Friday, June 17, 2016

Capitol Hill: What's in Your Lobby Bag?

Next week, I'm heading to Washington D.C. with my kids for the RESULTS International event that will include a full day of lobbying on global maternal and child health. (What better topic for "Anti-Poverty Mom," right?) As I was preparing, it dawned on me that I should document the things that I take with me for a day trip to Capitol Hill with my kids, so that other mom-advocates can be prepared for their first trip.

Advocates heading out for a whole day should pack their lobby bags with the same mentality a mom uses to pack a diaper bag. Think through the likely possibilities of what is likely to happen and what unfortunately may happen, then pack accordingly. Like a backpacking hiker, be conscious of weight since you have to carry it all day long. The trouble is that if you haven’t lobbied before, you don’t know what to bring. So, I’ll tell you what’s in mine. My bag is always packed and I’ve just added in things over the years after I’d wished I’d had them.

  • Over-the-shoulder messenger bag with plenty of pockets and the organization logo on the outside: Some organizations give you a plain tote for free and that’s cool. In some ways, the logo is more important than the pockets. It lets people know your cause whether you are walking in the door, trudging down long congressional corridors, or smiling in front of the Capitol dome for your photo post on social media. However, I am very partial to my UN Foundation Shot@Life tote because of all the cool zips and compartments. 

  • Notebook: To write down follow up actions from the meeting, important observations, names of all the staffers in the meeting, and miscellaneous reminders about the day
  • Two-pocket folders that hold a business card in the pocket: To hold information to leave behind with each office you meet with (copies of newspaper clippings, infographics, brochures, etc)
  • Business cards: Put one in each leave behind folder and keep some to hand out to every aide at the meeting as well as colleagues you meet during the conference. Don't have any? Order some cool ones from You deserve to have people know who you are!
  • Note cards: I write the name of the member of Congress, the room number, and aide’s name on a notecard attached to each folder, so I know exactly what I’m giving to whom and I can remove it just before the meeting. Sticky notes fall off in my bag…don’t trust them.
  • Paper clips: To hold the note card to the folder, hold together media or information sheets, hold other people’s business cards, pick simple locks, etc
  • Thank You cards: The aide or member of Congress you meet with should get a quick handwritten note simply thanking them for their time they spent meeting with you. Get the signature of all your fellow team members in your group before the meeting and if you’re clever, just hand the thank you to the receptionist on your way out.
  • Stamps: To mail your thank you note if you forget to be clever and hand it to the receptionist on your way out.
  • Phone charger cord: It is totally acceptable to charge your phone in an outlet during a meeting. Note: it is not acceptable to run back and interrupt their next meeting because you forgot your phone!
  • Picture of your children (or your children in person!): When explaining why you are an advocate, show them a picture of your family and say you’re making a better world for your kids. Or, just look at it for strength and resolution if you feel butterflies in your stomach.
  • Kleenex: If you’re a parent. You know this is useful.
  • Hand sanitizer or wipes: You will be shaking a lot of hands and you don’t know where they’ve been.
  • Band-Aids and Neosporin: Someone always gets a blister walking between the senate and house buildings with no nylons in the summer. They will revere your benevolence for giving them a Band-Aid and a dab of Neosporin. Or it might be you and you’ll just take care of it quietly by yourself.
  • Granola bar or pretzels: Cafeterias on Capitol Hill are sometimes too far for little ones to make it. Have a little snack packed in case you don’t get to one or if a meeting runs late and you have to skip lunch.
  • Cough drops/hard candy: For coughing fits...or keeping children's mouths busy.
  • 3-4 ball point pens: One will always run out when you need it. Another will be stolen by someone. See? You still have an extra!
  • Sharpie: At least once every conference, it seems like someone yells “Does anyone have a sharpie?” I don’t know why.
  • Scotch tape: About every third conference, it seems like someone yells “Does anyone have scotch tape??!!” and they always look more desperate than the Sharpie people. I think it’s usually related to making and posting directional signs in hallways because it’s not like anyone ever quickly wrapped up a present and gave it to me.
There you go! Those are my lobby bag basics. I've skipped cosmetic things like hair ties (which I use) and lipstick (which I don't), but this is enough to help a novice pack like a pro...or at least a mom! 

To my experienced mommy lobbyists out there...
what's in your lobby bag?


Shannon said...

only thing i would add is SNACKS! i always get hungry on the hill. just as long as you aren't going into the capitol building ;)

Anonymous said...

I like to bring highlighters for prep, though not everyone needs or wants them. Also, I don't think we can bring snacks into congressional buildings anymore?