Introduction to Legislative Advocacy

What is legislative advocacy?

Legislative advocacy is using data and personal stories to persuade your legislator to vote a certain way on legislation or appropriations.   In terms of social justice, legislative advocacy is a tool to create change at the systems level.

I’m new to advocacy.  What do I do?

1.  Know Your Legislator

Look up your state representatives here.

Do background research in order to build rapport and tailor your message.  Good places to start include  their official web site, social media, and articles in the newspaper.

2.  Know Yourself

When contacting your legislator, be clear about your own values, priorities, and passions. Weaving this into your message makes it more compelling.

3.  Build Your Message

Frame your message using positive words that are non-partisan and non-polarizing.  Do not blame or point fingers; instead, suggest forward actions and provide a practical solution to the problem.  Research your facts.  Talking points are often available from nonprofit and advocacy groups related to your issue.

4.  Deliver Your Message

A meeting with your legislator should be no more than five minutes, and a letter no more than one page long.  Introduce yourself as a constituent and limit small talk.  Begin by telling your personal story (e.g. “I’m here because…”).  Frame the message using facts, but limit to one or two.  Too many facts will be overwhelming and make your message forgettable.  Have a one-page summary to hand to your legislator and highlight the talking points.  Then pivot and ask directly for their support.  Close the meeting by thanking them for their time and how you will follow up.  For example, “I will call your office next week to see if you have any additional questions.”

Easy Ways to Get Started

Many organizations host lobby days or “Day on the Hill” where they provide training on the message and talking points and schedule group appointments with your legislator.  This is a great way to start out doing advocacy.

 

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