Advocacy 101

What is advocacy?

Advocacy means supporting a cause or a proposal, something you believe in, especially the importance of an issue to decision-makers.


  • Your representatives want to hear from you.
  • You have a right and a duty to stand up for, or against, issues that affect you (and the arts).
  • Be informed and polite.
  • Make it personal. Talk about how this issue affects you.
  • Have a specific “ask” prepared.
  • Follow up and remain in contact (Missouri Citizens for the Arts (MCA))
  • The Basics

    Do You Want to Make a Change? Then… Advocate!

    Advocacy is not a bad word. Advocacy is active support.

    What is advocacy?

    • It’s explaining the importance of an issue to power.

    What, precisely, is your ISSUE?

    • What do you want?
    • What are you resolving?

    What is your GOAL?

    • Is it winnable and measurable (in long-, medium-, or short-term)?
    • Can it bring real change to peoples’ lives?
  • Your Message

    Your message is the most important thing that you want people to know.

    It should be no more than 15 words and spark a feeling. Use it consistently, and anticipate both positive and negative responses.

    A good message is:

    • Short
    • True
    • Relevant to your audience
    • Heartfelt
    • Repeated

    A good message sparks a feeling (i.e pride, frustration, even outrage). Feelings motivate action.

  • Individual

    An arts advocate can make an important difference in a legislator’s position on arts legislation by explaining through personal experience how the arts bring value to the community.

    – NASAA, 2006

    Once you have your ISSUE and GOAL, find your audience.

    Who will you “target”?

    • Targets are people who can give you what you want.
      • Primary – have the power or resources to give you what you want.
      • Secondary – can get you to primary targets when you cannot get to them directly.

    How will you target?

    • Letters, Phone Calls, Meetings, Social Media, etc.

    Remember, you can do this: You are the Expert!

    • Educate policy-makers and their staff who do not have time to understand every issue and every detail
    • You know what is happening with the Arts in your community, school, and in their constituency
    • They want to hear your input and experience
  • Orgs + Groups

    For arts organizations and groups, arts advocacy is a year-round effort.

    Important: Charitable Organizations must consider CRA Rules for Charities Engaging in Advocacy.

    Consider Your Resources:

    • People, Financial, Knowledge, etc.

    Develop a Work Plan:

    • Identify tasks, responsibilities, and timelines.
    • Evaluate regularly; adjust plans as needed.

    Collaborations and Partnerships are critical:

    • Partners must understand the campaign — messages, resources, and their required actions.
    • Utilise partners’ expertise and resources, do not duplicate them.

    Good Research = Credibility

    • Develop arguments to promote issue
    • Be an “Expert”: for Media and Decision-makers
    • Good research underpins strategic planning, communications, and messaging. It can also reveal possible opposision.

    A comprehensive introduction to group advocacy, frequently referenced here is the NDI Civic Advocacy Curriculum Guide