The Fly-in is a tried-and-true staple of advocacy for organizations across the country. Organizations bring their stakeholders to Washington, D.C. each year to conduct in-person meetings with key Congressional members and staff. A survey conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) found senior Congressional staff overwhelmingly believe that “direct constituent interactions have more influence on lawmakers’ decisions than other advocacy strategies.” Even in a post-COVID world, in-person interactions with legislators make all the difference regarding a critical issue for your organization. The question is, can we improve upon traditional Fly-in models? Aristotle’s advocacy experts are here to help!
Fly-in attendance is typically the same each year for most organizations. Top advocates, board members, executives, and a few other groups of stakeholders participate in Capitol meetings. What if you could open your Fly-in to new groups of advocates who could not make the trip to D.C.? What if those advocates who cannot make the trip can have in-person meetings with Congressional staff right in their own backyard? I am talking about in-district meetings as part of your broader Fly-in event.
Your organization’s Fly-in is a kick-off to the “advocacy calendar.” This is the first opportunity of the year (in most cases) for your stakeholders to meet with their Members of Congress and discuss issues important to your organization and industry. Incorporating in-district meetings for the advocates who cannot make the trip to D.C. helps you expand the audience of legislative offices that hear about your priority issues for the year. Keep these things in mind as you potentially look to make in-district efforts a part of your annual Fly-in:
- Expand your allotted time for in-district meetings – Your Fly-in is on one specific day, but expand your timeline for conducting in-district meetings, as it can be challenging to schedule them for the same day as your Fly-in. Try to keep the in-district appointments within two weeks of your Fly-in to manage the Fly-in event and in-district efforts effectively.
- Create varied materials – You will want to have separate talking points and leave behind materials for your in-district meetings. Crafting your message to resonate with in-district staff will be different than what motivates D.C. staff to act on an issue. Prepare your messaging and collateral with this in mind.
- Send follow-up Fly-in surveys to your in-district advocacy meeting participants – When managing your Fly-in always send out a post-meeting survey to ensure you know how the meeting went and what follow up is needed. It is important to send these surveys to your in-district participants to capture that information. Fly-ins are all about advocacy return on investment (ROI), and it is hard to evaluate the metrics and value of your efforts without this survey information.
Fly-ins are a vital component of your organization’s advocacy efforts. Here at Aristotle, we believe in building out advocacy programs to be effective, produce valuable metrics, impact policy outcomes, and continue to build your engagement strategy. When planning your D.C. Fly-in event, think about incorporating in-district meetings where possible. Mixing D.C. and in-district advocacy can help get your message to more legislators and keep your advocates engaged, even those who cannot make the trip to Washington, D.C.