How to Advocate 101
Everyone has a role in advocating for ongoing, sustainable public funding in arts and culture. Whether you’re an artist, administrator, patron (or all three), you also have a voice as an advocate. Advocacy and its approach can be daunting if it is something you are unfamiliar with or do not know how to approach. Below are some simple tips and tools for getting started.
- Facts and figures (metrics) are important–you need solid evidence that public funding is worth the investment. Find concrete examples of the way public funding was used to invest in job creation, revenue generation and/or community outreach. Show facts and figures about how investment in the arts sector stimulates the economy. Place these facts and figures on your website and in your promotional literature to make sure the public understands the importance of ongoing public funding.
- Gather quotes and statements of impact from your local community, participants, patrons, employees. Advertise how your organization has made a beneficial impact in your community.
- Be transparent with use of public funds, display on your webpage and promotional materials visuals and examples of programs/artistic creation/community outreach initiatives that the money is funding.
- Use social media to reach a wider audience, make sure you have an active online presence and encourage other organizations and individuals to join you in your advocacy.
- Reach out to your local politicians, MPs, councilors–encourage your Board of Directors, shareholders and investors to invite them to come see your work and see the value of your craft.
- Educate your patrons about advocacy. Your audience members could be your strongest advocates; they just may not know it yet. Hold sessions and/or have literature available to let them know what they can do to assist you in your advocacy.
- If you do receive public funding, ensure that the funding body Is wellacknowledged on your website, promotional materials and thanked publicly at events.
- If you are associated with an institution, find out if they have any ongoing advocacy initiatives or programs that you can get involved with.
- If you haven’t already (and are eligible) join your local guild or union and find out if they have advocacy initiatives in place.
- At your own promotional events (shows, exhibitions, concerts etc.) use the public platform to talk about how important public funding was in your career.
- Write your MP to tell them why their investment in arts and culture is so important. Talk specifically about how it has benefited you and your community. Keep track of your local (and national) politicians and know what their stand is on public funding for arts and culture.
- If you have a website/online presence, encourage your contacts to join you in your advocacy. Have links on your website to your Guild/Union page, your MP’s page, etc. to make the information easily accessible.
Starting the Relationship
After every election, introduce your organization to the newly-elected official.
- Communicate with your new leader right after the election to indicate interest in working collaboratively in the future. Write a short letter introducing yourself and your
- Send concise and simple promotional material to your official that best indicate what your organization
- Update your press list to ensure your current official gets invited to events, and attempt to get your organization on their press
- Ensure if more than one official is attending a formal event, you are aware of the order of succession and the correct formal terms of
- Request a short meeting to discuss your organization, current situation, and any concerns you may have about the coming
Getting the meeting
E-mails and written letters are both effective ways to communicate with your MP (letter and e-mails are handled with the same priority by parliamentary staff). Be persistent but professional: an official is less likely to respond if they are consistently bombarded. Be concise, know what your concerns are, and what you want to discuss. Limit your conversation to one key issue at a time (i.e. a particular piece of legislation).
Written Correspondences: Personalized communication stands out from a mass mailing, and it is more likely to be seen. Petitions are not part of the qualitative mail count- avoid signing petitions.
*The qualitative mail count is listed below in ranking order from most effective to least effective:
- A handwritten one or two-page letter, on personal or business stationery, faxed
- A typed one-page letter, on personal or business stationery, faxed
- A longer letter, though more detailed, is less likely to be read
- A one-page e-mail, written by a person rather than a machine
- A mailed letter
- A handwritten postcard
- A pre-printed letter, signed by the sender(s)
- A pre-printed postcard—same as a pre-printed letter
* This information was secured through the Theatre Communications Group
*Tips for writing to your MP:
- A personal letter is much more effective than a formal letter, so try to put it in your own words. If you can, make the letter personal by including your own experiences.
- Emphasize two or three major points, and keep to the same topic.
- Try to keep the letter to one page. Do not exceed two pages. If you have more information to share, include promotional literature in the envelope.
- Your objective should be stated from the outset. Follow this with a brief introduction outlining your concerns.
- Describe your interest in the issue and your credentials to speak on it.
- Ask questions that provoke a response. Ask for more information or for clarification on your MP’s position.
- Request a commitment to a specific action, and give a rationale for your request. Thank the MP for any positive action s/he has taken in the past on this issue.
*Adapted from the Citizens for Public Justice Website
Phone Calls: Any follow-up phone calls should be brief. Ask for a written response to the inquiry to ensure there is a clear follow-up procedure. Be sure to clearly identify yourself and your organization.
Preparing for the Appointment: Research your elected officials and become aware of their public interests and current policy positions. Review their biography and voting history. Know where they stand. If it is proving difficult to get a meeting directly with the MP, request a meeting with a staff member. Be sure to call to confirm the appointment and know your time limit. Gage your presentation on your key points and how much time you have to make them.
Making the Presentation:
Be on time (and expect to wait). A staff member may have set up the meeting so begin with a brief introduction of who you are, what organization you represent, and what issue you are there to discuss. Make your key points and ask where they stand on the issue. Do not be disappointed or defensive if the official does not agree with your particular view. Have a list of questions prepared: initiating a response is better than talking at your MP. Insist the MP provide clear answers, even if they are disappointing to you. Be prepared to listen, as the MP will, in all probability, do the majority of the talking. Ask how you can assist the MP with his/her job on the ground. Working collaboratively is the best way to instigate change.
After the Meeting: Send a polite letter of thanks that includes the main points of your meeting, commitments made, and any additional information requested. If you are working with an advocacy group, be sure to document the meeting and its outcome for other members.