Advocacy


Advocacy Guides and Toolkits

A wise veteran of Texas politics once stated: “Legislation is decided by those who show up”. Our republic is built on the ideals of citizen participation. There are many ways in which you can participate. You can call your representative to urge their support of an issue, write an email or a letter to the editor to your local newspaper, testify before a legislative committee, educate your friends about the importance of issue and even participate in a lobby day at the Capitol. These resources are to help you become more involved and stay involved. Together we really can make a difference!


Tips on Talking to Your Legislator in Person

Talking to an elected official may seem intimidating at first, but it is important to remember that it is a normal part of their job. If you live in their district they want to know what you think and how they can help. Below are some tips on how you can increase your effectiveness in communicating with your legislators with the goal of establishing a long-term relationship.

In Person:

Prior to the Meeting

  • Do Some Homework

    • Try to know the basics about a piece of legislation you are going to address. If there isn’t any specific legislation, be able to articulate what you are concerned about and why. Practice your “elevator speech” before you go into the meeting with the legislator or the staff member who works for the legislator. An “elevator speech” is a 1-2 minute speech that explains what you want and why you want it. It is named this because it is suppose to be short. You may have more time to make your points, but you always need to be prepared to make your pitch quickly.

    • Think about the points that will be brought up against your point of view. The legislator always wants to know who will be against any issue. Be honest. Tell them who or what organization may oppose it, but then give your reason why you think your view is what he/she should support. Be sure and speak of the opposition in a professional way.

  • Call the office and ask to speak the person who schedules the legislator’s time. Ask them to schedule an appointment for you with the legislator.

    • If the legislator is unavailable, ask to schedule an appointment with the staff member who handles their education issues. Don’t feel slighted if you don’t get to speak to the legislator every time. Legislative staff members work very closely with the legislator and they are good allies to have.


What to Take with You

  • Business Cards

  • One-page document that lists the key information about the issue you want to discuss


How to address your legislator:

When addressing a member of the state legislature use the following protocols:

  • Senator: “Senator (last name)”

  • Member of the House of Representatives: “Representative (last name)”

  • Governor: “Governor (last name)”

  • Lt. Governor: “Governor (last name)”

  • Speaker of the House: “Mr./Madam Speaker”

  • Chairmen or chairwoman “Chairmen (last name), or Madam Chair “(last name)”


Be Personal

  • Tell them a little about yourself—where you live, what you do for a living, if you are representing yourself or an organization (your school district, TCEA, or another organization).

  • Be sure to tell them that you live in their district (if you do).

  • Connect your talking points to your story (how it has impacted students in your school or district).


Provide Data

  • If possible provide at least one piece of data that will support your point of view. Don’t drown them in data, you can always provide them a short brief on your topic. Select one key piece of data that helps sell your point of view.


Be Focused

  • Remember they have only a few minutes to share with you so stay on topic. Also, don’t let the legislator change the subject either. Be polite, but be firm.


Be Positive

  • Don’t be argumentative. You may not agree with the stand your legislator is taking on this particular issue but it is important not to burn any bridges. Little is gained by arguing with your legislator. Keep reminding them how this issue affects the students of your school district.

  • Don’t be defensive. They may ask tough questions. They are probably asking the questions that will be asked of them. Give them solid information that will help them justify why they should support your issue. Always remember that the legislative process involves compromises, but you always have the right to participate in the process. Just be positive while you firmly state your positions.

  • Remember your goal is to have a long-term relationship. You won’t always agree with your legislator. You are looking for common ground on the issues in which you are interested.


Make the Ask

  • Don’t leave without asking them to support your issue. If there is a bill associated with the issue, be specific and ask them to support the bill. You can ask them, “Will you support this legislation?”

  • Ask them if they have any questions or need any additional information


End the Meeting

  • Don’t stay too long

  • Thank them for their time and attention


Follow-up

  • Send a thank you note and anything else you promised.

  • Consider inviting them to your school or school district to let them see students and teachers using technology.

Calling your Legislator’s Office

Do Some Homework

    • Just as if you were planning on visiting your legislator in person, you need to know the basics about a piece of legislation you are going to address in your phone call. Be able to articulate what you are concerned about and why. You will probably have very little time to speak, so practice your message before you call.

  • Make the Call

    • Call the office and ask if you can speak to the legislator or the staff member that handles the issue you want to address.  

    • A phone call is usually made to a legislator’s office when you want to quickly communicate with your legislator how you want them to vote on a specific piece of information or issue. Staff members keep a count of how many people called regarding a specific issue then report this information to the legislator at the end of each day.

    • Briefly tell the legislator or the staff member what issue you are calling about. Ask them to support or oppose the issue you are concerned about. Be as specific as you can and give them the number of the bill if there is one.

    • Follow-up

      • Send an email to whomever you spoke with thanking them for their time. Remind them why you called and what you are asking the legislator to do.

      • Provide your contact information so they can call you back if they have any further questions.

Writing Your Legislator

Writing to your legislator is a great way to communicate your views with him or her. Some ask which is better, a letter or an email? If you have time, a letter will probably get the most attention but a personal email can also be effective. The key to having an impact is to make it personal, concise, and well thought out. Here are some tips on how to write an effective letter or email:

  • Keep it local – Write the legislator that represents you. They really care about what potential voters think so let them know that you are from their district.

  • Make it personal – Try not to use a cookie-cutter email or letter. Your impact is going to be greater if your message is distinctly yours.

  • Keep it Simple – Address only one topic in your letter.

  • Follow this structure:

    • Why are you writing? Who are you and what are your “credentials”. Be sure and provide them with your contact information so they can contact you if needed.

    • Provide more detail about your issue. Provide examples or data from research. Don’t over do the research. Bring out one or two pieces of data that support your issue and highlights your message.

    • Be sure and let the legislator know how this issue affects you and your community or school.

    • Close by requesting action. Let them know specifically what you want them to do. You aren’t writing just to inform them, you need their help. Let them know exactly what action you want them to take.

Addressing procedures:

State Officials:

Governor:
The Honorable (full name)
Governor of Texas
State Capitol
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711

Dear Governor (last name),

Lieutenant Governor:
The Honorable (full name)
Lt. Governor of Texas
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711-2068

Dear Governor (last name),

Speaker of the House:
The Honorable (last name),
Texas House of Representatives
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, Texas 78768-2910

Dear Mr./Mrs. (last name),

State Senator:
The Honorable (last name)
Texas Senate
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711-2068

Dear Senator (last name),

State Representative:
The Honorable (last name)
Texas House of Representatives
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, Texas 78768-2910

Mr. or Mrs. (last name),

Writing a Letter to the Editor

Writing letters to the editor can be an effective way of sharing your opinion and inspiring others to take positive action on issues that are of concern to you. Political leaders and other policy makers rely upon the editorials in newspapers to gauge the views of their constituents.

letter to the editor, an op-ed piece, or a posting to a blog website may inspire everyday citizens to take action that truly makes a difference, and it even may inspire a reporter to pursue the issue further with a more in-depth article focusing on your issue. Writing a letter to the editor gives you a chance to inspire action in people whom you will probably never meet.

The key to getting your message out is to write a letter that has a chance to be published. Newspapers and other media receive many more letters than they have room to publish. So, ensure that your letter is concise (between 150 300 words), makes one simple point or deals with one basic issue, and follows the policies set forth by the media outlet. That way, you strengthen your chances of seeing your letter in print and of inspiring others to take action on your issue.

After you have written your letter, proofread it. Set the letter aside for a while and come back to look it over with fresh eyes. When you read it, consider the reader. Does your letter communicate your point clearly? Do your words inspire action? If you’re not sure, ask a friend or family member to read your editorial before you send it.

Send your letter to the editor. You can do this by email, fax or standard mail. Check with the recipient organization on the preferred method. If you are sending a letter to a newspaper, be sure to sign your letter and provide your name printed clearly along with your address and telephone number. Newspapers will not publish anonymous letters, and although the newspaper will not share your address and phone number with its readers, someone from the paper may call you to confirm your identity. (Suggestions provided by volunteerguide.org)

Here are the critical components of a letter to the editor.


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