Advocacy Strategies for Lame Duck Sessions

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

Several tub animals hanging out. Lame duck session

Lame Duck Sessions: Achieve Advocacy Goals  With Strategy

Lame duck session should not come as a surprise. After election season is over, it’s easy to just want to hole up, make sour dough bread, chicken soup and shut off your political brain for a while. But across the country, as well as in Congress, we are about to go into the legislative season and lame duck sessions. Now is the time to be prepared for short-term and long-term legislative and advocacy fights ahead. As we prepare for advocacy campaigns this year and next, here are some suggestions for advocacy strategies for the upcoming sessions both lame duck and the full legislative session ahead.

Define your short-term advocacy goals.

Start with a plan. What do you need to accomplish in the next few months to set your advocacy organization up for the future? Pass a bill? Develop a strategic relationship with a future committee chair? Build capacity in a region or a specific district? Define an issue as a funding priority? Clarifying your short-term advocacy goals early and being as specific as possible will help you develop an advocacy plan to get where you need to go. Do a planning session with your team, if you need thoughts on this drop a note here.  

Define your long-term advocacy goals.

Although there may be a specific bill you are working to pass, most of the advocacy work that happens during a lame duck session will center on long-term, ongoing fights that aren’t bound by the legislative season or a 1-year timeline. Play the long game and integrate your strategy goals and metrics with your short-term goals. 

Grow your advocacy assets.

Develop relationships and advocacy capacity for the next session. Think about how you can leverage the lame duck session to build the infrastructure you need for both the short and long term, specifically in terms of lists, supporters, and budget. There are many tactics, from virtual lobby visits to harnessing click-to-call technology to a list of potential advocates, or on a site like Pandora. You can also use a petition strategy to build district level sign-ups for the short and long term which could be very useful in capacity building.

Write it down. 

Creating a written plan with timelines and benchmarks for success for lame duck and how it connects to your strategy for the next session will allow you to assess whether or not you achieved your goals. You would be surprised (or maybe not) by how few people actually write down a short or long-term advocacy plan.

Make an advocacy calendar.

While a lame duck session may not be the time to accomplish a ton of things legislatively, thinking about it as part of a larger advocacy fight is just smart strategy. Use the lame duck session as a time to lay the groundwork and advance your legislative and position with the general public in other ways. Organizing and creating active public relations around your position to your membership coalition partners and the general public can be a real bonus for long term goals. Laying the advocacy groundwork means setting a schedule and doing it soon and setting goals and metrics to track success.

Engage and expand your coalition. 

It may have been a long time since you engaged with your coalition partners. Well, if you have not reached out now is the time. There may be fissures in your coalitions that need to be fixed. Even small disagreements around legislative priorities can expand into real friction without solid communication and planning. Now is also a time to see if there are new folks to build partnerships with. It is hard and often impossible to do coalition planning and outreach during session so don’t wait to reach out.    

Seize your advocacy opportunities.

While many people see it as a chore, advocacy is an opportunity to create long-term relationships and lasting benefits for an organization. Whether it is fundraising, signing up new supporters, or training advocates on virtual lobbying, you should use this time to build capacity that you can harness for the bigger fights you’ll inevitably face down the line. A longer-term asset will pay dividends in the future. 

Don’t Delay- Plan now. 

The longer you wait to plan your advocacy strategy and act, the more reactive and less effective you’ll be. Don’t get caught on your heels—you know your issue. Look at your timeline and create a calendar that will allow you to plan, be proactive and take advantage of the time and opportunity you have and how to make your issue a priority.

Long-term engagement matters.

Building relationships with elected officials, members and other constituencies is a long-term benefit to your advocacy organization. No one wants to feel like they are only contacted when you want something. Take the time to build a relationship that exists outside of the political campaign and legislative cycle. The more you work at it, the healthier and more organized your organization will be. Being active now will make your organization stronger for next year. Think of it as an ongoing workout. A way to continue to grow your advocacy strength for the next time you need it.

We know there are lots of distractions this time of year to stop you from your advocacy planning. If this was easy everyone would do it but the groups that do get started early get good results over time.

Learn Strategies for Lame Duck and Advocacy