As a park advocate, you know how important parks and recreation is to the community you serve. We need your help to share that story with your members of Congress to ensure they continue to support parks and recreation. It’s critical that we get creative to ensure the future of parks and recreation.
Anyone can interact with their Congressional offices with the occasional email. By inviting your members of Congress or their staff to see the essential services parks provide first-hand, members can create lasting impressions that are allowing them to build strong relationships with their federal elected officials and staff year-round. This powerful storytelling, show-and-tell method is exactly what’s behind the Park Champion campaign
, NRPA’s signature grassroots advocacy initiative. This innovative campaign is engaging park and recreation professionals, park advocates, and decision-makers across the nation in park and recreation advocacy.
Events could include a:
Image credit J. Avery Wham PhotographyStep 1: What type of event should I invite my member of Congress to?
- Park dedication
- Groundbreaking ceremony
- Program kick-off
- Special event
A good general rule is: if you're already inviting your local and state elected officials to an event, invite your federal elected officials, too! Any event can be a good opportunity to build your relationship with your officials.Step 2: When do you want to host your Park Champion event?
Before choosing an event to invite a member of Congress to, first consult the 2019 Congressional calendar. Your member of Congress is more likely to attend the event on weekends or when Congress is in not in legislative session.Step 3: Inviting Your Members of Congress
After finding your elected officials
, download a draft invitation, depending on the issue area of your event:
Personalize the invitation for each of your members of Congress, then copy and paste the text into the body of an email. Send each invitation to your members of Congress’ respective office schedulers. Download a spreadsheet of names and email addresses of Congressional schedulers.
Tip: If you don’t receive a response to your invitation after a few days, follow up! Congressional staffers appreciate the reminder. If they have a conflict for the date of your event, invite a member of their staff to attend instead.Step 4: Prepare for The Visit
Confirm with the office scheduler that the member of Congress is able to attend. If they’re not available, invite a member of their staff to attend instead. After you’ve confirmed attendance, prepare the following items and share them with the office scheduler:
- Develop a detailed event agenda that confirms how much time you will have with the member of Congress and staff
- Prepare activities for the member of Congress and/or their staff to participate in the event
- Identify other participants and speakers for the event, including state and local officials
- Confirm that it is okay to engage local media regarding their visit (see Step 5)
Additional items to prepare for the event:
Step 5: Rally the Media
- Arrange for staff to take photos at the event or consider hiring a photographer
- Prepare informational materials on how your agency benefits from federal parks and recreation policy to share with the staff of attending members of Congress.
After you’ve confirmed with the office scheduler that it is okay to engage local media regarding the member of Congress’ visit, send out a press release.
Edit the press release and send it to local media outlets, including local access television stations.Step 6: During the Event
Here are some steps to follow to ensure you have a successful visit:
- Welcome and introduce the member of Congress or their staff
- Pay close attention to time and stay on schedule
- Encourage the member of Congress to interact with community members
- Share how federal parks and recreation policy benefits your community
- Capture quotes and comments made by the member of Congress
Throughout the event, don’t forget to create good photo opportunities. Take plenty of photos and videos then, share them on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) using #ParkChampion.
Here is a draft social media post you can use to get started:
Thanks to [@RepresentativeX] for visiting our community! We appreciate your support of local parks and recreation. #ParkChampion @NRPA_newsStep 7: Follow Up!
After the event, don’t forget to follow up with your members of Congress!
Send thank you notes with photos from the event to the offices of all attending members of Congress. Stay in touch by sending the occasional email with updates about your agency and invite your members of Congress to future events.
Ready to become an official Park Champion, and join a network for champions across the county? Sign up at https://www.nrpa.org/our-work/advocacy/Park-Champions/Additional ResourcesNRPA: Park Champion Advocacy ToolkitNRPA: Park Champion Initiative