Tips for Effective Advocacy

There are many different levels at which an individual or organization can make an impact. Here are some general advocacy strategies to keep in mind. If you are interested in becoming a WRAAA Advocate, working on behalf of the elderly and individuals living with a disability, download, complete and return our application.  

Deal with Reality

Pick issues to focus on that have a concrete impact on the daily lives of people in your community. Focus on very specific issues.

Demonstrate Significant Community-Based Support

Constantly demonstrate to elected officials who you represent – groups, institutions, and people in your community including those you serve. Encourage these groups, institutions, and people to contact elected officials directly to echo your policy message.

Know How the System Works

Know which level – federal, state or municipal – you should target and what hurdles policy initiatives must clear. Remember that different committees and subcommittees will also need to take action to implement your policy goal. Know not just elected officials, but also their personal and committee staffs.

Set Specific Policy Goals and Realistic Strategies

Seek a realistic way to get the government to take a specific action to directly improve the lives of the people you represent. Decide what goals you want to accomplish at which level of government. Then figure out who exactly will need to vote for the action, and develop a person-by-person strategy to get them to take the actions you want. Ask elected officials to take actions that are difficult but not politically impossible.

Know Your Facts

Have as much information as you can about the population you serve, how many people you serve and how the need for services has been increasing. Never make up information or exaggerate; let the powerful truth speak for itself.

Keep it Simple

Use language that everyone understands, even if they are not experts on your issue. Don’t use a lot of abbreviations or technical terms. Every communication you have – by phone, in person or in writing – should have one basic message: there is an important problem in your community and you are asking the elected official to take a specific, governmental action to solve that problem.

Have it in Writing… and in Pictures

Always have at your fingertips a one-page fact sheet that describes both the problem you want solved and specifically what actions you want the elected official to take to solve it. Leave this fact sheet wherever you go, even if the people you came to visit were out. Whenever possible, also have relevant photographs and easy-to-understand charts and graphs.

Get Elected Officials to Visit

Whenever possible, get elected officials and/or their staffs to visit your programs. They can obtain media coverage for such visits and/or put a photo of the visits in their newslettersSuch visits not only help them better understand the problems you are up against, they usually solidify their commitment to helping your program.

Avoid Confrontational Tactics

You will get better results meeting with elected officials face-to-face than picketing against them; confrontations often turn potential allies against your cause. Remember, enemies today on one issue can be allies tomorrow on another issue. 

Convince the Undecided

Do not spend all your time “preaching to the converted,” or trying to convince people who will never agree with you. It is far more efficient to focus your efforts on the uninformed or undecided.

Use Mass Media to Amplify Your Message

A great way to bring your issue to a wider audience is by phoning radio call-in shows, getting letters or press releases printed in community newspapers, appearing on a local cable TV public access channel, etc.

Repeat Your Basic Message Over and Over (and Over) Again

Just because you have said your message before, do not expect everyone has heard it or remembered it. In a modern society in which all of us receive so many brief and conflicting messages, repetition is vital in getting your point across.

Source of information: New York City Coalition Against Hunger

Contact WRAAA with questions about how to better get your message heard.