Welcome to Advocacy 101
Anyone can be an advocate for our youngest community members!
Advocacy is NOT lobbying. Advocacy is:
- the act of speaking, writing, or acting in support of something or someone.
- making social change
- influencing policies at any level: state, federal, and local.
Advocacy can help change, create, or reform current policies or laws, and help others have their voices heard.
KNOW THE PROCESS
KNOW WHO REPRESENTS YOU
Congress: Congressman based on population
Representative Ryan Zinke (R)
Find your representative or senator here.
The Montana State Legislature meets every odd year, for 90 days.
Your local government representatives and their roles depends on the make up of your city and county government.
WAYS TO ADVOCATE
Make Contact. This is usually done by phone, email, or letter. Here are some email and letter writing tips that will get your appeal noticed!
- avoid professional jargon
- don’t rant. A poignant need or grave injustice told in simple terms has a great impact.
- focus on one issue per letter. Keep it short.
- use real life examples (with the permission of the people used in the story and omitting identifiers like names when needed).
- check that your facts are accurate.
- refer to bills by name or number.
- avoid form letters or at least paraphrase and/or provide personal examples.
- open and close with statements that will build rapport.
- show your strengths.
- write more than once! Write initially to urge your representative to sponsor or support a bill. Next, encourage the committee to pass the proposed legislation. This all happens before the full vote.
Here are some testifying tips step-by-step:
- know where the hearing will take place, including date and time.
- there may be many witnesses who wish to testify on the bill. Keep your testimony to no more than two minutes. If you prepare in advance, you can make significant points in that time and the committee will remain attentive.
- Plan the points you intend to say before you go to the hearing. It is usually helpful to have a single piece of paper with bullet points to serve as reference for your testimony.
- If you wish to make more points than possible within two minutes, you are encouraged to submit written testimony to the committee. In order to do so, after completing your presentation, you should ask the Committee Chairperson for permission to submit written testimony. Have sufficient copies to give to the Committee Secretary and all members. Be sure to include your name and organization (if applicable).
- When your turn to testify comes:
- Begin by addressing the Chairman/Chairwoman: “Chairwoman Hollandsworth and members of the Joint Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education.”
- Then state your name, and spell your last name.
- State your hometown, and whether you are testifying on behalf of yourself or if you’re representing a group or organization.
- Be concise in your testimony, and stick to the submit: why you support ___________, and why you are asking the Committee to pass it.
- Members of the committee are the only people who can ask questions. Be honest. If you don’t know the answer, that is OK.
- When you’re done, conclude by saying: “Please support ____________. Thank you Chairman/Chairwoman and members of the Committee.”
Note: if witnesses have already made the points you plan to make when you testify, committee members will appreciate you being very brief, and simply saying that you join those who have testified before. You still need to identify yourself before making the point.
Talk & Use Social Media
Talk to friends, family, church groups, parents, and more about key issues and bills. Grassroots and word-of-mouth advocacy works.
Also, be sure to use social media like Facebook to share posts from groups that are advocating for policies that positively impact Montana kids like the Early Childhood Coalition of the Greater Helena Area!
One of the best ways to advocate is to get involved with Montana groups that advocate for strong public policies for our youngest community members. Groups like:
- Montana’s Chapter of the National Association for the Education of Young Children
- Early Childhood Coalition of the Greater Helena Area (and other Best Beginnings Councils in other Montana communities)
- Montana Children’s Trust Fund
- Montana Advocates for Children
The Montana State Legislature continues to work even when not in session! Check out the interim newsletter and find out what’s happening this month. The Montana State Legislature’s website is also a great way to stay informed and find information on your local elected officials and more.