As a constituent, you are the ideal grassroots advocate to convey to legislators and town officials how essential arts and culture are to your community. You have the power to educate them about the importance of the arts in your community and to engage them on important arts issues. Without your help, your legislator may not realize the ability of the arts to support jobs, engage kids in school, and change lives in your district. We want to make it easy for you to take action, build relationships with your representative’s office, and highlight the advocacy work you are doing in your community and schools.
To ensure continued public funding for the arts, humanities, and sciences, there must be public and legislative support. Public awareness and support result from continuous education about the many ways that public funding enriches the quality of life in your community.
It is critical for LCC members and their applicants to educate the public, including elected local officials and state legislators, about how funds are used locally and the resulting impact on community life. This educational process is referred to as advocacy.
When legislators understand your goals and accomplishments, it will be easier to advocate for increased funding for the arts and culture in your community.
Here are some suggestions on how to keep elected officials informed about what the council needs and how the council’s work improves the community.
Meet your legislators
Council members can ask for a meeting, invite legislators to an event, meet legislators during open office hours, or arrange to go a legislative event such as a speech, dedication, or fundraiser.
- When communicating with legislators, be sure to describe the LCC program, including the following:
- LCCs grant state money through Mass Cultural Council’s line items.
- The grants are awarded and administered by community volunteers. Arts volunteers are activists who care about their community. They vote and they are connected to networks of voters who are active in the community.
- The funding the LCC receives is locally controlled to benefit the community.
Invite legislators to participate
Invite legislators to public events such as grant receptions and any other LCC-funded events. It is important to recognize the legislator publicly and give them an opportunity to speak. Be sure to also take pictures to distribute to local newspaper and connect with your legislators on their or your council’s Facebook page.
Communicate with legislators
Communicate with your legislators regularly to keep them informed of the council’s work.
- Invite them to meetings, forums, performances, and events.
- Write letters and postcards.
- Keep legislators informed about council events, challenges, and successes.
- Let them know repeatedly that council members’ political choices – voting and making political contributions – depend on public support for cultural funding.
- Thank legislators for their time and consideration. Give them the opportunity to look good by helping the cultural community.
Elected municipal officials
While state legislators determine the funding levels of Mass Cultural Council and therefore the LCCs, your elected municipal officials are important allies in prompting arts and culture locally. The same strategies described above can help ensure that your LCC gets the support it needs from local elected officials. Building the relationship can make it easier to:
- Get new members appointments made in a timely fashion.
- Ask for in-kind support such as printing, mailing, or office space.
- Secure municipal funds to supplement your state allocation.
If you are interested in pursuing additional support from your municipal officials, including municipal funds, read our blog post on this topic.
Keep Mass Cultural Council informed
Keep your Mass Cultural Council staff contact informed on council advocacy efforts. Let them know when the council meets with legislators, and what the outcome is. Let them know about support from local leaders and successful alliances across fields.
Involving your grantees is an important part of advocacy that can increase the reach of your council’s voice exponentially and tell the real story of the impact of the funding in your community.
Encourage grantees to publicize LCC-funded programs
Increasing visibility of LCC-funded programs is an important first step for advocacy to be successful:
- Be sure that every application includes a plan for publicity. If this is missing, consider making a “conditional” approval requiring them to submit information about their promotion plans.
- Insist that public offerings be well publicized.
- Include the grantee credit and publicity requirements with award letters.
- Remind applicants to get the full credit policies online.
Connect grantees with their legislators
It is important to remind grantees that LCC funds are made possible by the state legislature:
- Encourage applicants to send thank you letters to their legislators and to invite legislators to funded events.
- Hold a grant reception and invite legislators to give your grantees the opportunity to tell their own story.
- Encourage grantees to invite elected officials to LCC funded projects and events.
Send grantees “calls to action”
Enlist grantees to support calls for public funding of arts and culture:
- Keep grantees informed about the state budget process and how it impacts them.
- Share advocacy “calls to action” with your grantees and encourage them to forward them to their networks.
Building coalitions and coordinating advocacy activities with neighboring cultural councils can help make a stronger case for support. Legislators have many demands on their time. If you include other councils, legislators are more likely to attend. Sponsor a regional meeting for the cultural councils in your area and your legislators.
Mass Cultural Council
As an independent state agency, Mass Cultural Council continually engages with both the Legislature and Executive Branch on matters of policy and budgeting that are relevant to the Commonwealth’s creative and cultural sector. To stay up to date on the Agency’s advocacy platform follow us on social media (@MassCultural) and sign up for our monthly Power of Culture and Community Initiative enewsletters. You can also connect directly with our Public Affairs Team if you have questions on what proposals we are currently focusing on.
Federal and State Advocacy 101: Fundamentals
The session focuses on a foundational understanding of Federal and State governments, government agencies that intersect with the arts and cultural community, and the legislative and budgetary process. Case studies are used to illustrate how to successfully engage in the legislative and budgetary process. Participants receive training in composing testimony in support of legislation and developing talking points to advocate to elected officials.
- Slide Deck (PDF)
Federal and State Advocacy 101: Strategy and Organizing
The session covers how to engage your board, audiences, and networks in broader advocacy efforts. We help participants develop a public narrative, which can anchor an organization’s advocacy efforts. We cover a variety of advocacy actions from letter writing campaigns, to meetings with legislators and engaging the media. We also share examples of advocacy strategies that effectively engage audiences. Finally, we cover what advocacy 501(c) 3 nonprofit organizations are permitted to do on both legislation and elections.
- Slide Deck (PDF)
- Sign up for MASSCreative email alerts to be informed about our advocacy efforts, upcoming events, and how you can get involved.
- Join MASSCreative’s Action Network to become more involved in creative advocacy.
Americans for the Arts
- Americans for the Arts Creative Industry Reports: Login to the website to download a customized Creative Industries map for your county or state legislative district showing arts-related jobs and businesses. Make sure your representative is aware of the presence of these creative organizations and the jobs they support.
- Check out national issues facing the arts by using Americans for the Arts’ Legislative Issues Center.
- Encourage Creativity videos
- Check off your advocacy readiness against Americans for the Arts’ Advocacy Checklist.
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
- Find other arts research and advocacy tips at NASAA.