Advocacy 101

Tips for Advocating to Policymakers

When legislators know more about the programs and the people they serve, they are more likely to support these programs. Help your legislators put a face and place to the programs they fund by meeting your legislators and connecting with them frequently to share your story and concerns. Remember, they work for you to represent your concerns in policy decision making. There is a good chance that your legislator isn’t very familiar with the issue that you are discussing. This is your opportunity to educate them. Finally, use multiple advocacy strategies to most effectively advocate to policymakers.

Meeting with Your Legislators

Meeting your legislators in person is the best way to convey your story and concerns. 

Tips for Meeting with Your Legislator:

  1. Call and schedule a meeting: If the legislator is unavailable, set up a meeting with his or her aide who will deliver your message to the legislator. To ensure you can meet with your legislator or an aide, call a few weeks in advance to schedule a meeting.
  2. Be on time. Legislators and their aides are really busy, so out of respect for their time, be on time.
  3. Be polite: Legislators will be most likely to listen to your perspective if you are respectful and polite, even if they disagree with you.
  4. Be brief and to the point: You should plan for a half hour meeting and be able to convey your story and message within this time frame. Allow for time for the legislator to ask questions and respond to your concerns.
  5. Be specific: If you are referencing a bill, use the bill number if you have it; describe the issue if there is not a bill number. If you are referencing a particular program in the state budget, reference the line item number.
  6. Explain your position and make it personal: Tell a story about how the issue affects you, your family, your school, your community or your job.
  7. Ask for a response: Ask your legislator if he/she will support the program or if he/she will sign the bill for which you are advocating.
  8. Thank the legislator for his/her time when you are leaving and mail them a personal thank you note.

Calling, Writing and E-mailing your Policymakers

Tips for Calling, Writing or E-mailing:

  1. Identify yourself: Name, age, town you live in
  2. Be specific: If you are referencing a bill, use the bill number if you have it; describe the issue if there is not a bill number or if you don’t know it. If you are referencing a particular program in the state budget, reference the line item number.
  3. Be polite: Legislators will be most likely to consider to your perspective if you are respectful and polite, even if they disagree with you.
  4. Be brief: Policymakers are really busy. A written letter should not be more than about a page. 
  5. Explain your position and make it personal: Tell a story about how the issue affects you, your family, your school, your community or your job.
  6. Ask for a response: Urge your legislator to take action, and request a reply. Clearly articulate what you want your legislator to do (e.g. “fund teen pregnancy prevention, line item DPH 4530-9000 at $X amount”).
  7. Don’t forget to thank them for their time

Sample Phone Call to Ask for Your Legislator’s Support:

  • You: Hello. May I please speak to Senator ____?
  • Receptionist: I’m sorry, the Senator is in a meeting right now. Would you like to speak with her aide, Adam?
  • You: Yes, thank you.
  • Aide: Hello, how may I help you?
  • You: Hi. My name is Joe Martinez and I live in Brockton. I am a member of the Steering Committee for the Brockton Teen Coalition. I have read in the newspaper that there may be mid year budget cuts to the Department of Public Health.  I would like to urge Senator ____to not cut Teen Pregnancy Prevention.
  • Aide: I would be happy to pass that information along to the Senator. Do you know the line-item for that account?
  • You: Yes, it is DPH 4530-9000.
  • Aide: Thanks for your call. I will be sure to pass this on to the Senator.
  • You: Thank you.

Take Action!

Other Ways to Advocate to Your Policymakers:

  • YouTube: E-mail a link to a 1–2 minute video on YouTube. In the video, say your name, where you are from, what you want the policymaker to support and why. This is an excellent way to tell your story and make it personal when you are unable to meet with your policymaker in person.
  • Blog: Engage with Governor Baker via his blog
  • Impromptu Meeting: If you have not set up a meeting a head of time, you can still stop by a legislator’s state house or district office and ask if they have a minute to talk. If they are not available you can ask if one of their aides is. You should not take up more than 5–10 minutes of their time, though, since the meeting was not planned in advance.
  • Invite Legislators to Your Program for a legislative breakfast or other event.
  • Register to Vote! Voting is a very important means for you to have a say in the policy making process.