This is a guest blog, written by blogger and Wellspring Living advocate, Emily Laney.

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The word ‘Lobbying’ conjures up many negative associations for people. We frequently associate the word with big business and corrupt practices. We think that ‘lobbyists’ are people who bribe legislators with golf outings and fancy gifts in order to get their vote. And while those forms of lobbying do take place, you and I can be lobbyists as well, and can lobby for a purpose.

If you receive any emails from Wellspring Living you probably know that CSEC Lobby Day is February 7th of next year. It’s an exciting opportunity to reach out to your elected officials in the state on behalf of the girls served by Wellspring Living.  And the great thing about CSEC Lobby day is that it’s a hug force of men and women from all walks of life, representing all sorts of organizations, professions, and faith affiliations. This year will mark my fourth CSEC Lobby day, and I can’t wait.

You may be an expert at reaching out to your elected officials, but most people don’t even know who their Georgia Senators and Representatives are.  You may be really familiar with our state Capitol building, but chances are you find it intimidating and confusing. You may fully understand the Paige system and are familiar with how you can get your elected officials to talk to you, or you may never have done that before.

Over the next couple of months we’re going to explore the idea of individual lobbying and will discuss its importance in the context of a nonprofit like Wellspring Living. I’m going to give you practical steps to take as we prepare for lobby day, and I’m going to take them with you! I think lobbying and advocacy is really fun, and I hope that you find the experience enjoyable as well!

We’re going to start with the basics. You and I are advocates for Wellspring living. Advocacy encompasses any action taken to support a cause or an idea. Lobbying is a little more specific. Advocates engage in lobbying when they want to support a particular piece of legislation on the local, state or national level.

The first step to successful lobbying is to become a well-informed advocate. You want to be able to discuss the issue of CSEC on February 7th with your representative and senator in a professional, well-informed manner. It is much easier than you think! We’re two months out, so for the next two months we’ll prepare. And then, after lobby day, we’ll talk about what you should do next.

Right now, there are a couple of important things you can do in preparation for Lobby day:

  1. Find out who your representatives are. I like to use http://www.votesmart.org to find my elected officials. You type in your address (be sure to use the format they give) and it pulls up your elected officials. My area was redistricted this year and I now have a new state senator.
  2. Research! If you plan on participating in Lobby Day, start researching now. Get on Wellspring Living’s website and read up on statistics and information about CSEC in Georgia and around the country. Follow the Wellspring Living blog. Another great website to get facts and statistics is www.polarisproject.org. You want to make sure you’ve got a good handle on the issue before you set out to talk about it.

Our next post will take preparation a step further as we will make the first ‘contact’ with our elected officials before the legislative session begins. I’m excited to go on this journey with you. We can make a difference in the lives of these girls in a big way if we all work together to advocate and lobby on their behalf!

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