What is an Advocate?
An advocate is a person who takes positive action to support a cause which results in a desired change. As an advocate you express your opinions because you feel strongly about a particular issue and recognize that fact that action is necessary to make people aware of the facts in order to effect change. One target of advocacy is government policy. You can influence government policy through effective communication with your elected officials, the media and other influential leaders.
General Techniques for Effective Advocacy
- Identify yourself — No one is going to give your position any consideration unless they know who your are. Therefore it is most effective to express your position or opinion in a signed letter or email. Write as you would to a personal friend or associate and identify yourself by including your name, address and telephone number in all correspondence. By letting your representatives in Congress or the media know who you are, they will pay attention to what you have to say. If it relates to the issue you may also include such information as that you are a parent, teacher, professor, doctor, lawyer, owner of a business, member of a church or other organization, etc.
- Be Specific — When writing about a specific bill that is under consideration in Congress, be sure to Include the name and number of the relevant bill. Many people may not be as familiar as you are with the particular issue, so try to clearly describe the issue. Then state your position and any related goals. For example if there is a bill in Congress relates to partial birth abortion, you might mention that you respect each persons right to choice but that you also believe all children have a right to life and it is your goal to enable the unborn to see and know the same life you so enjoy.
- Make Your Position Personal — As a citizen advocate, telling your story is the best way to provide a meaningful impact when you express your position. This is very important on issues related to the heart, as is the case in most issues related to the health, education and welfare of children. For example, if you are a woman and went through an abortion and this changed your attitude or enlightened you with respect to this issue, relate your experience. Try to use personal, individual examples from your own life experience and speak with the maturity and authority which such experience brings.
- Reflect Confidence — No one is going to give your opinion the time of day if you grope around and say, “I think” this or “I guess” that. Be emphatic. Say that “My experience has proven to me…” or “I know for a fact that this is true.” The joy of your representative is to represent YOU! Therefore when you express confidence in your position they will gain understanding and be more likely to come share your position. Because of your experience you may very well know more about an issue than your elected official. That is why it is important that you confidentially share your opinion and urge your representative to take the action your propose.
- Never Be Rude — Make a point to always be very polite and respectful. After all we live in the United States of America and everyone has a right to their own position. This means there will always be at least two sides to any position. Thus as an advocate your job is to use reason, to present the facts, to suggest actions and solutions, to help solve a problem and to motivate your representatives to take action on your behalf. If you are impolite no one is going to want to listen to anything you have to say and your time and effort will just be waisted.
- Highlight Profound Issues — Every newspaper and major media new report focuses upon profound issues. There is a reason for this. It is profound, often shocking news, which gets people’s attention, arouses their emotions and causes them to take action. Therefore you should focus upon profound issues when you write to your representatives. For example, it is a fact that over one million people die each year from mosquito borne disease, that some four million babies die the first month of their life and another four million babies are stillborn! These are issues which are so shocking the cannot be ignored. It is such profound and critical issues you should point out.
- Be Brief and to the Point — You may feel very strongly about an issue and want to write a book about it, but when corresponding to your representatives you must realize they get hundreds, even thousands of letters and emails on any given issue. Therefore it will help if you can state your position clearly in as few words as possible. A good advocacy letter is only one page long and 250 to 300 words. You should say in the first paragraph when, where, what, how and why with respect to the issue at hand. Keep to the point. Stick to one issue per correspondence. Focus narrowly and strongly upon one issue to be most effective.
- Relate to Timely Topics — Whatever issue you are addressing, try to make it relevant to current events. For example, if you are writing about children and poverty, you may research how many children have died in the last year and how many lives might have been saved. Check such organizations as the World Health Organization to get current facts and data. Then relate this to any current bills or legislation or use it as a reason to suggest more effort be made in this regard. The more relevant your issue is, the more likely it is to receive consideration.
- Support Your Position with Facts — As already stated, you need to support your position with facts, data and statistics. Try to make sure the information you provide is accurate and up to date. Search the Internet for articles and report related to the issue you want to write about; then when you express your opinion you will be able to back it up with facts and figure which will make more people listen to what you have to say.
- Do Not Delay — If you feel strongly about an issue, do not keep putting off taking action. Speak out today! Express your concerns today! In fact make it a habit to regularly write your representatives and members of the media. Use email to contact your elected officials, newspaper editors and others in a position to make a difference!