Legislative Advocacy 101
Legislative Advocacy 101, It's Time to Take a Stand
Legislative Advocacy 101: Legislative Advocacy is important because there comes a time in everyone’s life when they have to take a stand. While this moment is always more dramatic in the movies, it’s possible that you’ve come to this realization regarding a particular policy or issue in your locality. And if you’ve decided that you want to make a change in policy and advocate for your issue in your local legislature, it’s time for a little Legislative Advocacy 101. While the list below is far from comprehensive, it’s a general outline of the process to help get you started with legislative advocacy.
Step 1: Lay Out Your Goals
Before embarking on a legislative advocacy campaign, it’s important that you lay out and understand your overarching advocacy goals. Make a list of your four or five most important goals and the ideal legislation you would like to pass to make it happen.
Step 2: Build a Coalition
Once you’ve laid out your legislative advocacy goals, the next step to form a coalition. A coalition is a group of independent organizations that band together in the pursuit of a common goal. Coalitions can be either short or long term and provide resources, constituents and a broader level of expertise than one organization alone.
Coalitions demonstrate that you have consensus among different constituencies, allow groups to pool their resources and allow them to split the costs and get more for their money.
Step 3: Develop a Plan
Once you have formed a coalition, you will need to develop a legislative advocacy plan so you can act thoughtfully and all members of your coalition are on the same page.
One important issue to consider in the legislative advocacy planning stage is, who your issue champions will be. Issue champions are influential individuals who have the capacity to help advance your legislation. Do your research and determine which influential individuals are sympathetic to your cause. Often these individuals will have some type of personal connection to your issue. In the same vein, it’s important that you identify potential legislators that are sympathetic to your legislative advocacy as well.
A further item to consider in the legislative advocacy planning stage is the fiscal aspect. For any legislation to have a lasting impact, or for that matter a chance at passage, each needs to contain provisions that cover the costs of the legislation. Thus, during your planning stage, it is important that you identify which issues you plan to advocate, and have a plan for how it will be paid for.
Step 4: Take Action
Once you’ve developed an overview of the legislation, understand the resources at your disposal, and have identified the individuals who will help you advance that legislation, it’s finally time to take action.
During the planning stage you identified legislators who were likely to be sympathetic to your legislation. The next step in this process is developing a personal relationship with these legislators. Share personal stories and identify yourself as a constituent. Submitting brief materials to legislators is a great way to keep them up to date regarding your issues and how they can help advance your cause.
In addition to speaking directly with a legislator, there are also a number of “outside” methods by which you can influence legislation. Organize volunteers into canvasses and phone banks to work to keep the public informed about your issue. Other methods, such as online petitions, letters to the editor, and letter-writing campaigns can also work to directly influence legislative offices and show a groundswell of support in favor of your issue.