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The Value of Micro Fly-ins and In-District Events (Deep Dive 1)

October 2, 2023 @ 11:30 am 12:30 pm

Many organizations are complementing or even replacing annual Hill Days with smaller, targeted events, sometimes outside of DC. Panelists will explore the value of these issue-by-issue and/or local-level events both for energizing advocates year-round and reaching key policymakers.

Tom Donnelly, American Farm Bureau Federation
Brad Fitch, Congressional Management Foundation
Adam Katz, Society for Neuroscience (moderator)
Katie Macklin, Alzheimer’s Association
Ashley Smith, CARE


How do you determine if a micro fly-in is right for you

  • CARE: Evolving for impact and meaning
    • Timed and targeted for advocacy impact
      • Half day of training and full day on the Hill
    • Quality greater than quantity
      • Still bringing the same number of people to the hill throughout the year, but creating more touchpoints with lawmakers, more opportunities to engage, and less stress on staff
    • Greater visibility
      • Smaller reception events but still ‘shiny’ enough to draw attention
  • CARE: Internal audit: is this event still impactful for our advocacy and meeting our goals
    • How do we create a better event to meet our goals
    • CARE: hosting 3 small fly-ins in March, June, and October
      • Focusing on different issues based on the event and based on where legislation is at that moment
  • Farm Bureau: the Farm Bill
    • 2023 is a farm bill year, so AFBF looked at their key advocates and saw where they might have holes in their state programs and focused on those areas
    • Working to fill in the gaps where either the states didn’t have relationships or they had opportunities to tell the farmer or rancher’s story

Getting big results with a series of small events

  • CARE: increased outcomes
    • More member-level meetings and encounters
      • With smaller fly-ins, we’ve found that advocate outcomes are better
      • Still able to show an impact on the Hill through photos and videos because you’re still working with several advocates at a time, but more manageable
      • Members can pop in and out more easily because groups are smaller
      • Over 2 small events, they’ve been able to meet the same members as previous large events
    • Better advocate experience
      • Advocates get to know each other more and get to see more lawmakers in person
      • Advocates get to talk more as well, there’s more of a chance to have advocates share
      • Easier to share talking points as well
    • Expanded visibility
      • The same level of staff, same social media and comms output, but a smaller group of advocates to manage
  • Alzheimer’s: Advancing Federal Policy Priorities
    • Complement premier Alzheimer’s disease advocacy event in DC
      • Bringing advocates into hearing rooms, helps them be easily identifiable and lawmakers can answer questions and acknowledge them – helps advocates feel empowered
      • Able to connect with each other in a smaller group – ideal for issues that might be tougher like healthcare organizations, etc
    • Build off the momentum of large-scale events with a more targeted approach
    • Component of the broader playbook to advance a policy solution
  • Alz: state policy priorities
    • Complement annual state advocacy day – a large-scale event
    • Strategic engagement of advocates around legislation committee meetings
    • Mobilize advocates to connect with targeted state legislators on specific policy issues, opportunities to lift up key voices
  • Alz: sustained meaningful engagement with advocates
    • Keeps the energy going by providing a multitude of ways to engage
    • Demonstrated that advancing policy solutions is a top priority
    • Creates enhanced visibility – builds a strong purple presence
  • FARM: Farm Bill
    • GO team micro fly-in
      • The beauty of federated structure – our states bring county leaders and others to DC
      • State bureaus flying in and making visits to lawmakers (10-20 farmers/ranchers per event)
    • GO team micro fly-in to fill in gaps
      • In district events
        • Farm tours and site visits
        • August recess (developed a toolkit)
          • Patch-thru campaign – fields to phones, farm bill advocacy
  • Question
    • When bringing in groups multiple times a year, how do you answer the question from the office: “We’ve seen you before and we support it, why are you here”
      • Don’t take yes for an answer, how can they level up their commitment – sponsorship, speaking on the floor, comms engagement, etc?
      • Create a relationship with the district director of your house members
        • Those folks are around longer than LA’s
      • Ask what you can do for THEM – who can you talk to as an advocate that might have an impact?
      • Where is the member on education? What do they know about the legislation, what context can you establish? What stories can you tell that can help to educate lawmakers?
        • Lawmakers don’t always understand how industries work, how can you clarify your industry?
      • Create a surround sound effect, it’s not the same advocates each time, so meeting other advocates from the same state can help create a well-rounded experience
    • How do you work through staffing changes? Does the staff decrease as well?
      • Think about right-sizing the staff for advocacy events. What core staff should be there, and what teams make more sense to be represented?
    • For in-district events, don’t be afraid to establish a relationship. Ask people to coffee, connect on other issues, and create those connecting threads with people so that they are able to advocate beyond these meetings and be a resource
      • Don’t be afraid to thank someone too
    • Make things turn-key when you can
      • Yes planning changes for each event, but where you can make communications/items formulaic, take that opportunity
    • What do you do post-event?
      • Post-event still stays the same as with large groups, so still sending thank you emails, still collecting feedback, but because staff have gotten more face-to-face time with advocates, personal follow-ups are more possible – but not strictly necessary
    • Budget – how do you navigate pushback, what are the budget expectations?
      • Take the same bucket of large budget for large fly-ins, and divide it by how many fly-ins we’re planning. 
      • CARE: 400k budget for large event, divide by 3. You will have to adjust as you go, but things have worked out for the most part
    • Do you change your schedule/planning for election years?
      • Depends on the legislation you’re focusing on – also depends on the timing. With smaller events, it’s more likely that timing can shift slightly

Using micro fly-ins as an opportunity to empower champions

  • CARE: new opportunities to engage champions
    • Public side events over plenary sessions
      • Inviting members to speak at public events. Now in this new model, regular advocates are able to get access to more high-level opportunities and get a ‘shinier’ experience
    • Focused celebrity engagement
      • Tapping on celebrity contacts to engage with advocates and lawmakers
    • More capacity for creative content
  • FARM: opportunities to empower
    • State visits
      • States bring state and county leaders
      • Members participating in leadership programs
        • YF&R, women’s leadership
    • GO team
      • Lean on and empower our GO team regularly
      • August recess, stories, site visits, testifying before Congress and other agriculture hearings

Making the business case for multiple hill days instead of an annual one

  • FARM: farm bill year
    • Using the legislation to position yourself as worth the funds
      • Large fly-in in June 2023 with 25 states participating and over 150 lawmaker meetings
      • Made the case for early GO team micro fly-ins
        • No one wants to commit until they see a bill, so it’s not always clear who to target
      • State micro fly-ins
        • 18 state visits
        • AFBF staff
          • Policy briefings 
          • Advocacy training
  • Survey questions
    • In your opinion, how prepared is the typical constituent you met with
      • 78% somewhat prepared, 10% not prepared, 12% very prepared
      • People don’t retain lecture content, so practice is important to help advocates retain the content
      • Training others helps them retain the most – build train the trainer activities/materials
    • The best time to meet with Congress is when they’re not in session because they will have more time with you
    • If you can’t provide a direct answer, what is the most effective communication to follow up
      • Direct emails during the night or on weekends
      • Emails from constituents are very effective, but not super frequent. Have THEM send the thank you notes
  • Based on the needs of advocates, engage them for certain small events to make sure you’re maintaining the relationship



October 2, 2023
11:30 am – 12:30 pm
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