Advocacy 101

BE THE EXPERT

This means researching the history of your state's OBC and adoption records access laws in legislative archives or a law library. Clerks and librarians are often happy to be of help. Know the common questions and objections legislators raise, and be prepared with concise, clear answers. Be honest if you do not have an answer, but promise to find the answer they need and follow up. 

Image by Annie Spratt

LEARN THE PROCESS

Remember the cartoon "How a Bill Becomes Law?" The process is generally the same in most states, but each legislature has its variations and quirks. Your state legislature's website can provide guidance on the basics. A friendly legislative aide or lobbyist can be of great help with nuanced "tricks of the trade." Understanding who holds formal and informal influence at your statehouse is essential. Knowing and following protocol during committee testimony builds your credibility and respect. 

Image by Michael

BE RESPECTFUL

Listening is the most important part of advocacy. Professionalism, preparation, punctuality, courtesy and concise communication all demonstrate that you respect the time of your legislators and staff. Your life story matters, but save it for your support group. Brief, powerful personal illustrations are usually the best way to drive your point home. ARC can help you develop talking points based on your state's political landscape and history. 

Management Meeting

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

Attend your legislators' Town Hall meetings, or volunteer to work on their campaign. Enlisting the help of a lobbyist can save a tremendous amount of time and shorten a long learning curve. But if that's not an option, making (multiple) personal visits to your Capital builds trust and recognition. Never, never give a legislator or aide bad information. Keep in mind that this is a bipartisan issue, and you need friends and bill sponsors on both sides of the aisle. It is generally wise to keep your views on other issues to yourself.

Politician with Supporters

For further reading:

Adler, Mortimer.  How to Speak, How to Listen

 

Avner, Marcia.   The Lobbying and Advocacy Handbook for Non-Profits

Cialdini, Robert.  Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Rose, Chris.  What Makes People Tick