Successful Strategies for Patient Organizations
Your voice counts! Lawmakers on the state level need to hear from people living with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) and other rare diseases to help secure funding for research, patients’ needs, costs associated with living with a rare disease and accessibility on all fronts.
Your voices and those of organizations representing the rare disease community need to be heard by your state senators and representatives now to prevent elimination or reduction in funding, especially in these times of tight budgets.
This advice came during a conference workshop – Successful Strategies for Patient Organizations – at the recent 2017 Rare Disease & Orphan Products Breakthrough Summit presented by the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).
Rare diseases number more than 7,000. You can make a difference because of the power in numbers. Start making contacts now as we approach Rare Disease Day on Feb. 28, 2018. Plan to combine efforts with other rare disease organizations in your state and rally for cures, regardless of the disease/gene that you represent.
Rare disease community members represent 10 percent of legislators’ constituents. Know that number before you meet. For instance, if 20,000 people live in your district, 2,000 live with rare diseases.
The legislators in any state’s capital, work for you. Don’t be intimidated; realize the impact you can have by reaching out and/or meeting with your representative or senator. Research them in advance online, find out on which committees they serve, when and where they are in session, and contact their offices regularly.
For instance, in Connecticut, the Human Services Committee has jurisdiction over all matters relating to the Department of Social Services and would include services for the rare disease community.
Meeting with legislators or their staff does not have to happen at their offices. Build a relationship by inviting them to key events and meeting them at theirs. Always say hello so you stand out from the crowd. Keep calling and keep emailing.
Tell them your personal rare disease stories. Talking from the heart has impact. Even if they oppose your proposals for legislation, they’ve heard your story and you’ve offered them a worthwhile perspective that in the end may help change their minds.
Brings notes to keep on-point. Avoid making your pitch sound too complex and don’t share irrelevant information. Leave behind business cards and notepads or pens imprinted with your organization’s logo. Follow up the meeting with a thank-you card and a phone call.
Also, your best friends in the world of lawmakers are their staff members. Staffers keep track of legislators’ calendars and decide when meetings take place. If you do secure a meeting with staff and not the legislator, don’t be insulted as this often is the first step in meeting with a lawmaker in person. Staffers will relay your key points.
Remember, legislators want to do a good job representing the people in their district. They do that by receiving pertinent information from you and your organizations so they can make a difference by developing, sponsoring and enacting legislation beneficial to our rare disease community.