Grassroots support is the key to any successful advocacy effort. Members of Congress look first to the impact an issue has on their constituents. Even if the issue is one that serves a national purpose, such as an increase in lupus research funding, a Member will not champion the cause if there is no or little local interest in the issue. Therefore, there can be great value in writing, visiting, and calling your Member of Congress and Senators about an issue if you do it in an organized and effective manner.
An effective grassroots advocacy campaign includes:
The first step to becoming an effective advocate with Congress is identifying your Representatives and Senators. Your Members of Congress (one Representative and two Senators) have offices and staff both in Washington, DC and in their home district.
Each Member of Congress serves on committees that are responsible for developing laws in particular areas. For example, committees in the House of Representatives include a Committee on Agriculture and a Committee on Transportation. The Appropriations Committee allocates funding for the federal government. All other committees authorize programs within the federal government but do not allocate the funds for these programs.
The Appropriations Committee is divided into 10 subcommittees with jurisdiction over specific government agencies. The Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education (Labor, HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee funds the NIH. (For further details on the federal budget appropriations process click here.)
Because the efforts of the ALR are directed at increasing federal funding for lupus research, we work most closely with Members of the House and Senate on the Appropriations Committee. While these Members are very important to securing additional funding for lupus research, they are influenced by their colleagues in Congress. It is therefore important that we reach out to as many Members as possible to support the cause of advancing lupus research through additional federal funding. The work of ALR’s volunteers is critical to this process.