you don’t know or have a relationship with your legislator? One of the first rules of thumb is you have to offer something before you can ask for something. Begin by asking, “How can I help you?” A simple question that means a lot, because few advocates actually ask it!
Next, look for opportunities for legislators to interact with your constituents or the people you serve. Some of the best ways are at a council meeting, upcoming festival, parade, opening day for the little league teams, or upcoming events in your city. These venues bring out a lot people and families…many who live in your community.
These are exactly the type of events legislators love to attend (especially in an election year). If your staff is sending them a formal invitation, follow that up with a personal one. And if they’re able to attend, offer to show them around and introduce them to some key community leaders you know will be there.
These simple strategies will get you back in the game and yes…can be a big “win” in your on-going efforts to build the relationship. But understand a one-time effort or conversation doesn’t work either. And neither does drawing a line in the sand. When we asked Representative DuBose to share his advice about building a strong relationship, here’s what he told us.
“The greatest tool or strength one can have is to try not to take things personally. Unfortunately I see it a lot. People get angry about a certain policy and they continue to carry it so much so that their position on the policy becomes the person or their view of the person. In this process you deal with multiple issues and many people. Even when you don’t agree, you have to be open to the opportunity to come to the table and have a candid dialogue. The best advice I can offer is to control and manage your own temperament and realize this process is a long game…don’t end it in the first quarter. The one thing people pick up on is if you are genuine or not. And if you are, even if you disagree you can still have a conversation. ” – Rep. Bobby DuBose
Following this great advice definitely means you’ll be well in the game in the fourth quarter, and may even come out the winner!
Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy
We would like to thank Rep. Bobby DuBose for his time and candid remarks during our interview. Rep. DuBose has been a highly respected member of the Florida House of Representatives since 2014. He served as the Democratic Leader pro tempore from 2016-2018. Prior to being elected to the Florida House, Rep. DuBose served as a Commissioner in the City of Fort Lauderdale.