32 Ways to Make Legislators Feel Good About What Your Arts Organization Does

Dec 2, 2010

The saying "We always remember how people make us feel." may sound more like relationship advice than an advocacy strategy, but it is both. After all, isn't relationship building the heart of advocacy?

This handy list of ways to make elected officials feel great about what your organization does comes
from the Idaho Commission on the Arts' website. Many of the ideas are familiar, but this is nevertheless worth reading to consider which of the items you will make happen in the near future.

32 Ways to Help Legislators Feel Terrific About What Your Agency Does.

    1. Write a thank you letter to your state senator and representative whenever you receive a state grant. Write a thank-you letter to your city supervisor or commissioner when you receive a city grant. They like to hear about funding in their district and want to know the impact it makes.

    2. Keep legislators on your permanent mailing list so they are aware of your activities.

    3. Always invite legislators to attend your events: concerts, plays, exhibits, fundraisers, and so on, at no charge.**

    When they attend:

    4. Announce their presence.

    5. Provide them with a backstage tour.

    6. Ask them to emcee or give a speech.

    7. Feature them as honored guests.

    8. Invite legislators to programs that feature students and young people.

    9. Give them a tour of your organization's arts education program.

    10. Establish a legislative committee on your board of directors.

    11. Send your business card to legislators and offer to serve as a contact for arts information, entertaining guests, etc. If you receive no response, send it again.

    12. Introduce legislators to working artists.

    13. Keep ongoing communications with legislators and offer to serve as a contact for arts information.

    14. Attend legislative conferences, town hall meetings and regular meetings in your area. Announce what your organization is doing during public comments -- particularly if it is something new and unique (anniversary seasons, new facility opening, etc.).

    15. Consider giving your legislator an award for his or her support of the arts.

    16. Thank, acknowledge or feature profiles on legislators in your organization's published materials (programs, newsletters).

    17. Convene a meeting each year before the start of the legislative session where you invite your local legislators and nearby arts colleagues to discuss key issues affecting the arts (rent rates, energy costs, building codes, arts funding).

    18. Host an annual reception for your legislators as part of their visits to your organization or at the conclusion of the legislative session.

    19. Hold a "Business and the Arts" breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is a good way to demonstrate broad-based community support for the arts to the legislators who attend.

    20. Call your legislators with issues of concern about legislation.

    21. Consider including a legislator's spouse or life partner on your board.

    22. Offer to assist legislators to be placed on arts boards in advisory capacities.

    23. Find out which legislators act, sing, or play instruments and arrange for them to play, practice, or perform with your company.

    24. Give posters of children's artwork to your legislators.

    25. Always attend committee hearings when arts funding is being considered.

    26. Have lunch or breakfast with your legislators on a regular basis.

    27. When meeting with a legislator, present your points clearly and concisely.

    28. Leave them with specific examples and facts that support your point of view. 29. Never get angry or allow the meeting to drag on.

    30. Get to know their staff.

    31. Ask how best to present your materials and information--fax, e-mail, one-page and double-spaced? Make it easy for them to access and read. Make sure it is timely and that your contact information is included.

    32. Legislators appreciate being informed by their constituents about programs that impact their district. They have busy schedules and value your input.

List created by the Idaho Commission on the Arts.

**To be sure that you are in compliance with regulations around gifts to elected officials--including tickets-- refer to this excellent resource the Performing Arts Alliance and Theatre Communications Group,
Inviting Members of Congress to Performances and Events: A Guide to Gift Rules.

Image of Jester with a Lute by Franz Hals is in the public domain and was sourced via Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: Legislators, Arts Advocacy

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ADVOCACY: Be an Advocate