Six Steps for a Great Public Stakeholder Meeting

A public meeting.
A public meeting.

Every city has aspirations and concerns beyond its own borders. When Americans elect their local officials, they’re not just looking for day-to-day task managers — they’re entrusting leaders with their city’s future.

One of the greatest tools available to deliver on that promise is the stakeholder meeting. For federal advocacy campaigns like #FightTheCuts, stakeholder meetings offer a crucial opportunity to provide an update on federal issues and create a plan of action to represent local constituents.

Stakeholder meetings convene any and all organizations, individuals, neighborhoods, officials and businesses who would be affected by proposed changes to federal programs. Each meeting offers an opportunity to share information that educates constituents, gain their buy-in and assistance in advocacy efforts, establish communication channels, and provide transparency to your community about federal advocacy on their behalf.

Follow the steps below to plan, execute and follow up on a stakeholder meeting with important allies in your city:

Step 1: Determine your priorities and set your advocacy goals.

What federal programs, grants or other forms of assistance threatened by budget cuts are most important to your community? Depending on your city’s size, you may find that you’d like to focus on just one program under threat or you may be concerned about several programs slated for cuts or elimination. Set your advocacy goals based on these priorities.

For example, an advocacy goal may be: “Organize and host a tour of a CDBG-funded community center for members of Congress and local press that highlights after-school and summer enrichment activities and supports continued funding for CDBG.” The advocacy goal you set will help to inform the structure of your stakeholder meeting.

Step 2: Decide who should attend and set a date and location.

Which individuals, organizations, businesses or other stakeholders should be part of your advocacy discussion? You may wish to convene city program staff, area nonprofits, church groups, senior citizens’ or parents’ groups, local businesses, and apartment or housing complex managers. Think about all of the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the service or facility that would be impacted by funding cuts, as well as the people who serve or advocate for those beneficiaries.

You may also ask one of your stakeholders to host the meeting, or hold several smaller meetings if you have multiple or different budget priorities.

Step 3: Invite the public, draft an agenda and prepare a presentation.

Try to give your invitees enough notice, and you may need additional follow-up with some groups if you haven’t worked with them before. Then prepare your materials to run a smooth meeting — templates and samples can be found on our #FightTheCuts page.

Step 4: Get your stakeholders ready for the meeting.

A few days before the meeting, send a reminder to your attendees and encourage them to bring examples, stories and other information about how federal funding cuts affect them to the meeting for sharing. Make sure to share with them the list of cuts outlined in NLC’s budget proposal brief.

Step 5: Encourage a two-way discussion, and keep the focus on your community.

Don’t do all the talking. Encourage your stakeholders to share stories and information about the impact of budget cuts.

When possible, use data and figures that relate just to your city, rather than top-line federal budget numbers. Your discussion should also focus on the impact to your residents’ lives.

Step 6: Make a clear, specific request of your stakeholders — and follow up.

Some advocacy activities you could encourage:

  • Write letters and make phone calls to your members of Congress in support of your city’s budget priorities. You can use NLC’s easy templates for these and add your own personal stories as well.
  • Provide photos, stories and other information about the benefit of these programs to your city’s residents.
  • Co-author letters to the editor or op-eds opposing budget cuts.
  • Educate their own stakeholders (such as members of a chamber of commerce or parent-teacher association or volunteers at a homeless shelter) about the budget cuts and how they can help fight back.
  • Assist in hosting/participating in meetings or site visits to federally-supported locations in your community with members of Congress and local press.
  • Use social media to share the local stories with your members of Congress and the administration.

Advocacy should begin with the end in mind, so it is important to involve your community’s stakeholders in your advocacy early in the process. Community stakeholders should not only be involved at the end of your advocacy efforts, after you schedule a meeting or event with your legislator or submit an op-ed — they should be engaged at the start, so that you have ample community support to amplify your voice and so that your messages and priorities are aligned.

Early involvement also empowers community stakeholders to feel like a driver of the process, rather than an add-on, making them more likely to buy-in to the process and its outcome.

Hosting a stakeholder meeting in your community? Email Ashley Smith, Senior Associate for Grassroots Advocacy, at asmith@nlc.org with information about your meeting — and learn more about how to plan and execute with NLC’s #FightTheCuts action guide.

Senior Associate, Grassroots Advocacy
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