The word “advocacy” might sound overwhelming at first to a woman business owner who has never engaged with her legislators or testified on Capitol Hill about an issue that impacts her business, but it shouldn’t be. It’s as simple as sending an email to start a conversation and understanding that legislators want to hear from people on Main Street…they really do. During training sessions leading up to this year’s Virtual Advocacy Days, NAWBO HQ’s advocacy team shared these tips for engaging with elected officials and testifying on the Hill:
1) Know who your elected officials are, including your Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Legislature, State Senate, Secretary of State and State Supreme Court Justices.
2) If you have a concern as a women business owner, start by sending an email to your legislators saying, “Hello, this is X, I have a business in X and these are some of my concerns…’”
3) Build relationships with the staff of your elected officials; they’re the ones doing a lot of the work and recommending people to committees.
4) Follow and engage with legislators on social media—most all are on Facebook and some on Instagram and even TikTok.
5) When you receive a message about joining a townhall for one of your legislators, just join. They’re an excellent opportunity to engage and ask questions.
6) If you’re invited to testify on the Hill, say yes! Speak with staff prior to the hearing to get an idea of questions you might hear. Familiarize yourself with committee members and key staffers. Practice your opening statement and prepare for questions you may be asked.
7) Once you’re on the Hill, virtually or in-person, be courteous of committee members’ time and don’t interrupt when other witnesses are speaking.
8) When preparing written testimony, make sure it’s personal—use your experience as a business owner to inform your testimony. Also, ensure all information is accurate, honest, relevant and bi-partisan—remember, your duty is to inform the entire committee.