By Pam Shaouy
Earlier this year, a conservative church pastor in Lincoln, Neb. became the 1,000th endorser to sign onto Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s Leader’s Letter to Congress. He joined 999 other local community leaders across America who have accepted the opportunity from a local CCL volunteer to share their voice with Congress in support of climate action.
What is the Endorser Program?
One of our strongest levers of political will building is the ability to recruit community leaders to support our efforts. The Endorser Program provides a suite of tools to support chapters and Action Teams to capture and share endorsements from community leaders to our members of Congress and others.
These endorsements come in many forms—municipal resolutions, public position statements and newspaper editorials to name a few—but perhaps the most famous are our Leader’s Letters to Congress.
CCL volunteer Jay Butera pioneered the Leader’s Letter concept in south Florida, where he asked business owners, faith leaders, university presidents, mayors and others to sign onto a letter to their member of Congress, asking them to act on climate change.
When CCL volunteers present these endorsements to their congressional representatives, it makes a big impact. But, Jay said, “Signing our Leader’s Letter is really just the beginning of the relationship with the community leaders. We also invite them into our congressional meetings to share their message directly with our representatives. When I walked into a congressman’s office accompanied by three mayors and three chamber of commerce presidents, it entirely changed the tone of the meeting.”
Inspired by Jay’s success, a team of volunteers within CCL created the Endorser Program as a national tool for all chapters to use.
Who are community leaders?
Community leaders include a wide range of individuals and organizations. They’re faith leaders and mayors, university presidents and social club presidents, farm bureaus and city governments—and many other diverse thought leaders and organizations of influence.
Are there other types of endorsements?
A standard Leader’s Letter signed by an individual or organization is the most common form of endorsement, though occasionally a custom letter is appropriate. The standard Leader’s Letter endorses either climate action or Carbon Fee and Dividend. Of our first 1,000 Leader’s Letters, approximately 55% endorse Carbon Fee and Dividend and 45% climate action.
Occasionally, endorsements take other forms. For example, over 70 resolutions from municipal, state or tribal governments have been passed in places like Eureka Springs, Ark., the entire state of California and by the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe. Nearly the same number of newspaper editorials have been logged from papers like the Houston Chronicle and West Virginia’s Charleston Gazette-Mail. And rounding that out in the Endorser Database are over 800 Public Positions, from voices as varied as ExxonMobil and the Roman Catholic Church.
What are CCL members saying?
In Wisconsin, volunteer Bill Bussey led a Leader’s Letter campaign that garnered signatures from approximately 70 business leaders and 30 elected officials, including mayors of significant cities. His group effort involved three CCL chapters and nine volunteers.
Because Bill lives in a rural county with small businesses, he knew some of the leaders. He attributes his success to personal relationships, persistence and follow-up. He emailed the Leader’s Letter to over 1,000 leaders, asking them to sign it. Bill also followed up with phone calls. Initially, about 10-12 people signed in an area with a history of progressive activism.
Bill persisted and repeated the emails and phone calls two more times. He spoke to leaders about the specific impacts of warmer winters on Wisconsin’s strong winter tourism industry. Slowly but surely, the number of responses increased. Bill thinks it was particularly helpful that the leaders he reached by phone had an email they could refer to for background information.
In Lincoln, Neb., Moni Usasz and her team of volunteers also acquired many signatures. She agrees it takes persistence and follow-up. Moni also thinks that once leaders get a sense of what CCL is about, once they realize they’re not going to be berated, they become receptive to conversation.
How do we manage all that information?
The Endorser Database is at the center of this entire process. And the success of the database really relies on you, the CCL volunteer! The database can be used as an organization tool for your chapter to capture, assign, track and prioritize outreach efforts in your area. You can also input meeting notes and, most importantly, electronically request (or upload hard copies of) signatures of our Leader’s Letter to Congress.
Behind the scenes, unsung heroes like Max Felsher and a team of four administrators help keep the Endorser Database humming along. They answer your questions, ensure entries are input correctly and manage endorser contact information.
And what can we do with all these endorsements?
Moni finds the ability to print national, state or district Endorser Reports very helpful. When she attends Congressional meetings, the reports make it easy for her to show her representatives significant voices and specific concerns within their communities. The Program is developing even more reports to leverage the vast amount of data in the Endorser Database, including an updated version of the National Climate Voices handout, which was unveiled at CCL’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. this June.
Ready to get started?
CCL’s Endorser Program empowers you to reach out into your community and generate political will for congressional action on climate change. Everything you need is at your fingertips. In fact, our volunteers give it a big thumbs-up. If you’re a CCL volunteer, make sure you register on our Community website so you can access the Endorser Program and get started today!