By Jim Frazier, Public Policy Director, The Arc / UCP California Collaboration
As an elected official, I was approached thousands of times by folks who wanted me to support their position on an item or cause. I always appreciated their passion and willingness to educate me on specific issues. Here are my takeaways and tips on how you can be an effective advocate who educates, informs, and inspires support from your local or statewide elected official:
- Attend a lobby day with an advocacy organization or nonprofit that is advancing the cause you care about or attempting to influence policy or legislative changes;
- Schedule an appointment with the elected official’s office and specifically ask to meet with that official;
- Bring current and accurate information about the subject matter to leave behind in a folder with a label. Include your contact information, a fact sheet or data that supports your cause, case studies, or personal stories from constituents;
- Share your story with meaning and passion. Explain how the issue impacts the broader community of constituents and suggest how you would like the elected official to address, support, or respond;
- Ask them if they have any questions or need more information. How can you be of ongoing support to them?;
- Suggest next steps and follow-up timeline.
Additionally, you can invite the elected official to attend local meetings or events where more community members support the issue. It’s essential to assess how they feel about the topic after you present them with the information. Find out if there is a personal connection to the issues. Taking an interest in them shows your willingness to support them; that goes a long way.
After meeting your elected officials, plan to attend their events, town halls, and coffee meetings with as many advocates supporting your cause or issue as possible. Showing a presence can be very influential. Doing so keeps your issue fresh in their memory. In all fairness, elected officials can sometimes feel pulled in several directions at once. Become a partner with them and see your effectiveness as an advocate grow and the relationship flourish. It does take a village.
When the next budget session starts in August, we will be calling on the disability community of self-advocates, family members, direct support professionals, and those who care about the disability population to join the disability rights movement as advocates. You can sign up for our Action Alerts and be ready to take action at https://thearcca.org/advocacy/take-action/