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))

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?

More Basic Advocacy

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.

More Designing Your Message

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

More Individual Advocacy

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

More Group Advocacy