Tips and Tricks and Promising Practices for Effective Advocacy

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Do your homework and know your audience

Look up your representatives to learn about their positions on the issues of interest to you. You can also find your representatives on social media to see what they have accomplished and posted about recently. Create a connection between the issues that are at the forefront of their agenda and those you care about. Know what committees your elected official serves on and what their branch of government can achieve. 

Keep in mind that every elected official has a different ability to act on an issue. A State Senator cannot influence a piece of legislation that is in front of the U.S. House of Representatives. It is not possible for a member of the Executive branch to vote for a bill, nor can a member of the Legislative branch veto a bill. If a bill is assigned to committee or sub-committee, then only the officials serving on the committee or subcommittee can vote on the legislation: tailor your ask to reflect the powers that official has.

Tips for making calls

  1. Only call your own elected officials and clearly state the address at which you are registered to vote so they know you are a constituent. Consider calling the local or district office of your state and federal representatives, as they receive less communication generally, meaning you are more likely to talk to a person.
  2. Know what your “ask” or feedback is before you call. Clearly tell the staffer what you want the elected official to do, why it is important and why you feel so motivated to call. Stay polite with the staffer on the phone but be firm in your interaction as it will be short. Try and write out what you want to say before you call.-

Email meeting request  

Here is a brief template that you can use to request a meeting with an elected official at any level of government. The more specific you are about what you wish to discuss, the more likely the office will want to set up a meeting, so please add more information to the email and include bill numbers or policy details, if applicable. If there is a group of people going to the meeting or if there are any needs for disability accommodations, say so in the email so the office of the representative knows what to expect. And always put your address in the email so the office knows you are a constituent.

Re: [Meeting Request] Meeting to discuss women in STEM

Good morning, 

My name is [your name] and I am a constituent of [your representative’s name]. I would like to set up a meeting at [specify which office by city] on [date and time range]. 

During the meeting, I hope to discuss the importance of women in STEM and the need to fund scientific endeavors. American national security and economic progress is dependent on scientific innovation which requires full utilization of the entire STEM talent pool and adequate funding for scientific institutions and studies.  

I look forward to meeting with [your representative’s name] and how this issue is import-ant to our area and some of the steps [your representative’s name] can take to ensure women are able to enter and remain in STEM fields. 

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns and I would be happy to pro-vide more information. 

I look forward to hearing back from you!

Thank you, 

[Your name, title/position and home address]

Tips for holding an effective meeting

  1. The most effective advocates are redundant; have a single message and policy recommendation to address the issue you are advocating for and repeat it during the meeting.
  2. Work within your institution, whether it is the university, company or another affiliate, advocate as a group. The more people present at the meeting, the more signatures on the petition, the more amplified your message will be. Show that your views and positions are shared by many people and they will have a greater impact.
  3. Use data but also have a personal narrative; connect the reason you came and your “ask” to yourself, your experiences and your local community.
  4. Know what to expect; most meetings will be 15 minutes long and often with a legislative aide rather than the elected official (but that is perfectly okay). Most often you will meet with the legislative aid in the office of the elected official which has a desk and couches or in a meeting room nearby, but it could also be a meeting in a hallway or a crowded cubicle.

Starting the meeting

  1. Introduce yourselves to the staff, as well as the elected representative if they are in attendance.
  2. Make a short statement about your position, your “ask,” your personal story and why you came to meet with them. Be clear what you are asking the person you are meeting with to do.
  3. Stick to the issues you asked to discuss. Don’t get sidetracked by the elected representative or any staff who are also in attendance. When the conversation inevitably veers off topic, bring it back to the reason you came and don’t be afraid to press a staffer or elected official for a definitive answer or position statement in support or opposition to your ask.
  4. Ask if the elected official will pose for photo with your group and if all members have given permission to be photographed. Images and quotes from the day should be shared on social media and be sure to tag the elected officials social media accounts to say thank you.
  5. Thank the elected representative or their staff for meeting with you and for supporting women in STEM.

Emailing or sending physical mail to your elected official

Sending an email or physical letter is just one more way to voice your position to your elected officials. A physical letter is more likely to be read than an email. Keep in mind that snail mail takes time to arrive and be sorted so this is an effective, but much slower process than a phone call or social media campaign. Most offices will not respond or only respond with a form email after a couple weeks, but someone did read it. 

You can typically find an email or feedback web-form and the mailing address on the elected official’s website. Sending an email to an actual staffers email is far better than using the website form. If you have trouble finding the best email or physical address, call the office and ask. 

Email and letter tips

  1. Email or send mail to your own elected officials and put the address where you are registered to vote on the letter or in the email, so they know you are a genuine constituent.
  2. Establish your credibility. Have a clear story and narrative in your email or letter and connect it to your ask of the elected official.
  3. Make sure your letter is legible and try to make it stand out by including pictures or bright colors to make sure it gets attention and leaves an impact.
  4. Do not include any attachments in your email as the staffer might not be able to open them or the email will be caught in a spam filter.
  5. Keep it brief, polite and free of grammar errors.

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