A friend of mine took her first job in a congressional office this spring, after many years working in D.C. “What surprised you most behind the scenes on Capitol Hill?” I asked her just a few weeks into the new role. Without missing a beat, she answered, “How much influence just one constituent can have.”
That’s not the standard line about Washington. But it’s the one I hear every day in my job at RESULTS. I hear it from our volunteers across the country who experience the same thing from the other side – as constituents.
People like Barbara in Miami, Ginnie in Columbus, and Andy in Tacoma are the heart of RESULTS, a movement of passionate, committed everyday people. Each of them is that “one constituent” asking local members of Congress to prioritize the things that matter: things like health, education, and economic opportunity. Together they use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty.
When our volunteers call their members of Congress, it’s not from a fancy lobbying firm. It’s from their cell phones, on their lunch breaks, or between classes. And when they meet their members of Congress, it’s as a voter who Congress was elected to represent.
It’s not always easy at first; but they get detailed training and support from RESULTS staff in Washington and a network of volunteers across the country. Minh, a graduate student in Houston, had never spoken to a member of Congress at this time last year. After practicing all night for one of his first congressional meetings, he said, “I was nervous to the point that I was visibly shaking.”
Minh went anyway. And he got hooked. A year later, Minh’s already had a whopping 12 face-to-face meetings with members of Congress and another 16 with their staff.
Volunteers learn to work with the media, too. Last year, I watched in awe as Bob got published in the New York Times, Lisa was in the Washington Post, and Willie was in TIME magazine. They’re not PR professionals or journalists. They’re volunteers writing their letters and op-eds at home, often with multiple drafts and tracked changes (kind of like how I’m writing this blog post).
Not more than a year ago, a volunteer told me she was almost in tears because writing her first letter to the editor seemed so daunting. Since then she’s had over a dozen published in the biggest papers in her state.
They do all this because they’ve seen the power of advocacy: by helping shift government policies and investments, their work touches the lives of millions.
Our volunteers come to RESULTS for all different reasons…
- Some collect donations for local food pantries, and now also push Congress to support SNAP (formerly “food stamps”), a program helping millions of hardworking American families put food on the table.
- Others trick-or-treated for UNICEF as kids. Now they ask Congress to do its part by investing billions of dollars in the world’s most vulnerable children.
- A handful of them are even teachers who spend their days in the classroom, and spend their nights calling on the President to support quality education for all.
And their voices are changing the world. Just this last year, RESULTS advocates helped fight back billions of dollars in proposed cuts to SNAP. They helped secure landmark investments from our government to support the world making sure every child has access to vaccines and every child has access to education. Together they’re helping make the end of poverty a bipartisan priority, call-by-call, letter-by-letter, meeting-by-meeting.
How about you? What issues do you care about? Want to multiply your impact across the country and around the world?
Join us at the RESULTS International Conference next month in Washington, D.C., to learn new skills, meet advocates from around the world, and take your message straight to Capitol Hill. Don’t know how advocacy works? Come anyway – we’ll learn together.
**Exclusive A Path Appears discount for the RESULTS Conference, enter “IC100” at registration.
About the blogger
Colin Smith is the Director of Communications for RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Every day he gets to come to work to support a network of passionate, committed every-day people across the country who are using their voices to change the world.