A Day in the Life of a HAFA Sentinel
Guest Post by Mary Ann McCarthy, Heritage Action Sentinel
It is easy to sign up to receive updates and information from a website – anyone can do that – but it is completely different to be able to call yourself a @Heritage_Action Sentinel.
Since becoming a Sentinel last year I cannot begin to tell you how empowered I have felt and for the first time since 2008, finally feel as though I am making a real difference. My efforts are focused and effective. This opportunity has allowed me to connect with so many amazing grassroots activists that would have otherwise not been possible. I am grateful to The Heritage Foundation for putting their faith in this group of committed conservatives at Heritage Action and for allowing me to be part of their team. The following is a page out of my Sentinel diary and is intended simply as a guide for your own Action Plan as you strive to be an active participant in holding congress accountable.
Check The Forge several times a day for updated articles. Be sure to read these blogs. They are short and concise. They contain excellent talking points that will help you as you continue to become an expert on the issues and battles being waged in DC.
Tweet, post and email these articles. We do not want to be secret agents; we want the world to know the truth about what’s happening in DC. Facts, facts and more facts will lend themselves to some very interesting conversations. Before you know it you will become an expert on any given topic and in many cases you will be more knowledgeable than most of the legislative staffers you speak with (hint: they won’t like that, so stay firm but nice with a smile, even if they try to cut you off) and sometimes you’ll even know more about an issue than your own elected officials.
We have the support of the most respected Conservative Think Tank in the US as a resource and we know that knowledge is power-use it wisely and we will be unstoppable.
Check daily for important calls to action for your specific elected officials.
One of the most powerful tools in your Sentinel toolbox is the Scorecard. Check it often and SHARE it with the world. I have personally seen the power of these scores-holding elected officials accountable by quantifiable numbers as they relate to their voting records. They do not like it one bit. Let them know your goal is to help them improve their scores.
Join the Monday night 5:30 PM EST conference calls for legislative updates by Heritage Action Political Director @russvought. Russ reviews the critical issues on the table for that coming week, reviews talking points to help with discussions with legislative staffers and elected officials, as well as insider and behind the scenes information to give you that heads up on your legislators and sphere of influence. These calls also enable us to hear from other #Sentinels throughout the US. They let us know that we are not alone and there is a large team of dedicated boots on the ground, very smart, colleagues out there. All of this is followed by Q&A; a jam-packed, valuable 1/2 hour. Suggestions: 1)take notes so that when you repeat you are accurate; 2) if you can’t make a call, let a fellow Sentinel know so they can share their notes with you.
Make calls to your Senators and Representatives. It’s best to stick with one issue at a time. Try to anticipate their responses ahead of time (participating in the Monday night calls will prepare you for this), and be ready with follow up questions and facts. It’s critical that you report these calls to HAFA. You can do that a couple of ways-by checking your Dashboard and responding to a call for Action, sending it to your regional coordinator, or directly with a phone call or email. This reporting is fuel for the team at HAFA that actually visits elected officials and their staffers. Helping them know ahead of time what resistance they will meet helps them to be that much more effective. I’ve experienced the value of this communication first hand.
Tweeting/Posting/Email/Letters to The Editor
Be sure that you are following up these actions by tweeting, posting on Face book and/or sending to your sphere of influence, the conversations you have with your elected officials. It’s important to tell the good, the bad and the ugly. They do not like to see their names in print unless they put it there-using the media is powerful. Be sure that what you put out there can be backed up and supported adding to your credibility.
If you are not sure about social media, PLEASE take the time to learn. These are powerful venues and you have the ability to get a message out to hundreds of thousands in short order. There are classes available to learn. Again you should ask your Regional Coordinator to conduct a skills clinic in your area or reach out to someone you know for some help in getting started. We all have strengths and weaknesses, but if you are not using these powerful tools in your activism, you are missing out and your elected officials are not feeling the heat, or being praised, as they should.
It is incumbent upon each of us to constantly seek out others who may also be interested in being committed to holding Congress accountable and supporting those elected officials who are principled conservatives. Speak with other grassroots activists about the opportunities afforded by being part of the elite #Sentinel team, bring them on board, encourage newcomers, form and strengthen those relationships. This will empower you and your efforts will become more effective. And on those frustrating days, you will know you are not alone and together you will dust off to go on for another day and another issue. We will win some and lose some. I much prefer the wins, but the losses make the wins that much sweeter. Remember, as my good friend and our fellow sentinel @ginnyquaglia and I constantly remind each other, “We are the leaders!” Great leaders are always looking for other leaders to replace themselves with. Be that great leader!
Visiting Elected Officials
The goal is to form a working relationship with our elected officials and their staff. Make a point to visit their local offices 4 times per year. Schedule your visits around one issue and let the staffer know ahead of time what that issue will be. When in D.C. try to schedule an appointment with the staffer who is the specialist on the issue you would like to discuss. Prepare for this visit by contacting your Regional Coordinator, make notes with your talking points and study them ahead of time. Review articles in the archives at The Forge. Confirm your appointment a day ahead. Show up on time. Relax, be respectful no matter what, and stay on point. You may only get 15 minutes, so be prepared to get your point across early.
Most Importantly – Don’t be Discouraged
Some elected officials act as if they don’t want to hear from you and don’t care what you have to say. I believe they really do care, but are hoping if they ignore you, you will go away. Stay strong and brainstorm on how to break through. Again there is strength in numbers. They need to know that you’re not alone, that you are educated on the issues and are fully engaged in this fight to preserve conservative values.
Whew, I’m exhausted…but tomorrow is another day. Stay strong, support one another, and together I believe we are making a difference.