Dos and Don’ts of Advocacy

DO be informed.
Read newsletters and legislative/advocacy alerts carefully. Know both sides of the issues. Know when the bill is in committee, when the hearings will be held, who the co-sponsors are, etc.

DO start early.
True, effective advocacy is an ongoing process.  Pay attention to issues and proposals early in the process and you’ll have a better chance of affecting the outcome.

DO be concise.
The more simply and clearly your position can be explained, the better chance you have of getting people to listen and respond.

DO be specific.
Know exactly what you want your legislator to do. Do you want him/her to draft legislation? Propose an amendment? Vote for the bill?

DO be honest.
Don’t exaggerate to make a point or answer a question if you’re not sure of the facts. Every issue has at least two sides–be honest about admitting the pros and cons of your issue.

DO give personal examples.
Stories combined with data is a powerful force.  Telling the story of a child impacted by an arts experience puts the issue in memorable, human terms.  Bring pictures, too.

DO practice.
Try explaining your position to friends and family before you meet with a legislator or testify before a committee.

DO communicate with Arts Wisconsin about advocacy efforts.
Tell them your legislators’ position, so follow-up action can be planned.

DO be courteous, firm and confident.

DON’T make threats.
Telling legislators that they have to do what you want or you won’t vote for them will only turn people off.

DON’T argue with your legislator.
If it is clear that the person won’t support your position, just give the facts and ask him or her to consider your viewpoint. You want to keep the lines of communication open for discussing future issues.

DON’T give up!
Advocacy is all about patience, persistence and perseverance.  Real change happens over time.  Find ways to celebrate the steps along the way to the larger goal.

Adapted from Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Wisconsin Legislative Advocacy Handbook