New York State Coalition For Aging

1450 Western Ave, Ste 101
Albany, NY 12203
518-463-8656 (Fax)


12 steps to pass legislaion | Legislators - why you should care |
Elements of successful advocacy

Basic Elements of Successful Advocacy

- To rise above the din and be heard, voices must be linked in something approaching unison -

1. Identify the policy makers who are the individuals who determine the direction an issue will take
2. Identify you allies - look beyond the obvious
3. Know the facts of your issue. Learn what you must know and be aware of what information you do not have.
4. Know the opposition - understand where they stand and why. Understand what they seek and need from every perspective.
5. Know how to refute negative responses. Sometimes with facts, humor, challenge or conciliation.
6. Use the media strategically. Keep the media correctly informed and have a positive relationship.
7. Find a champion. Make your cause appealing to someone special.
8. Know the obstacles. Attack the easiest hurdles first and build on your success
9. Get a foot in the door. Take the first step and keep coming back.
10. Modify your position if necessary. Know what you can or cannot compromise on.
11. Know when to compromise and when not too. You do not want to lose your allies.
12. Time frames - be reasonable - divide goals into small, manageable steps - advocacy is not an overnight proposition - it takes time and patience. - Be realistic - most of your groups efforts will be with volunteer time and energy - these things take time - Be prepared to be unpopular - no matter how great your issue - someone will find fault in it - do not take it personally
13. Negotiating - always stick with the issue, don't reference personalities or get involved in personal attacks - these are tactics to get attention away from issue - be patient - patience and determination are critical - be a good listener - be sensitive to others needs - be honest - the only way to build trust and credibility - know what you want
14. Motivation - how to motivate people - frame it - everyone is wondering how this will affect them, why should I care - self interest is the most available motivational factor Structure all your info in persons experience so they can relate to you
15. Luck

How to Package Your Issue

1. Timing is everything - Even though the budget is not completed until May - August, the time to begin organizing material and meeting with key people is August - October. This is a time when agencies are beginning to get their budget requests developed to be submitted to the Division of the Budget. This is also a great time to meet with staff because they have more time to sit down and discuss your particular issue, they can focus more on your issue.
2. Prove your point with facts. You need to be able to back up your statements with facts. No one is interested in what you think will happen, you must prove it.
3. You need a hook to get someone's attention. For example - what is going to happen if you do not get the money, the service or the particular piece of legislation.
4. Place things in context. For example, what are the political realities at that time, what else is on the agenda of those you are seeing or asking for something from.
5. Make your demands reasonable. Don't ask for everything and don't ask for something that is out of the question. Remember that you are one constituency out of thousands.
6. Don't limit yourself to dollar demands. There are statutory and regulatory issues as well. Remember, everyone is asking for money.
7. You are competing with others in the state. You need to find something that distinguishes you from everyone else in the state. Say why your issue is import for and to the people you are meeting with.
8. Know who supports and opposes your issue.
9. Things take time and times change. You must build up pressure and support. The more broad based the better.
10. Never leave a meeting without saying "What is our next step?" Do not let people off the hook

Developing an Issue

1. Identify an issue - many ways to do this. Each advocacy movement needs a starting place - a stimulus for action.
- phone calls coming in to your office
- casual conversation with friends, neighbors
- surveys
- door-to-door
- brainstorming meetings
- must make the issue as specific and clear as possible
- must make sure that group has independence in choosing issues of importance
- so they "own the issue"
- People will only support and work on issues that are "theirs"
- the emphasis must be on what group wants
2. Test the issue Just because someone brings up an issue does not mean it is an issue, you must test it.
How - ask people - "Some of your neighbors have said that....if we were to have a meeting about this, would you be interested in coming?" Could do a survey - door-to-door, at senior centers, community centers, churches , etc.
3. Leadership Leaders are you - they are community people. In order for the community effort to succeed, there must be leaders
Who brought up the issue(s), who seemed the most angry about it, did anyone's name come up several times about this.
Hold a small gathering with a couple of people "just to talk"
4. Hold a preliminary meeting - this is the first step in identifying leaders - people need to make their own choices on how to move the issue - you must move the issue - not just talk about it - be prepared to always have "next steps"

O What is the Issue?
O What are things we can do about the issue?
O Of these things, what do we want to do first?
O When and where do we have a meeting of more people so that we can build support for this action?
O Who will chair the meeting?
O What is/should the agenda be?
O Who will pass out, fax, mail, the flyers and ring doorbells? (follow up)
O Should we notify churches and other community groups?
O Do we notify the press?

Have the meeting in the easiest, most convenient and closest place to the issue

5. Hold a larger meeting After all the legwork - hope people show up When people show up - greet them and prepare them for the meeting (handouts etc) Test some ideas - "What should we do?" One suggestion was..What do you think?

- Sing in sheet
- Make sure the leaders force the group to make some decisions about the issues
- Recap of decisions made at the meeting so everyone understands what the next steps will be
- Date, time and place for next meeting
- Someone to keep minutes and distribute them

6. Go after the issue