How to Advocate for your non-profit, your organization

Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers and magazines in support of your non-profit, your organization, cause, or event.

Create a buzz on social media. Do you have a Facebook page, Titter account, Instagram, etc for your organization?  Use hashtags and posts to promote your non-profit, your organization, cause, or event.  You can do the same on your personal social media pages.

Call your elected local offices.  Reach out to your Mayors, County Councils, and other local officials, to tell them about your non-profit, your organization, cause, or event to see if you can build an alliance.   Also reach out to your State Legislators, especially if your cause deals with legislation or the State budget.  Click here to find your legislator if you live in Missouri. 

Your statement doesn’t need to be long, and you don’t need to present a perfectly-crafted argument. Simply describe your non-profit, your organization, cause, or event. Tell how your organization has transformed, inspired, or enlightened you, and be sure to thank the officials for any funding that helped your cause.  Also reach out to your US Rep and US Senator to share your organization, cause, or event.  NEVER tell your elected offical that you will not vote for them if they do not vote the way you want.  You can politely tell them you would appreciate your support or opposition.

Email your State Legislator and/or Congress member.   Emails can also be a powerful way to communicate with your elected officials.  A handwritten letter is also another way to reach out to them.  The power of a handwritten message is even greater.  Do not use form letters, but talk from the heart.

Sample Phone Scripts

BASIC Sample Script: “Hello! I’m a constituent from [CITY/TOWN] and I am calling to express my support for (your non-profit, your organization, cause, or event).  As a constituent, I hope that you [REPRESENTATIVE/SENATOR] understand that (tell them what is important or how it helps you or helps your community) are an important part of my community, and that [HE/SHE] will fight to preserve them. Thank you for your time.”

Here are a few ways for you to personalize your story:

  • Tell your elected official why the programming is important to you
  • Describe how the program or event had an impact on you or your community
  • Thank your elected official for funding that made your grant or program possible
  • Urge your elected official to support increased funding

Sample Letter for your organization, cause, or event.

SAMPLE ADVOCACY LETTER from your non-profit, your organization, cause, or event.

Here are some important tips for your letter:

  • Use letterhead.
  • Verify the correct spelling of the legislator’s name.
  • Verify the correct title to use when addressing the legislator.
  • Keep it short (one page maximum).
  • Identify the issue.
  • If writing a legislator, and you want to talk about particular bill, verify the full name and bill number.
  • Try to include anecdotal information – personalize it.
  • Support your argument concisely.
  • Sign the letter personally.
  • Only one signatory per letter.
  • Write it in your own words – Use specific information to describe your project and how it affects the community.
  • Describe whom the program/project will serve, emphasize its public benefits (e.g., promoting education, access for underserved communities, economic impact).
  • List private dollars your organization has raised to match of the any state grants you’ve received and describe how the state grant helped leverage these dollars

The first paragraph should include a greeting and a request for specific action to be taken by the legislator. Again, if the letter is in reference to a specific bill, include the name and number of the legislation.

In the next paragraphs, describe the bill and explain and support your position. Always be positive in your rationale. To facilitate a response, ask how he/she plans to vote on the issue and request a direct response. Finally, thank the legislator for their consideration and sign your name. Remember to include your address in the letter (it should be on you letterhead anyway) and on the envelope as this identifies you as a constituent.

Advocacy Tips to Legislators

DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Check out your legislator’s website and social media to find more information about them. What awards have they received? What bills have they introduced? What committees do they serve on? This will be helpful to connect with your legislator and see how they are connected to the arts. 

BE INFORMED AND KNOW THE FACTS
Make sure your communication is clear, concise, and consistent. Reference the specific legislation by proper title and have a specific “ask” – be a closer!

BE POLITE AND MAKE IT PERSONAL
Talk about how this issue affects you! Your legislators want to hear from you. Voting constituents from home are most important to legislators!

BEST TIMES TO ADVOCATE

  • Before a committee hearing
  • Before a vote
  • While legislation is being drafted

FOLLOW UP AND REMAIN IN CONTACT!
Thank legislators for appropriating money to the Humanities. Educate legislators about humanities activities in their district. Give a face to the humanities in each legislator’s district.

Advocacy Plan

Internal/External Messaging

  • All advocates (Board, staff, supporters, and volunteers) need to stay preferrably on the same message. To avoid confusion, do not deviate from the main idea that you are pitching.
  • In communications with lawmakers, emphasize the following:
    • Information about how your work impacts their area
    • Reasons they should support your cause
    • Personal stories and examples
    • Specific asks

Tactics

  • “Culture of Advocacy” (Year-Round) :
    • The goal is to get legislators to say your organization or purpose as much as possible!
    • Personally invite local legislators to events in their community, tag them in social posts when appropriate
    • Create an outreach template for board member to use
      • Ask board members to think about their networks and how they can help
    • Staff and Board should utilize a blend of Grassroots and Grasstops advocacy
      • “Grasstops advocacy is when you focus narrowly on opinion leaders and folks who have connections to elected officials. For example, reaching out to the office-holder’s donors or leaders within their political party.” (definition from https://www.thecampaignworkshop.com/grassroots-vs-grasstops-advocacy)
      • Make your conversations with “grasstop” connections meaningful to them (“Hey, I think we both know So and So” or “We have this person in common”)
    • Reach out to elected officials well in advance of elections and advocacy days, so that they know who you are and what their constituents that support your work want
  • Four Months Prior to Advocacy Day:
    • Determine Advocacy Day format (visiting offices, reception, forum, briefing, etc.)
  • 90 Days Prior:
    • Post registration details online and alert invitees
    • Invite guest speakers to provide briefings, if applicable
    • Create an agenda, instructions, and solidify the issues you will be focusing on
  • 60 Days Prior:
    • Determine contents for participants folders
    • Draft press releases
    • Determine staff and volunteer roles
  • 45 to 30 Days Prior:
    • Draft talking points, leave behinds, and executive director letter
    • Begin making meeting request with legislators
    • Start recruiting volunteers
  • 15 Days Prior:
    • Final follow ups: Confirm meeting locations and contact any legislators that have not yet responded
  • 2 Days Prior:
    • Send press release to the media, if applicable
  • 5 Days After Advocacy Day:
    • Send thank you’s to legislators and participants
    • Write follow up article/post for social media
    • Send survey for participants to give feedback on the event

Advocacy Resources