The most important thing you can do before conducting advocacy work is to take some time to prepare a good advocacy plan. A good advocacy plan will guide your work, give you important goals to meet achieve throughout your work, and help you develop an an advocacy plan to follow in order to be effective.
To help you with you get started, we created six simple steps for you to follow to develop a foolproof advocacy strategy.
1. Pick An Issue
The first step to any good advocacy strategy is to find the issue that you want to work on.
It may seem like common sense, but this is where most people start off on the wrong foot. It can be hard to focus all of your passion and energy onto one issue, but you will be more successful if you do.
If you are constantly calling your member of Congress and their staff with a different issue every week, you run the risk of getting pegged as somebody who cannot be pleased no matter what happens.
If you pick one issue for your advocacy planning that you are passionate about, and only focus on that issue, you will be much more effective.
2. Personalize Your Story
Once you have picked your issue, it is important that you articulate why the issue is important to you.
Many congressional staffers enjoy learning about policy and will appreciate a well-thought- out argument and the statistics to back it up.
However, if you really want to get your issue to resonate through the halls of Congress, you need to have a personal and relatable advocacy story—something that puts a human face on the issue.
3. Research Policy
The more research about the policy you do now, the more likely you are to get results in your advocacy work. There are some great resources out there to get you started on your search for issues, legislation, and voting records.
4. Prepare Your Ask
One of the most important things you can do for your advocacy work is to come up with a solid “ask.” Since members of Congress and their staff have so much on their plates, it is important to give them a clear task to complete on your behalf.
This could be as simple as co-signing a piece of legislation or including an issue in their annual appropriation letters to their colleagues on the appropriations committee.
Regardless of what the ask is, the most important thing is that you have one!
Staffers would rather tell you NO than sit through a meeting without an ask!
5. Practice Your Pitch
We have all been in situations where we have said something and immediately regretted the words that came out of our mouths. With our friends, we might feel embarrassed for a little while, but the embarrassment usually fades with time as we go about our daily lives. With members of Congress, however, the stakes are much higher.
A simple slip-up, such as using the wrong tone of voice, can do irreparable harm to your issue. This principle applies to every advocacy activity you perform, but it is especially important for calling Congress, in-person meetings, or speaking at a local event. Emails and letters to Congress require practice to do well, but at least you have an eraser or delete key if you need it. With in-person meetings and other live events, it is vital to be prepared.
Practice talking to your friends or family about the issue. Some of the best advocacy occurs during casual conversation, so being able to talk about the issue without a script is critical. You can also have other people read your letters or talking points and give you suggestions on how to make a stronger argument.
6. Partner With Others
The average congressional district has over 700,000 people, so one person is going to have a hard time changing a member of Congress's mind if they are going at it alone.
That is why finding groups and organizations to partner with will be key to your success.
To find other organizations working on your issue, a simple Google search is your best bet. This will give you a list of organizations to reach out to, most of whom will be happy to hear from passionate individuals who care about their work.
Reach out to the organizations and see what issues they are advocating for and, if it aligns with your passions, how you can participate in their efforts.
Billy DeLancey is the Co-founder and CEO of Lobbyists 4 Good.