Building Relationships – Easy and Important

It seems just as one legislative session ends, the next begins.

Each summer and fall we stress the importance of building relationships with legislators to our local chapters, parents, self advocates and board members.  We certainly don’t want people to become pen pals with their legislators and bother them too much.

What we really want is for individuals to develop periodic contacts that lead to relationships that gently remind legislators about the issues their constituents are facing, and put a face to those important issues.

Summer is a great time to build relationships.  Local festivals, parades and fairs are casual meeting spots that are fantastic places to start conversations.  It is easy to walk through the tents where both political parties usually have a table.  When you do, there they are – legislators wanting to say “hi” and shake your hand … it is what they are supposed to do!

So I hope everyone will take the time this summer while you are out spending time with your family to stroll through some of these great local events and look for some key people to introduce yourself to.  Let them know that you are interested in their support at the state house and will stay in touch when issues come up that are important to you and your family.

Relationships are the key ingredient to successful advocacy.  Remember to always be pleasant, factual, brief, and NEVER embellish the truth.  Again, casual positive conversations are best.  When you start contacting them for every little, tiny thing the importance of your contact and relationship is lost.

Once you meet your legislators at local events, follow up with a note thanking them for their time, and TA DA! , a relationship is started.  It really is that simple – simple, but very important.

Thanks for all you do to improve the lives of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.  Every relationship built helps people across the whole state!

Kim Dodson is The Arc of Indiana’s Associate Executive Director.