Budget News: Advocacy
What does effective advocacy look like?
Personal contact with legislators helps build relationships
and establish lines of communication that ensure the district’s
story is being heard. Whether you choose to contact your
representatives by phone, e-mail or in-person, please keep in
mind the following tips to help you convey your message in the
most effective way possible:
- Be brief.
Stick to your key points and be mindful that legislators are
often very busy and face a variety of special interest
groups that compete for their time and attention.
- Be respectful. Even if you disagree on
a position, be respectful in your dialogue and stick to the
facts. When appropriate be passionate, not emotional.
- Be clear and specific. Let legislators
know exactly what you want them to do (i.e., vote in favor
of a bill, pass legislation) in a way that requires a “yes”
or “no” response. Ask them how they will vote, follow-up on
your conversation, and hold them accountable.
- Be a reliable source of information.
Research your issue and know the facts so that you can
provide information to legislators and answer their
questions. Do not assume that legislators know specifics
about the school district or education issues in general. Be
prepared to follow-up with answers to any questions you may
not know on the spot. View budget fact
videos about issues effecting public education.
- Be honest about your concerns. Paint
the real picture of your situation, even if it is scary.
Share the ramifications of an action/inaction for your
community’s schools and children. Use personal or compelling
stories coupled with facts and data.
- Be timely and persistent. If an issue
has a deadline, such as the passage of the state budget,
make sure you give legislators enough time to respond to the
issue. Frequent, regular reminders about the importance of
the issue, particularly from multiple advocates, can
increase the likelihood that legislators will pay attention
to the cause.
Tips for effective written correspondence
Some forms of written communication are more effective than
others. While e-mails and form letters are fine, personal
letters (perhaps even hand-written) convey a stronger message.
They demonstrate the importance of your concerns by showing you
went out of your way to make them known. Writing a letter and
making a follow-up phone call takes a few minutes, but those
steps ensure that your legislator knows just how you want to be
When writing a letter, you should:
- Keep your letter short; a single page is best.
- Be concise and specific, but add personal touches on how
your selected issue impacts you and your family.
- The letter should include the following parts:
- Problem statement
- Proposed solution
- Conclusion and call to action
- Be sure to include all of your contact information
(e.g., home address, phone number, e-mail address), so your
legislator can reply to you.
Tips for effective in-person meetings
A face-to-face meeting with your legislator is a great way to
personalize an issue, and to make sure that your feedback is
heard. It is also a great opportunity to educate your
representatives about a particular issue and to answer any
questions they may have on the topic. Community members can
choose to meet with legislators on an individual basis, or go in
as a small group (no more than two to three people).
BEFORE THE MEETING
- Make an appointment
- Prepare for the meeting
- Define your goals
- Gather the facts
- Gather data
- Practice your talking points
- Reconfirm the meeting by phone a few days before the
DURING THE MEETING
- Be on time
- Introduce yourself
- Be polite and gracious
- Stay on topic
- Tell the legislator why you are there
- Give background on your issue
- Tell your story and explain the impact of any
- Make your recommendation or request for action
- Get a commitment
- Allow time for questions
- Respect the legislator’s schedule and end on time
- Leave your contact information and any supporting
AFTER THE MEETING
- Send a thank you note
- Follow-up on action items
- Sustain the relationship
General “Do’s and Don’ts” for Talking with Legislators
- Introduce yourself and identify which cause you are
- Thank them for their service to the community and for
their time to meet with you and/or read your letter.
- Remember that you are a constituent and have every right
to express your opinions, ideas, and concerns.
- Stick to a few key points (“laser talk”) when
communicating with legislators.
- Get back to legislators with answers to questions they
- Ask for some sort of action from the legislator, and
follow-up to be sure that action was taken.
- Develop a relationship with the aides in your
- Maintain your relationship with legislators throughout
- Overwhelm legislators with excessive facts, figures, or
- Lecture your legislator.
- Be rude or intimidating.
- Get into a lengthy conversation that strays from the
- Overstay your allotted meeting time.
- Be afraid to admit when you do not know the answer to a
- Expect the legislators to be experts on the issues.
- Underestimate your influence.