Meeting with state legislators is a highly effective way to help them understand your position on an issue or the services your nonprofit organization provides. Legislators welcome visits from constituents and organizations that serve those constituents. They want you involved! But they are busy people, so plan ahead and use your time well.
The Colorado General Assembly has 65 Representatives and 35 Senators. It’s important for them to know how your organization’s work impacts the local economy and the people they serve.
Consider starting with your state Senator and Representative. If you don’t know who your legislators are, click here to find your Representative and Senator. Click here to find your legislators’ contact information.
In addition to your legislators, you may want to build relationships with legislators from other communities who have professional experience relevant to the work of your organization, Colorado has a citizen legislature, rather than a professional legislature, so most legislators have experience in other professions and may have other jobs currently.
Additionally, certain legislators may be in a position to have influence on key issues for your organization. If bills relevant to your organization tend to be referred to particular legislative committees, then your organization may wish to have relationships with the chairs or members of those committees. Also, certain legislators are in a leadership positions in their parties or their chambers, so those legislators may be particularly important to know.
It’s helpful to be aware of ideology and the current balance of power in the General Assembly. Typically, having good relationships with all parties and working in a bipartisan (or multipartisan) fashion is the best way to get things done. However, one party may be in a better position currently to have influence on your key issues or may be more sympathetic to your cause, or both. Nonprofits should consider all these factors when determining which legislators to meet. However, remember that nonprofits are prohibited from campaigning for one party, or one candidate, or another.
During the legislative session (January to May), it’s best to contact them at their Capitol offices. Outside of the session, you may contact them at home if they make their home contact information available to you.
When you contact legislators, offer several dates and times if possible and do your best to accommodate their schedules. Because they have busy schedules, particularly during the legislative session, you should make an appointment in advance and expect to get about 15 minutes. During the legislative session, their schedules may change at a moment’s notice, so be prepared to reschedule if necessary.
*Note: If you are meeting with a legislator for the first time, you may want to focus on introducing your organization and establishing credibility before making any big asks. “Don’t ask a stranger for a favor.”