Build Ties Between Lawmakers, Fitness Industry With a Lobby Day

Looking to amplify your lobbying efforts but don’t know where to start? Hosting a lobby day can be a great way to gain momentum and is easier than you think.

Influencing legislation can seem like a daunting task, but hosting a lobby day at your state capitol or Washington, D.C., with a diverse group of advocates can amplify your message and have a significant impact all in just one day.

This article will cover:

  • What a lobby day is,
  • When to schedule a lobby day,
  • Who you should bring,
  • Materials needed, and
  • Hosting a virtual lobby day.

What is a Lobby Day?

Lobby days are an opportunity to bring constituents to the state capitol to meet with their legislators face-to-face on behalf of the issues that you choose for them. Anyone involved in the industry can participate in a lobby day, bringing club operators, employees, or grasstops advocates to the meetings.

In a survey conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation, congressional staffers overwhelmingly agreed, “Direct constituent interactions have more influence on lawmakers’ decisions than other advocacy strategies.” Greater than 90% of staffers in the survey said an in-person visit from a constituent would have “some” or “a lot” of influence on an undecided legislator. Spending a day at your state house allows your organization to spread your message to many officials, often meeting with dozens of legislative offices in a day.

When Should You Schedule the Lobby Day?

Choosing when to schedule your lobby day is an important part of the planning process. The lobby day’s whole point is to secure meetings with as many legislators (or staffers) as possible, so you will want to plan your lobby day well in advance as elected officials’ calendars fill up quickly.

Your lobby day should also take into account the legislative calendar for your state. Not all states are in session throughout the year, and the legislature needs to be in session for your lobby day to have the most significant impact. Additionally, if you are lobbying on a particular bill or handful of bills, you should try to schedule the lobby day shortly before notable events in the bill’s life—such as hearings or floor votes.

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Who Should You Bring to the Lobby Day?

While anyone can represent the industry’s interests during a lobby day, there are two things to remember: bring a large and diverse group of advocates.

First, it’s beneficial to bring along as many advocates as you feel comfortable keeping tabs on. Having more people advocating for your issue projects and strengthens your voice, but you want to ensure that everyone is prepared and remains on the same message in their meetings with legislators.

Second, bringing a diverse group of advocates will ensure that your message has the broadest reach. Often stories from employees or interested members will have more of an impact with legislators than business owners. Try to secure advocates from different parts of the state to represent a wide selection of districts.

The Lobby Day

It is critical to brief your advocates before their meetings to ensure that everyone is prepared and stays on message during the lobby day. When training your advocates, you should be sure to go over the following:

  • Background on the issue(s),
  • A quick elevator pitch on what you are asking of the legislators,
  • Main data points that support your position,
  • Main opposition talking points and rebuttals if lobbying for or against a specific bill, and
  • Directions for follow-up for more information.

Materials for Your Lobby Day

You will need to create a few different materials for your lobby day. For each legislative office, you should prepare a packet of information for your advocates to leave behind. These packets should include a fact sheet on the issue you are there to lobby on and a collection of media articles or stories supporting your point. Each advocate should also have a packet of materials and be prepared to highlight specific examples when meeting with the legislator.

Virtual Lobby Day

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some state houses were closed to the public, this makes conducting a lobby day in-person impossible, but you can still influence your legislators with a virtual lobby day!

A virtual lobby day achieves the same purpose as an in-person event––holding a large number of meetings with legislators to ensure your issue gains the most attention––but is conducted either through phone calls or video conferencing with the legislators. A virtual lobby day can sometimes be even easier to achieve because you can schedule more meetings with legislators since there is no physical travel time.

One important thing to remember with both in-person and virtual lobby days is to promote your lobby day on social media. Social media will give your issue a broader platform and ensure that the issue sticks with the legislators. Social media promotion is even more paramount in a virtual lobby day when you might not have the opportunity for face-to-face meetings.

Holding a lobby day can be one of the most effective ways to influence the legislation that means the most to you and your members. For more information on how to effectively build relationships with your government officials and influence legislation, check out IHRSA’s Lobbying Playbook.

Author avatar

Jake Landry

Jake Landry previously served as IHRSA's Public Policy Assistant—a position that focused on monitoring legislation that affects the health club industry at the state and federal levels and writing legislative alerts and articles on issues that affect IHRSA members.