Advocacy 101: Working with NYSAC to Communicate County Needs

By Kathryn Hohman, NYSAC Program Specialist
Preparation: What Do You Need to Know?
 Remain objective – step back from the issue and understand your own personal bias and the potential bias of others interested in the issue
 Build credibility – be fully aware of NYSAC's positions, both current and historical
 Know your allies – understand the relationship NYSAC maintains with members of the Legislature and other organizations
 Contact NYSAC to discuss whether there is other advocacy already happening on the issue, and how you can support ongoing advocacy efforts

Legislative Timeline and Priorities: What Happens When
Ensure you are choosing a strategic time to communicate your specific message. Be mindful of important dates such as budgetary deadlines and days and times of committee meetings. Be aware of other things occurring in the Legislature that may detract attention from your message. 

Audience: Who Are You Meeting?
In order to advocate successfully, it is important to understand the legislator's position on an issue before your meeting. This can be determined using any or all of the following:

 Party affiliation
 Position within the Senate/Assembly (Are they in a leadership post? Committee chair?)
 Other pressures from particular constituents or interest groups
 Regional or ideological predispositions
 Voting record/previous positions
 Biographical information, past offices held, and/or news media material
 Responsiveness to different approaches (how do they communicate, how do they respond to communications)

Know the Issue: How Does It Impact Your County?
Advocates bring information to legislators. Policymakers may have particular interest or knowledge in an area, but they are not experts in all areas. Advocates are not necessarily experts either, rather we connect policymakers with local experts. At NYSAC, this often means leveraging relationships with local officials (e.g. Probation Directors, Mental Health Directors, etc.) in order to bring practical knowledge and evidence to the hands of those who will make decisions.

Know the Opposition: How Does It Impact Others?
There is usually a reason why the change we seek has not yet occurred. It is important to anticipate the opposition to your argument and address those issues positively and pro-actively.

Follow Up: Next Steps
After meeting with a legislator and/or their staff, it is important to follow up:

 Send an email thanking the legislator for their time and remind them what the meeting was about. Include any handout material in electronic form if necessary.
 Send a letter thanking them for their time and summarizing your position.
 If you have additional questions following a meeting, calling the legislator's staff to follow up is a positive step as well.
 Contact NYSAC to discuss NYSAC's advocacy plan on the issue and how we could continue to work together to make county voices heard.