Meaning of lobbying

It’s the practice of private advocacy with the aim  of influencing  a governing  body in order to ensure  that an individual  or organization point of being placed  on its practice  so as to avoid  political  manipulation. Lobbying is an organized attempt by an individual, an organization or groups of individuals and/or organizations to influence on behalf of a particular interest all the stakeholders involved in preparing and passing legislation. Such stakeholders include ministerial advisers and staff, legislative drafters, policy makers, members of Parliament, portfolio committee members, select committees, the staff of various committees, experts and consultants serving those committees, etc. It also means seeking the support of an influential person or persons and providing accurate information which legislators can use in their decision-making. Lobbying is give-and-take process that also involves gathering new information and analysis, which enables lobbyists to strengthen their own strategies.

Lobbying means persuading individuals or groups with decision-making power to support a position you believe is right. When you do your organizational planning it is important to identify other stakeholders whose co-operation or influence you need. So you lobby people with power to act in support of the needs and interests of those who do not have direct power and influence. Lobbying can be used to influence anyone with power for example:

  • Parents can lobby the school governing body to provide after care at school
  • Shoppers can lobby the manager of the local supermarket to stay open for longer hours
  • Civics can lobby the council to write off arrears
  • Conservatives can lobby the President to bring back the death penalty

Lobbying is mostly used by organizations to persuade politicians or others with power and influence to support the organization’s position. There are many ways of lobbying. You can:

  • phone
  • make submissions
  • write to individuals
  • go to meet decision-makers or invite them to meet people in your area
  • Get other powerful people to influence them informally, etc.

Important things to know about lobbying

It is important to understand some basic principles of effective lobbying before we look at methods.

Some basic rules for lobbying:

  • Be clear about your issue, your facts and your position
  • Use lobbying only for important issues that will improve life in the community and make very sure that your position is the right one before you start lobbying
  • Be careful not to speak “on behalf of people” unless you have consulted them and involved them in developing your lobbying strategy (See section on Planning for guidance on analyzing the problem or issue)
  • Target the right people – analyze who has the power to make a decision on your issue and target your lobbying at these people
  • Build a lobby group – analyze who [individuals and organizations] can influence the decision-makers and try to mobilize them to support your issue – never try to lobby alone. People with political power are often most sensitive to grassroots mobilization that represents their voters.
  • Prepare for opposition – analyze the opposition’s position and develop counter arguments to that since they may also be lobbying the same person
  • Think about your target audience – how the decision-maker can benefit from agreeing with you and include this in your arguments – most decision-makers will agree more easily if they can see how your proposals link to their concerns
  • Never use blackmail or bribery or even gifts and favors to persuade someone. That is corruption, not lobbying.

How to lobby

In this section we cover the most common lobbying methods. Read through the whole section and then choose the methods that best suit your organizations’ goals. The lobbying exercise at the end of this section will help you to plan which methods to use.

Support base

You should never, never lobby alone. Try to get organizations or individuals who support your cause to also use the methods discussed below. Whilst politicians are always sensitive to organizations, they also respond well to lots of appeals from individuals.


Letters are the easiest method to use to lobby but they are not always the most effective. Many people in positions of power have administrative staff who read their mail and summaries it for them. Make letters as personal as possible and avoid getting different organizations and individuals to all send exactly the same letter. See the format under submissions for the issues that should be covered in a letter.


Submissions are usually made to committees, or chairpersons of committees in government, and it is important to structure them in such a way that you get your points across powerfully. Here is a recipe you can follow. State clearly:

  1. The group or organization you represent, and contact details.
  2. The topic or issue that you want to make a submission about
  3. Why your group is making the submission e.g. your concern, how you are connected to the issue and your expertise or experience on the issue.
  4. The specific actions you would like the committee to take.
  5. The reasons why you would like them to take this action – this is where you give the facts and make your main points. Be as brief and accurate as possible.
  6. The reasons why the actions you recommend will be good for the interests of the committee – e.g. how it will improve the quality of service, make a contribution to the welfare of the community, save money or generally please their constituents.
  7. It is sometimes useful to outline briefly what would happen if no action is taken. Be careful not to sound as if you are threatening the decision-maker.
  8. Offer further information or face-to-face meetings on request

Aides, Pass and secretaries

Most decision-makers have staff that deal with documents, do research, and prepare briefings and programmes. Sometimes it as important to influence these people as their bosses. Make sure that you get to know them and spend time explaining your issues to them and building relationships. If they take you seriously it will be easier to get access to, and attention from, the decision-maker.


Ask if you can have face-to-face meetings to present your case. Visit the person in their office or invite them to attend a meeting in the community. Always state the importance of the meeting clearly and provide an agenda and a list of possible outcomes from the meeting. Remember to stress what is in it for the decision-maker e.g. “This meeting will provide you with the opportunity to make direct contact with more than 100 people from the community and to hear their concerns on the issue.”


Invite decision-makers to come and make on-site inspections if it is appropriate, e.g. to come and look at the bad condition that the school is in. It sometimes helps to get publicity for inspections and you can then say in your invitation that you have also invited the press to witness the inspection.

Phone calls

Get as many people as possible to phone the decision-maker. Also use faxes and e-mail if possible. Try to get some influential and well-known people to also phone. It will not always be possible to speak to the decision-maker and everyone who phones should leave a clear message e.g. “We are phoning to object to the council closing the local clinic.”


Media attention is a powerful persuader and the more publicity you can get for your issue the better. It always helps to make individual contact with a reporter who is prepared to follow the issue through.


Petitions are a useful way of showing popular support for your issue. You can use a petition to get as many signatures as possible from people in the community who are affected by the issue or you can get a smaller number of key individuals or organizations to sign a petition in support of your submission.

Types of Lobbying

Direct lobbying 

A communication with a legislator, legislative staff, or other government official that refers to and takes a position on specific legislation or a specific legislative proposal.

Example: Contact an Elected Official-Introduce your organization to elected officials before requesting anything from them by calling or sending a letter inviting them to visit your organization or an event your organization is hosting. Send a letter to your elected official about pending legislation or an issue of concern to your organization.

Grassroots lobbying

Any communication with the general public that refers to and takes a position on specific legislation or a specific legislative proposal and includes a “call to action “encouraging recipients to do something about the legislation. Informational campaigns designed to educate the public about public policy issues do not constitute lobbying if they do not include calls to action.
Example: Mass Communication to Constituents-sending out a communication to your constituents, alerting them to pending legislation and asking for their action in opposing or supporting it.

Example: Write to Your Local Newspaper-Writing to your local newspaper is a simple and powerful way to make your voice heard on issues affecting charitable giving, nonprofits and foundations. Look in your newspaper for the postal address, fax number, or e-mail address for letters to the editor, and note any additional instructions or guidelines. Any issue that is of concern to you, your family or your community is a valid topic for a letter to the editor. Click here to find newspapers in Illinois.

Example: Paid Mass Media Advertisements- Lobbying communication includes paid mass media advertisements reflecting a view on “highly publicized” legislation that appears within two weeks of a legislative vote even if it does not report a “call to action”.

Through advocacy cbo and ngo tries to affect some aspect of the society e.g. education, sanitation, health care etc as a result they are not allowed to lobby.

Community health worker, social worker advocate, mps are not allowed advocate.

Basis of lobbying

For any meaningful lobbying to be undertaken, a lobbyist should have the following;

  1. A good lobbyist must be familiar with legislative process i.e. he/ she should know about the piece of legislation existing as well as the outcome of that legislation to the general public. Lobbyist must know appropriate committee time table for action and legislation concern of members. This is because different pieces of legislation have their own specific area of application.
  2. Policy makers rely on lobbyist for information. Such information should be enough, accurate reliable and quick in usage form. He reason being lobbying need to have a good understanding of back ground of a piece of legislation and the specific clauses that affect the specific group.
  3. Lobbyist should have a good understanding of the opposition / resistance. it is important to understand the segment  presented  by the opposing  group since  it might  not necessary  be the argument  of the lobbyist .
  4. Lobbyist should be able to access as many policy makers as possible. This is because lobbyist is in a better position of convincing legislators to come up with good legislation which is reprehensive as well as exhaustive.

Role of lobbying in social change

  1. It provides those in authority with information that can assist in policy process. Through lobbying policy makers are able to communicate effectively. As a result do away with pieces of legislation which can negatively impact on the development of a nation.
  2. It is a conduct through which the e advocate can present their views most effectively to the legislator. This lobbyist can communicate this information directly to its members. This can be through phone, letter, and mail.
  3. Lobbying allow policy makers to communicate effectively to the group member.
  4. By carefully monitoring the status of legislation and the content of bills passed into law, lobbyist allows the client to be fully compliant   with the law. Of the land. As a result making them aware of the implication or given piece of legislation.
  5. Lobbyist have taken  over the task  where social welfare institution  as failed developing position  on issues  and raising  campaign  fund provide   those in authority  with information  which is useful  in the policy  process and can affect  the outcome  of policy decision.


Regardless of addressing specific issues in lobbying, most successful lobbyist use similar technique and strategies and tactics.

The five basic   rules that must be employed by all are as follow

  • Tell the truth. This is because lobbyist are good as their words, legislators relies upon the lobbyist for information. Due to this provision of inaccurate information. May deny / destroy reputation of the lobbying.
  • Never promise more than you can deliver.
  • Know how to listen so that you can accurately understand what you are having the situation at the ground. Knowing your legislation and staff first hand and being able to know their interest is important to success in the legislature arena.
  • Always remember that staff is here to be worked with and not to be exploited. Staff is important policy makers as they are the one who prepare the final briefing for the legislous prior to effort of drafting the legislation.
  • Spring no surprise. Legislation. Legislators and their staff  needs  to know  and understand  then sources  and degree  of opposition  as well  as support  they have  for any given  piece of legislation . The reason for this is ea t informed decision which is not a surprise to the rest.

Factors to consider in lobbying plan

There are five initial steps that need to be taken if one is to lobby effectively;

  • Identify the concerned legislators.
  • Identify he legislators who are official’s i.e. principles of area concerned.
  • Recruit a number of people (who are registered voters) as your activities based.
  • Educate the activist on important issue and on government measures that you will be advocating. It is mandatory that you make them understand their position on the issue for them or against them.
  • Let each of the activist recruit more members and to participate in this process.
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