Philadelphia Quakers Experience Lobbying Success
Learn how you can too
Although there was a hint of rain in the air, the spirits of the eight Quakers were not dampened as they made their way across Capitol Hill to the offices of newly elected Pennsylvania Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon.
We had an appointment scheduled to discuss the Farm Bill with Scanlon’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Some of us were seasoned pros at lobbying our representatives and senators, while for others it was a new experience.
We walked with confidence because we were prepared. We knew our “ask”: Pass a farm bill that keeps food on the table of struggling families by including the Senate’s SNAP provisions. (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.)
We weren’t SNAP experts, but when our group had gathered the day before to map out our strategy and select our speakers, we realized we knew a lot about hunger. And we certainly knew that the House of Representatives’ effort to make access to food stamps more difficult was not the answer. We did not come to argue or make demands — we came to ask and persuade by telling personal stories about our experiences with hunger and food stamps.
Upon arrival and to accommodate the size of our group, we settled into Congresswoman Scanlon’s vacant office and began by introducing ourselves and sharing where we lived so that it was clear we lived in the congresswoman’s congressional district.
Our lead speaker then got down to business by asking how much time we had, introducing our concern and what we were asking: We asked that Congresswoman Scanlon vote to pass a farm bill that would keep food on the table of struggling families by including the Senate’s SNAP provisions.
From there the conversation flowed with our personal stories. We discussed our experience in learning that hunger defies stereotypes; food insecurity isn’t isolated to the poverty-stricken sections of North Philadelphia or Chester – it can be found in affluent suburbs like Swarthmore or Philadelphia’s Main Line. We shared our personal experiences and knowledge about the shame of hunger, the cascading effects on our society when school children are unable to focus in class because they are hungry and how SNAP benefits are continuously threatened in the mistaken belief that money can be “saved” by making it difficult to obtain benefits.
And then we began to wrap up by asking and receiving confirmation that our request and the tenor of our meeting would be shared with the Congresswoman. We asked how we should follow-up and we provided a sheet of paper with our names and contact information. As we stood to gather our belongings and prepared to leave, the door opened and in walked Representative Mary Gay Scanlon!
What followed was mutual surprise and delight, a quick summary of the just concluded meeting and assurances from our representative that she knew the issue and planned to support our request. She happily posed with us for a photograph.
A few days later the House of Representatives adopted the Senate’s language and passed the Farm Bill which was later signed into law by the president.
Although not every congressional visit is met in such a welcoming manner, many members of congress and their staff acknowledge the effectiveness and the importance of constituent contact. Should you call or visit with your representative or senators, remember that advance preparation and personal stories will make your message more effective.
If you would like to learn more about how to lobby your senators or member of congress, please contact PYM’s Legislative Policy Collaborative.
Front Row Left to Right: Thomas Jenik; Margaret Mansfield (Providence MM); Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (PA 5th Congressional District); Rebecca Straus (Haverford MM); Judith Pilla (Radnor MM); Back Row: Jonathan Evans (Westtown MM); Sylvia Bronner (Haverford MM); Lou Pilla (Radnor MM); and Deb Hejl (Gwynedd MM).
- We Seek a World Free of War and the Threat of War.
- We Seek a Society with Equity and Justice for All.
- We Seek Communities where every person’s potential can be fulfilled.
- We Seek An Earth Restored.
What We Do
Support PYM FCNL Monthly Meeting Contacts:
- Coordinate in district lobbying on FCNL priorities;
- Engage Friends in strategic policy initiatives;
- Mentor Young Adult Friends interested in policy witness
Who We Are
- Nine PYM Nominated Representatives – serve on the FCNL General Committee meeting each November for Governance.
- Monthly Meeting Contacts – We strive to have a Contact in every PYM Monthly meeting to share news, request assistance, and encourage action on specific, timely pieces of legislation. LINK to page with pics and brief text about the work and “read more” LINK to FCNL webpage supporting contacts.
- Rapid Response Team – a group of PYM Friends who engage Monthly Meeting Contacts for particularly timely actions.
- All PYM Friends – all of us who write Letters to the Editor, contact our elected officials through emails and letters, and visit our representatives face to face.
When We Meet
We meet at PYM Annual Sessions, FCNL Annual Meeting (in November) and 4–5 conference calls annually.
Check the FCNL website, fcnl.org, for timely legislative updates and action alerts. Sign up with FCNL for Action Emails and Alerts.
Plan to attend an FCNL, Washington DC Lobby event:
- The Annual Public Policy Institute – a 2-day lobby focus each November, see details in Current News below.
- The Young Adult Spring Lobby Weekend – each March, see details in Current Events below.
Contact us, the PYM Legislative Policy Collaborative, to find out who your MM Contact is, to become a Contact yourself, or to ask for a lobbying workshop for your Monthly Meeting and to share with us what your Meeting is doing.