Meeting face-to-face with your decision makers is the most effective approach to advocacy. You have the opportunity to present your case, raise questions, and provide the answers and information allowing the official to do the best job possible and represent your interests.

Make an appointment: Schedule your meeting in advance. Explain the purpose of the meeting and who will attend.

Be brief and concise: You will probably have 10 to 20 minutes to meet with the decision maker. If you need more time, request a breakfast or a luncheon meeting.

Establish a relationship: Advocacy is a person-to-person activity. If you have friends in common or if the decision maker knows a member of your board, or if you have met before, mention that connection during the beginning of your visit.

State your purpose: Within the first few minutes, make clear who you are and why you have asked for a meeting. Be straightforward.

Appeal to reason: An emotional appeal is not enough. Back your arguments with facts and substance. Show how proposed policy or legislation would affect the community and/or your organization.

Ask for specific action: Tell what action you would like the decision maker to take in support of your request. Don’t hold back!

Make your politics local: As a constituent, you are in the best position to explain what the decision maker needs to know and what your request will mean to your community. Explain what you do and how the issue at hand will affect you.

Don’t bluff it: If you don’t know the answer to a question, say “I don’t know, but I can get that information for you.” Then follow up later.

Seek guidance: Ask the decision maker’s advice on how you might proceed with your issue. Politicians, like anyone else, like to talk as well as listen. They can offer useful information on how to pursue your interests elsewhere.

Leave evidence: Bring with you material about your program and brief one-page written information about the issue you have discussed. It provides a reminder of your visit and a refresher on the points you have presented.

Appreciate staff: You may be asked to meet with a staff member instead of with the decision maker. Don’t be put off. This person should have a good understanding of your issues and will relay your concerns to his or her boss. Officials rely on staff to have a thorough understanding of the issues and to help them in shaping their opinions, which in turn determine how they vote.

Remember to say thank you: Send a note thanking the decision maker for the meeting. You can use this opportunity to mention any points you may have forgotten or to send information you promised to provide.

Share what you learn: Share information about your advocacy contacts with other arts advocates. Communicating what the decision maker’s feelings on arts issues are helps make your united advocacy efforts more effective.

Adapted from
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies Advocacy Toolkit