Outreach & Engagement
Lobbying Tips - Advocacy 101
State University of New York encourages all friends of the University to engage in the political process and directly communicate with their representatives in the New York State Senate and Assembly. Our web site provides basic information regarding legislation that impacts SUNY. SupportSUNY.org provides guidance for letters to send to members of the Legislature regarding specific higher educational issues.
SUNY suggests that interested New Yorker's contact their local members of the Senate and Assembly when important legislative issues arise. For instance, if the State Legislature has approved a budget plan for higher education spending in the next fiscal year and you feel it shortchanges the state's investment in SUNY. You should consider contacting your members of the State Legislature to ensure lawmakers hear a strong message of support for an increased state investment in SUNY! Your voice really makes a difference!
Tips on Meeting a Member of Legislature or a Member of the Staff
A personal visit with your state Senator or Assemblyperson is an effective way to emphasize your interest in an issue or bill. Some tips for meeting a Legislator to urge support or opposition to legislation:
- When making an appointment, state the subject to be discussed and identify persons who will attend, noting whether they are constituents.
- Select a spokesperson if others are going with you and agree on your presentation in advance of your meeting.
- Know the facts, both legislatively and related to your position. If discussing a bill, know the number and title.
- Present the facts in an orderly, concise, positive manner. Stay on the issue. Don't try to talk about too many different topics or your position may become confused.
- Relate the positive impact of legislation you support and the problems it corrects. If you are affected personally, tell them your story and how an issue will impact you, your child, or your family.
- Relate the negative impact of legislation you oppose and the problems it would create.
- Leave fact sheets if possible.
- Encourage questions. Be prepared to discuss.
- Ask for favorable consideration, thank the legislator for his/her time and courtesy, and leave promptly.
- Be sure to get the name of the staff member covering your issue.
- Follow up with a note of thanks.
- You may end up meeting with a staff member instead of the Legislator if he/she is called away for votes or committee business. The staffer will convey your message to the Legislator.
Tips on Writing to a State Legislator
- Try to stick to one typewritten page, two pages at most. Don't write on the back of a page. If writing longhand, take care to write legibly.
- Use your own words and your own stationery. A personal letter is better than a form letter.
- In a short first paragraph, state your purpose. Stick with one subject or issue. Support your position with the rest of the letter.
- If a bill is the subject, cite it by both name and number. Try not to use acronyms or clichÃ©s.
- Be factual and support your position with information about how legislation is likely to affect you and others. Avoid emotional, philosophical arguments.
- If you believe that legislation is wrong and should be opposed, say so. Indicate the likely adverse effects and suggest a better approach.
- Ask the legislator's views, but do not demand support. Remember that the Senator and Representative respond to a variety of views, and even if your position is not supported on one issue or bill now, it may be the next time.
- Be sure to include your address and sign your name legibly. You should also include your telephone number. If you have any family, business, or political connection in regard to this issue, explain it. It may serve as an identification when your point of view is considered.
- Write also about legislation of which you approve. Legislators hear mostly from constituents who are against something; this gives them a one-sided picture of their constituency. A note of appreciation will make your legislator remember you favorably next time you write.
- Write early in the session before a bill has been introduced if you have some ideas that you would like to see included in legislation. If you are "lobbying" for or against a bill and your legislator is a member of the Committee to which it has been referred, write when the Committee begins hearings. If you legislator is not a member of the Committee handling the bill, write just before the bill is scheduled to come to the floor for debate and vote.
- Write the Chairperson or members of a Committee holding hearings on legislation in which you are interested. However, remember that you have more influence with legislators from your own district than any others.
The suggested address and style is:
|The Honorable _________________
New York State Senate
Albany, New York 12247
Dear Senator __________________
||The Honorable ___________________
New York State Assembly
Albany, New York 12248
or Assemblywoman ______________
Tips on Telephone Calls
- Telephone calls are extremely effective when you need to make your views known quickly and time isn't available to write a letter.
- When you call a legislator's office you will be talking to a member of the staff who will most likely ask your name and address for future follow-up. In addition to letting him/her know how you feel, you can also ask questions to learn the legislator's position on an issue as well as how he/she plans to vote on a particular bill.
- If you are interested in calling a Senator or Assemblyperson concerning an issue, and don't have the telephone number, you can phone the:
- Senate switchboard -- 518-455-2800 or
- Assembly switchboard -- 518-455-4100
Source: College Board