Your advocacy checklist

Being an effective advocate means working towards placing on the political or public agenda a problem that impacts the farming community, providing a common-sense solution to that problem and building support for acting on both the problem and solution. The most effective advocates are those who show up and speak out.

Is my elected official the best place to start?

I have figured out that I want:

  • Casework: I need help with a particular government program (social security or the IRS, for example)
  • Policy representation: I want my representative or senator to take a position on a certain state or federal issue

If yes, your elected official is the best place to start.

Background research

Think about the following questions:

  • Who are my representatives and senators?
  • What is their legislative record and general philosophy?
  • What issues are they passionate about?
  • What committees are my representatives or senators on?
  • Is my representative or senator newly elected or more senior?
  • Which party does my representative or senator belong to?

Message development

  • Tell a compelling story – you have something of value to contribute
  • Know your facts
  • Make your message your own
  • Be positive

General message delivery

These tips apply to all communications – emails, phone calls, and meetings:

  • Decide which method of communication suits you and your purpose
  • Develop a thoughtful, well-argued message
  • Ask your member to take a specific action
  • Ask your member to respond to the request
  • Make your priorities clear
  • Tell your legislator's office how you can be an ongoing resource
  • Make your message targeted and forceful without being rude or threatening
  • Tell the truth
  • Be reasonable about opposing points of view
  • Be prepared to answer questions about opposing arguments

Effective meetings

  • Determine whether a meeting is needed to deliver the message
  • Decide where you want to meet, after looking at the legislative calendar
  • Decide who you want to deliver your message (preferably someone from the district)
  • Limit the number of people you bring to the meeting
  • Follow up with a phone call to the scheduler after sending a written request
  • Schedule carefully to assure you will be on time, but not too early, for each meeting
  • On voting days, try to schedule meetings with members before 11:00 A.M.
  • Be prepared to meet anywhere, such as standing up in the hallway or on the run to a vote
  • Adapt to virtual meetings
  • Be prepared to deliver your message in five minutes
  • Make sure you have short, concise, and consistent information to leave behind
  • Leave your information with the office or follow up with an email after the meeting

Effective written communications

  • Make your communication stand out by making it personal, thoughtful, and accurate
  • Ask for a response
  • Confine each written communication to one topic
  • Double check office numbers, and email addresses

Effective phone calls

  • Be confident on the phone, state your position and how you would like the legislator to vote

Following up

  • Send a thank you note to the staff and your legislator soon after a meeting
  • Wait at least three weeks for a response before checking back
  • Report on your meeting by sharing on social media, writing to your local newspaper, or having your county Farm Bureau publish in their media outlets.