Getting Your Message Across: Tips for Strengthening Communication with Legislators

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Advocacy is an ongoing process. Legislators face so many competing causes that one visit or one letter won't make much of an impact. Open the door for further communication by following up. Follow up a meeting with a note thanking them and further explaining points brought up at the meeting. Follow up a letter with a phone call. Not only will you be able to state your position again, you will make a stronger, more memorable impression on your legislator and his/her staff.

Advocacy Do's

Do be courteous and friendly. Refer to Legislators as 'Senator [Last Name]' or 'Delegate [Last Name].’

Do take the opportunity to say 'Thank You' whenever it arises.

Do know the issues thoroughly and be familiar with all sides of an issue. (Stay informed by signing up for MCA's Advocacy E-List and by checking our website regularly.)

Do be a good listener. You will have a better chance to address any objections to arts funding if you know why your elected official is opposed.

Do humanize your message. Include anecdotal stories about how programs and public dollars impact real people.

Do make sure your elected officials are on your mailing list if you work for a cultural organization.

Do send personalized invitations to them for performances, exhibits, special events, and receptions. If they attend, acknowledge their presence publicly and thank them for their support.

Do get to know elected officials' staff members and keep them informed on an ongoing basis. Invite staff members to events and cultural programs as well as the elected officials. 

Do participate in building strong local and statewide coalitions with other cultural, civic, educational and business institutions in the public and private sector. These partners are invaluable tools for garnering support.

Do enlist legislators you know are supportive of the arts to lobby their colleagues to come over to your position. 

Advocacy Dont's

Don't preach or lecture.

Don't use a negative or intimidating tone. 

Don't expect your meeting with your legislator to be long, especially when the General Assembly is in session. Maximize your time by whittling down your presentation to include an opening statement, a few supporting details, a closing summary, and a request.

Don't bluff. If you don't know an answer, say so, and call back with the correct information at the next opportunity.

Don't accept a general answer to your request. In a positive manner, request the official's specific views on the issue in question.

Don't wait until the last minute to contact your elected official about an issue before the legislature.

Don't forget to enjoy your visit! Use your enthusiasm, smiles, and eye contact to keep your legislators engaged.

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