Advocating for parks with Congress

As a park advocate, you know how important parks and recreation are to the community you serve. We need your help to share that story with your members of Congress to ensure that they continue to support parks and recreation. It’s critical that we get creative to ensure the future of parks and recreation.

Anyone can interact with their congressional offices with the occasional email. By inviting your Congress members or their staff to see the essential services parks provide firsthand, you can build strong relationships with federal elected officials and leave a lasting impression. This powerful storytelling, show-and-tell method is exactly what’s behind the Park Champion campaign, NRPA’s signature grassroots advocacy initiative. This innovative campaign is engaging park and recreation professionals, park advocates, and decision-makers across the nation in park and recreation advocacy.

Events could include:
  • A park dedication
  • A groundbreaking ceremony
  • A program kickoff
  • A special event

A man stands at an outdoor podium with signs on either side that include the words "Nat Turner Park."
Image credit J. Avery Wham Photography

Step 1: What type of event should I invite my Congress member to?

A good general rule is: if you're already inviting your local and state elected officials to an event, invite your federal elected officials, too! Any event can be a good opportunity to build your relationship with your officials.

Step 2: When do you want to host your Park Champion event?

Before choosing an event to invite a Congress member to, first consult the 2019 congressional calendar. Your Congress member is more likely to attend the event on weekends or when Congress is in not in legislative session.

Step 3: Inviting your Congress members

After finding your elected officials, download a draft invitation, depending on the issue area of your event:

  • General Events
  • Summer and After-School Meal Program Site Visits

Personalize the invitation for each of your Congress members, then copy and paste the text into the body of an email. Send each invitation to your Congress members’ respective office schedulers. Download a spreadsheet of names and email addresses of congressional schedulers.

Tip: If you don’t receive a response to your invitation after a few days, follow up! Congressional staffers appreciate the reminder. If they have a conflict for the date of your event, invite a staff member to attend instead.

Step 4: Prepare for the visit

Confirm with the office scheduler that the Congress member is able to attend. If the member is unavailable, invite a staff member to attend instead. After you’ve confirmed attendance, prepare the following items and share them with the office scheduler:

  • Develop a detailed event agenda that confirms how much time you will have with the Congress member and staff.
  • Prepare activities for the Congress member and/or staff to participate in the event
  • Identify other participants and speakers for the event, including state and local officials
  • Confirm that it is okay to engage local media regarding their visit (see Step 5).

Additional items to prepare for the event:

  • Take photos at the event or consider hiring a photographer.
  • Prepare informational materials on how your agency benefits from federal parks and recreation policy to share with the staff of attending Congress members.

Step 5: Rally the media

After you’ve confirmed with the office scheduler that it is okay to engage local media regarding the Congress member’s visit, send out a press release.

Edit the press release and send it to local media outlets, including local access television stations.

Step 6: During the event

Here are some steps to follow to ensure that you have a successful visit:

  • Welcome and introduce the Congress member or staff.
  • Pay close attention to time and stay on schedule.
  • Encourage the Congress member to interact with community members.
  • Share how federal parks and recreation policy benefits your community.
  • Capture quotes and comments made by the Congress member.

Throughout the event, don’t forget to create good photo opportunities. Take plenty of photos and videos, then share them on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) using #ParkChampion.

Here is a draft social media post you can use to get started:

Thanks to [@RepresentativeX] for visiting our community! We appreciate your support of local parks and recreation. #ParkChampion @NRPA_news

Step 7: Follow up!

After the event, don’t forget to follow up with your Congress members!

Send thank-you notes with photos of the event to the offices of all attending Congress members. Stay in touch by sending the occasional email with updates about your agency and invite your Congress members to future events.

Ready to become an official Park Champion and join a network for champions across the county?

Become a Park Champion

Additional Resources