Participating in the Advocacy Process

Taken from Basic Legislative and Systems Change Advocacy
A Project of the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities
(please refer to
for full training information)

Skills and qualities needed to advocate are:
• Knowledge of the legislative process
• Knowledge of the issues
• Personal commitment to those issues

Steps to Change:
• Identify the problem
• Turn the problem into an issue
• Develop strategy
• Face the decision maker
• Evaluate reaction of decision maker
• Win, regroup, go on to next issue

• Meet with decision maker at community forum
• Write letters with individual stories about the issue to the decision maker
• Hold a press conference in the decision maker’s district to ask for action on the issue

Why form coalitions:
• Win what couldn’t be won alone
• Build an ongoing power base
• Increase the impact of an individual organization’s efforts
• Develop new leaders
• Increase resources and relationships
• Broaden the scope of impact on issues of importance

Tips for communicating with legislators include:
• Show you understand their time constraints by providing summaries of materials
• Use attention grabbers
• Show an interest in other issues on which your legislator is working
• Tell both sides of an issue so your legislator can anticipate the opposition
• Compliment the legislator if he/she has done an effective job on anything
• Get to know the legislator’s aides-they are the key to getting information or access to the legislator
• Provide positive media opportunities for your legislator –anything to get them noticed
• Honor your legislator at annual meetings, special events; give unusual awards that will be noticed
• Remember their birthdays and other events
• Use information that is accurate

What not to do:
• Do not confront or challenge legislator by saying “you promised me…”
• Respect their time
• Do not lecture them
• Do not threaten them

• Staffers say that if you are not a constituent, and if you do not provide contact information, including an address and phone number, then your e-mail won’t be answered
• Identify the subject of your message in the “Subject” line of the e-mail
• Print and keep copies of e-mails to use as documentation of communication
• Do not overwhelm legislator’s inbox, or all will be ignored
• It is actually much more effective to communicate by phone, written letter, or in person
whenever possible

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