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Top takeaways on effective in-person meetings with elected officials include:
Share local connections and stories
Be prepared to share specific stories of how the projects and organizations you support positively impact a local issue that is also high on the official’s agenda. Stating if you are originally from and/or live in their state/district, actively fund organizations in those areas, and have mutual professional and personal contacts also resonated in meetings. Senators and representatives were keenly interested in hearing their constituents’ concerns, not merely broad national issues.
Position yourself as a resource
Don’t assume that your representatives know much about your work, your funding area, or even the philanthropic sector. In-person meetings are a great way to educate, ask how you can be of help, and offer your assistance with information and connections should they need it. Just because lawmakers hear about your issue area doesn’t mean they’ll automatically know the right next step.
Emphasize the need for partnership and collaboration
Many conversations focused on how philanthropic dollars cannot fully replace government support. Ideally, public and private funding efforts coordinate to maximize local impact. Foundations, particularly those with few or no staff, are in a unique position to take risks, respond nimbly to emerging community needs, and fund pilot approaches that government’s bureaucratic infrastructure may not be able to support.