Advocacy Basics


 

Advocacy is identifying, embracing and promoting a cause, and then using information and education to make a compelling case for that cause. It can shape public perception, as well as public policy.

Advocacy can take shape in many ways, including through outreach, letters, articles, and social media. Reaching out to elected officials about the importance of the arts is a form of advocacy. Using research, created materials, and personal stories are all ways of getting your message heard, and getting your cause the attention it deserves.

Lobbying involves advocating for a specific opinion on a piece of legislation; you can push for your officials (or in the case of a ballot initiative or referendum, citizens) to either vote for or against a piece of legislation. Lobbying is a part of advocacy, but advocacy includes a broader range of activities that promote a cause. For more information, click HERE.

In our democracy, our voices are an important part of the legislative process. Our expertise and experience can have a major impact. If we fail to use our voices to speak up for our issues, then we allow others to make the decisions about the future of the areas we care about -- sometimes without all the information that we know is important.

Advocacy makes a change. A strong advocacy effort has the power to help elected officials understand the importance of an issue, or, if they already understand, to become an even bigger supporter of the cause. If officials see that citizens care about an issue, they are more inclined to take action, and with the information advocates provide, can make more informed decisions.

You can advocate directly to a number of different elected individuals including city council members, the mayor, school board members, state and national representatives and senators, and more. You can also share your story with others such as the press to help spread the message of your advocacy.

  • DO build long-term relationships with your elected officials.
  • DO tell your personal story and/or the story of your organization.
  • DO use facts and figures to back up the impact of art in your community.
  • DO thank your officials and their staff for their time.
  • DO provide written material for your legislator to recall what was discussed in your meeting.
  • DO leverage tools such as social media and news outlets to share your story.

 

  • DON’T wait until the last minute in the process to reach out to your legislator.
  • DON’T get angry or threaten in your communication with your officials.
  • DON’T forget that your legislator deals with many issues and may not be very familiar with the one you are addressing.
  • DON’T go over your allotted meeting time; make sure to respect the time of the legislator and their staff.
  • DON’T guess when responding to questions; ensure your officials that you will find the answers and then follow-up with them.
  • DON’T forget to involve your supporters in taking action with you.

Nonprofits can and should be involved in advocacy and lobbying activities for issues that affect their work and their community. There are certain rules to note, an overview of which can be found HERE. It is important to note that nonprofits cannot participate in electioneering, which means they cannot support or oppose a specific candidate for office; however, individuals working for these organizations may campaign for a specific candidate separate from their work with the organization.

To find an advocacy activity to get involved with, visit our Getting Started page. There we break down some basic advocacy activities based on how much time you have to get involved. We also have a number of resources available on our Advocacy Resources page. And we are always available to help you get started. Email us at [email protected] if you need assistance.