The most effective forms of advocacy are in this order:
- Face to Face
- Handwritten Letter
- Phone call
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Tips to Be an Effective Advocate
– Know the facts. If you want a lawmaker to take you seriously, you should know both sides of the issue.
– Appeal to sense of duty to citizens. Remember, the person you are communicating with may not have the same passion for your project that you do. An example is advocating for Bear Resistant trash cans. While your passion may be to save the iconic Florida Black Bear, the lawmaker may be tasked with overseeing the health, safety and welfare of the community. You will be better received if you explain how bear resistant trash cans will benefit the citizens.
– Register to Vote Lawmakers check.
– If your lawmaker disagrees, make contact anyway. Communicating your position along with others may result in your lawmaker avoiding conflict by requesting that the bill not be brought up for a vote.
-The Lawmaker’s Aide may be your contact person in some cases. See this as an opportunity to have your voice heard. The aide will present your request to the lawmaker and will get back to you with the answer. This will give you the opportunity to work with the aide to overcome any objections.
– Be Patient. Making changes takes time and perseverance.
Advocating at a Face to Face Meeting
– Meet with the lawmaker from your district. Your lawmaker wants your vote and your neighbor’s votes too.
– Get to know the person. You are meeting with by reading their bio and about current projects they are working on.
– Dress accordingly. This is a professional meeting.
– Leave your emotions at home.
– Be on time for your appointment.
– Greet the person with a warm handshake, make eye contact and show you appreciate the person by thanking them sincerely for their time. Connect with your lawmakers by commenting on their college team or on a project they are currently working on or have had success with.
– State your position and support it with facts you have gathered.
– Answer questions based on what you know. If you don’t know, let the person know you will find out and report back. Then do it.
– Leave your contact information and ask for the best way to make contact again.
– Research how many minutes you will be given to speak. Prepare your speech and practice to stay within the minutes allotted.
– Fill the room with as many people from the community that you can. It’s great to wear matching colors to show unity.
– Speakers from the district are who lawmakers want to hear from since they are the ones who will be directly affected by any decision.
– Thank the lawmakers for the opportunity to address them.
-Explain why your issue needs to be heard. Backup with facts that show why doing nothing will be a detriment to your cause.
-Ask for what you want: a new law, a resolution, an ordinance or consideration.
-Back up your request with examples of how your proposed solution will benefit the lawmaker’s constituents.
– Leave copies of similar laws enacted elsewhere to support your point.
-Sincerely thank your lawmakers for listening to you.
– Stay after the meeting for an opportunity to meet the lawmakers one-on-one. This is a great time to hear their objections.
– An Objection is an Opportunity. Using what you learned from your research, welcome the objection and overcome it.
– Write a thank you to your lawmakers, even the ones who disagree with you, and mail it immediately.
Advocating at a FWC Commissioners meeting
– How do I sign-up? When you enter the meeting you will see a table with several staff members and laptops. You will sign-in on the laptop and can choose to speak about an item on the agenda or an item not on the agenda. If you need help the staff is always willing to assist.
– How long can I speak? Typically you will get three minutes but depending on how many people are present, you may have time donated by other attendees. At most you can receive six minutes of donated time along with your three minutes for a total of nine minutes.
– What should I talk about? You can talk about any items on the agenda or other wildlife concerns. While using science-based information is the best way to make your point, the voice of concerned citizens should not be underestimated.
– Is there anything I should not do? Never curse or become violent. This will not only get you removed and your concerns will not receive much consideration. Do not argue or name call. This only distracts from the issue of concern. Do not respond to banter from the other attendees. You are there to bring a message to the commissioners and should only address them and their staff seated in front of you.
– What if I get nervous or forget what to say? Be confident and remember that the commissioners are there to listen to your concerns. If you need to keep it short that’s okay. Simply stating if you support or oppose a decision is okay. There’s no obligation to use your full three minutes.
– What if I can’t attend or can’t speak? You can still voice your concern by email to the commissioners. Use this link to write one email to all of the commissioners. My FWC Commissioners
Advocating via Letter or Email
-Tone should be friendly and helpful.
-Ask for the resolution, law or policy change that you want
-Include Facts to support your request
-Provide information for states, cities or districts who have passed similar legislation.
-Include a copy of the legislation enacted from another area.
-Call to be sure your letter was received and Ask for a Date to meet your lawmaker.
– Hand signed petitions are best. Walk your neighborhood, meet people at a playground or other areas in your community where there is a gathering of people.
– Ask others to collect signatures. Place petitions in small businesses. For the most impact, look for businesses whose owners will support your cause and point out the petition to their customers.
When presenting the petitions, be sure to point out to the lawmakers where the signatures were gathered and who gathered them. This supports the decision maker’s connection to their community.