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How to Approach a Member of Parliament


Tuesday, 17th September 2013 at 10:27 am
Staff Reporter, Journalist
As the new Abbott Government settles in, meeting in person with government representatives is an effective way to ensure a Not for Profit’s voice is heard where it matters. Communications and government relations expert Jo Scard, from Fifty Acres, offers her top tips on how to approach a member of Parliament.

Tuesday, 17th September 2013
at 10:27 am
Staff Reporter, Journalist


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How to Approach a Member of Parliament
Tuesday, 17th September 2013 at 10:27 am

As the new Abbott Government settles in, meeting in person with government representatives is an effective way to ensure a Not for Profit’s voice is heard where it matters. Communications and government relations expert Jo Scard, from Fifty Acres, offers her top tips on how to approach a member of Parliament.

While government representatives are often very time poor, there are a number of ways in which you can maximise the likelihood that they will make time to meet with you.

  1. The first thing to consider when thinking about meeting with the government is which representatives will have influence over the outcome you’re hoping to achieve. These people become your targets for a meeting request.

  1. The second thing to consider is how each target might be able to assist you. This becomes your “ask”, though it may be best not to mention this directly when you first request the meeting. Rather, state your wish to discuss the issue more broadly.

  1. Put in a call to the office of each representative on your target list, letting them know that you’re looking to send through a meeting request to the MP, and politely asking for the email address for their diary secretary. Often this can be more effective than sending a request to the generic inbox.

  1. Send through a simple email outlining your reason for requesting a meeting and providing an indicative timeframe for when you would like to meet (an example email is provided below).

  1. Provide a one-page background brief on the issue and/or your organisation as an attachment to the email where possible.

  1. Follow up with the office via phone after about a week if you’ve not received a response. Continue to politely follow up each week until you receive a response and confirm the meeting a couple of days beforehand.

Tips for writing to an MP or Minister

Here is an example of an email you can send them:

Dear Minister/Senator/ Mr/Ms X,

I am writing to you as CEO/Title of [insert organisation name hyperlinked to website] which provides homelessness services to 30,000 individuals throughout the country each year.

I will be in Canberra in the first sitting week in September and would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss some important developments in the work that we do and the need we are seeing in the community.

I’ve attached further background to this email and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

[sign-off]

  1. Provide a number of possible dates that you’re available to meet but define a timeframe (for example, January/the second week of July/coming month) so the meeting is not pushed back indefinitely.

  1. Request a meeting with “the MP or an adviser” to increase the likelihood that the office will have the availability to meet with you.

  1. If requesting a meeting in Canberra, make sure you have a look at which weeks Parliament is sitting as MPs may be at home in their electorates during other periods.

  1. Attach a formal signed letter on letterhead to accompany the request email.

  1. Be clear, concise and polite in all your interactions with the MP’s office and ensure you address them using their appropriate title (for example, Minister or Senator where applicable).

Background materials

  • Letter… Provides some more context on the issue than the email but is no more than 1.5 pages.

  • Backgrounder… One page (300-500 words) on the issue and the role/contribution of your organisation.

  • Leave Behind… More detail on your programs and credentials (for example, social impact evaluations, expert testimonials).

Checklist

  • Create a target list of representatives you’d like to meet with based on their ability to influence the outcome you are seeking.

  • Be clear, concise, polite and persistent.

  • Outline why the issue is relevant to the representative (for example, if they have a health portfolio reference the health impacts of the issue, if a regional affairs portfolio reference the impact on those particular communities).

  • Always request a meeting with an adviser in case the MP is unable or unlikely to be able to meet (for example, if they are the Minister of a large portfolio).

  • Provide a range of dates for your availability where possible.

About the author: Jo Scard is a former advisor to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship in the Howard Government between January 2008 – September 2010 (two years, nine months). During that time Scard was a Member of the Governments Parliamentary Business Committee of Cabinet (PBC), which determines whole-of-government legislative priorities. Scard’s consultancy offers low-budget services for Not for Profits.The website www.fiftyacresonline.com goes live in the next few weeks.


Staff Reporter  |  Journalist |  @ProBonoNews


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