Since my very first post, I have written about many different things that I have been learning. Whether it be through experiences I have had or in an educational setting, I have learned a ton in what has almost been a full year at HealthNet, Inc. In my post today, I hope to share some of the knowledge I have gained while also holding myself accountable.
I need to practice what I preach!!
Just over the past six months, I have grown an interest in advocacy (hey, I started blogging about it!). Over that period, I have asked, met, and learned from many other advocates who have been doing it a lot longer than I have. So, I wanted to share some main points I have gathered and put into my personal advocacy strategy.
I spoke about this in greater detail in my post from Monday, but the main thing is to stay informed on the specific statistics and facts that back up the importance for what you are advocating. For example: If someone should ask how many homeless persons there are in Indy, then you should be confident enough to give an approximate answer while promising to follow-up with the resource backing up your statistic.
[National Association of Community Health Centers, National Alliance to End Homelessness]
Know the Rules
There are no rules for the amount or to what extent you can advocate on ANY subject because the definition of advocating is simply informing others about the significance of an organization or cause. The time when rules come in are with lobbying, the ‘L’ word!! And with this, the two Golden Rules are that your non-profit organization can NOT use federal or state grant money to fund lobbyists, and you can not endorse a politician on behalf of your organization. Otherwise, lobby and advocate at will!!
[A great article on this subject: Advocacy vs. Lobbying from MCCOYouth)
Build Advocacy into your Schedule
Make time each day for advocacy. Whether it is simply blocking out a quick 15 minutes to ask yourself what you can do to stay informed, or blocking out an hour to call, email, fax a letter, and schedule a meeting with a legislator or their staffperson!
Present facts, along with opinions
Opinions are great, our opinions as advocates are the internal driving force for our advocacy. If I didn't have the opinion and belief that people have the RIGHT to shelter and health care, then I wouldn't be doing what I do. But, we all become EFFECTIVE when we have statistics that back up our opinions.
Get to know your officials
Knowing your officials and legislators backgrounds - where they are from, what did they do before office, which committees are they on - will help A TON. Being familiar with someone will help you to create conversation and connections on a personal level with official and their staff. Being familiar with each other makes advocacy much more personal and not seem like you are a salesperson and they are a potential buyer.
[Congressional Biographical Directory]
DO THESE THINGS! It sometimes is hard to actually DO advocacy!
(yes, DO advocacy haha). But seriously, it is hard to build time into your already busy day at your job (which if you are working for a non-profit then you have multiple jobs built into one description) for advocacy. We get wrapped up in the things that are on our desk at the time and forget that if we don’t advocate then we may not HAVE a job. So DO these things. DO call, email, and fax letters to your official leaders. DO get face time with them. And what may be the most important DO FOLLOW-UP! It is in our actions that we will build relationships with our legislators, media people, and the general public.
I am in the same boat as you! I struggle with following through and ACTING and PRACTICING WHAT I PREACH! But the Senate gets started on its programmatic request process (deadline is June 10th). So let’s go! No better time than now!
How do you spend your time on advocacy? What strategies do you have to stay effective and informed?
‘Always learning’ is a response I like to use when someone asks how I am. I would love to hear from you, COMMENT BELOW!