“If you believe in great things, you may be able to make other people believe in them, too.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
What is advocacy?
Advocacy is standing up for your beliefs. Advocacy is persuading others to support your cause. Advocacy is letting your legislators know what you want.
Who is an advocate?
The most convincing advocate for the arts is the individual who can talk about a personal experience in the arts, and can explain how the arts can make a difference in someone’s life and benefit the community. Advocacy is not to be left to the experts. Remember, you can influence the decisions of your elected officials. It is important to let your legislators know your position on issues that affect the arts.
What makes an effective advocate?
- Learn who your legislators are, their committee assignments, their positions in the legislative leadership, and their records on arts issues.
- Build a relationship with your legislators and their staff. Visit them in their offices in the capital or when they are at home.
- Keep informed about issues affecting the arts and let your legislators know your position on these issues.
- Become involved with your elected officials. Reinforce the support you receive from your legislators with letters of thanks, awards and campaign support.
- Understand the legislative process, including the strategic importance of compromise.
- Alert other advocates to take action on arts-related legislation.
- Coordinate advocacy with other groups. Build a coalition of arts advocates.
- Participate in local political events to give visibility to the arts on the public policy agenda.
- Understand the impact of public arts funding in the community.
- Provide policy makers with the information they need to make the case. Know the facts, and present the information clearly and succinctly.
Doing Business with Your Legislators
Meeting face-to-face with your legislators is the most effective approach to advocacy. You have the opportunity to present your case, raise questions, and provide the answers and information your legislator needs to do the best job – representing your interests.
Make an appointment: Schedule your meeting in advance. Explain the purpose of the meeting and who will attend.
Be brief and concise: You will probably have 10 to 20 minutes to meet with your legislator. If you need more time, request a breakfast or a luncheon meeting.
Establish a relationship: Lobbying is a person-to-person activity. If you have friends in common or if a member of your board is known to your legislator, or if you have met before, mention that connection during the beginning of your visit.
State your purpose: Within the first few minutes, make clear who you are and why you have asked for a meeting. Be straightforward.
Appeal to reason: An emotional appeal is not enough. Back your arguments with facts and substance. Show how proposed legislation would affect the arts.
Ask for the business: Tell what action you would like your legislator to take in support of your request. Don’t hold back!
Make your politics local: As a constituent, you are in the best position to explain what your legislator needs to know – what your request will mean to your community. Explain what you do and how you will be affected by the issue at hand.
Don’t bluff it: If you don’t know the answer to a question, say “I don’t know, but I can get that information for you.” Then follow up later.
Seek guidance: Ask your legislator’s advice on how you might proceed with your issue. Politicians, like anyone else, like to talk as well as listen. They can offer useful information on how to pursue your interests elsewhere.
Leave evidence: Bring with you material about your program and brief written information about the issue you have discussed. It provides a reminder of your visit and a refresher on the points you have presented.
Appreciate staff: You may be asked to meet with a staff member instead of with your legislator. Don’t be put off. This person should have a good understanding of your issues and will relay your concerns to your legislator.
Remember to thank: Send a note thanking your legislator for the meeting. You can use this opportunity to mention any points you may have forgotten or to send information you promised to provide.
Inform your colleagues: Share information about your advocacy contacts with other arts advocates. Communicating your legislators’ feelings on arts issues helps make your united advocacy efforts more effective.