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Faith in Public Life
Tips for effective advocacy
The following tips are based on a document prepared by the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA), which gives permission for its use.
Also visit NETWORK’s website for additional advice on contacting decision-makers.
Advocacy is an appropriate way to witness to the justice message of the Gospel. Everyone who is affected by government action or inaction has a right to be involved -- to present their case to those who make decisions. It is not long before you realize that legislators do not know “everything.” A well-informed advocate plays a role in the legislative process by providing research and presenting important pieces of information.
Too much “advocacy” or “lobbying” carries negative connotations. Advocacy need not be seen negatively.
The important variables are the tactics an advocate employs and his or her motivation; how narrow or broad is the focus and who do you care about? The business lobbyist advocates on behalf of the business profits, while the religious lobbyist advocates on behalf of “the least of these.”
Grassroots advocacy can play a particularly critical role in bringing about the passage of just social legislation. … We must stubbornly and persistently follow the legislative process while we advocate on behalf of the poor.
Know the legislative procedures. [http://thomas.loc.gov/home/lawsmade.toc.html] The process and the rules are critical to understanding procedures. If you are actually going to the capital, you need to have daily calendars of floor action and schedules for committee hearings. Call committee staff for further details.
It is usually not enough to say “it’s good” or “it’s right” or “it’s morally just.” We have to show that the measure will ultimately be “cost effective” (if connected with a program).
Our “clout” comes from respect for our judgment, and our ability to be reasonable, as well as our offering of good, sound research.
Tips for dealing with legislators:
How to visit your senator or representative:
A personal visit with your representative or senator, either at home or in your state/federal capital can be anxiety-creating, exciting and rewarding. The following are some steps and tips to make such a visit most effective.
Before your visit:
While you are there, introduce yourself, giving BRIEF information on:
Set climate of visit:
During the conversation:
Regarding advocacy - what works? How are you influenced, motivated, changed?
After your visit