Organizing a Site Visit for a Policy Maker
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- Step 1: Get Updated Information
- Step 2: Identify Dates and Send an Invitation
- Step 3: Call the District Office
- Step 4: Prepare for the Visit
- Step 5: Conduct the Visit
- Step 6: Post-Visit Follow Up
Inviting policy makers and their staff to visit an NAEYC-accredited early learning program is a powerful way to help them understand the benefits that NAEYC, program accreditation, and a high-quality early learning program provide to children, families, and communities. Below are suggested steps and a sample schedule to help you plan your event.
Find the home district address and phone number for your elected officials. Visit www.senate.gov or www.house.gov. Most senators and some representatives have more than one district office. Select the office closest to you. If you do not have access to the Internet, look in the blue government pages of your local phone book.
Identify a few dates when you could host a visit to your program, and send a personalized invitation letter to your elected official(s) via mail and email. Feel free to include a program profile, brochure, or one-pager and background materials about your affiliate and/or the program. (For tips on how to create this, please see our resource here.)
Within a week of sending your invitation, call the office to follow up. Have a copy of the invitation on hand when you call, and tell the person who answers that you would like to follow up on an invitation you extended to your elected official for a visit to your program. You may be connected with a legislative aide or a scheduler.
Make Your Case
Point out how this visit relates to the policy maker’s interests (developing young minds, improving school readiness, helping families, supporting small businesses, strengthening communities, etc.). Ask if the legislator can visit during the date(s) you proposed, but make sure you have alternate dates and times available. Be sure to mention that staff and parents will be on hand for the visit and are looking forward to connecting directly with the legislator. Feel free to express your willingness to work with staff members to invite media. Finally, offer to send more information about the program and who will be at the visit, as well as any other details they may need.
If the legislator is not available, ask whether a senior staff person can visit instead. Even if the legislator agrees to come, keep in mind that elected officials’ schedules can change with little notice. Several days before the visit, call to confirm the event and be prepared to make adjustments, if necessary.
Before the visit, identify parents, program staff, and community partners who would be convincing spokespeople for your program. Ask them to be available for the visit, and give them background material on the policy maker so they will feel comfortable at the event. Share the basic schedule for the visit and clarify their roles. Make sure to invite key partners, AEYC board members, and supporters. Send a media advisory to invite press, and prepare a press release for the day of the event.
On the day of the visit, have someone wait outside the building to greet and direct the visitors to the right location. Have brochures or a program profile on hand. If they exist, you may want to make copies of articles, parent letters, awards, or other documents that demonstrate community support for your program or for investment in early childhood education more broadly. Be sure the policy maker gets to hear from other invited guests: ask parents to share their perspectives; ask an educator to talk about the ways the program benefits children; invite community members to comment on the value of the program in the community.
Elected officials are often interested in documenting their visit with a photo. Think through some possible photo opportunities beforehand, and suggest them to accompanying staff. If children will be in any photos, be sure you have signed parental release forms on file.
A site visit is mostly an opportunity to build relationships and showcase your high-quality early learning program. Depending on the political and policy context, you might consider identifying an “ask” that you would like to make to the policymaker at some point during the visit.
Policy maker and staff arrive at the program and are greeted by the program director or other lead host. Make sure business cards are exchanged before the visit is over.
|10:05 – 10:15 a.m.||Lead the legislator and staff on a tour of multiple classrooms, if they exist. Let them see the children participating in diverse activities.|
|10:15 –10:30 a.m.||Engagement time! Let the policy maker read a book to children or enjoy a snack and talk with them about their favorite parts of the day. This would be a great photo opportunity!|
|10:30 –10:45 a.m.||After the book or snack, facilitate a discussion between parents and the policy maker. Ask parents to explain how the program has helped and supported their families.|
|10:45 –11:00 a.m.||Ask other invited guest (staff members, AEYC board members, community partners, etc.) to talk about the benefits they see the program offering young children, their families, and the community.|
|11:00 a.m.||Thank the legislator (and staff) for coming, and present him/her with a token of appreciation from the children and center community. Take a group picture, and say goodbye!|
Send a thank-you letter to the elected official and staff members who participated in the visit. In the letter, include photographs that were taken, as well as any media coverage the event received. Don’t forget to upload photos and messages to social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—and tag the policy maker to share the photos with her or him directly, as well!
This resource is adapted, with permission, from Afterschool Alliance’s Tip Sheet & Sample Materials: Organizing a Site Visit for a Policy Maker, found at: http://bit.ly/2aEhzV