Advocacy Strategies

State and Regional Reps participating in the 2005 NNELL Summer Institute at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, provided the following suggestions for “Getting the Support You Need!” for early language learning programs. Thanks to Peggy Boyles who compiled these suggestions.

Writing Letters and Sending Emails:
Letter writing is probably one of the most effective and efficient ways to express your opinions about an issue. Letters also serve as a means to educate decision-makers about your field and how they can assist you. Responding to constituent mail is a number one priority of most legislators.

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Letters to policy-makers must be brief and to the point (usually no longer than one page). Any letter should include the following major points:

  • Identify the issue clearly (with as positive a perspective as possible).
  • State your position and why you care about this issue.
  • State how the issue will affect you, your school and/or your state.
  • Tell the decision maker what you would like him/her to do.

Telephone Calls:

As with letter writing, telephone calls are a good way to contact policy makers. Be sure to give the following information during the call:

  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • The issue that has prompted your call
  • What action you would like to see on this issue

Office Visits:

Visits can be a useful way to educate policy-makers at all levels. Appointments can be arranged by calling the office to set-up a time and letting them know who will be making the visit and the issue to be discussed.
Present a written position (preferably a “one-pager”_ to support your proposal. This will allow the administrator, legislator and staff to reflect on the meeting at their leisure.

Many officials are often busy with numerous issues and may not be up to date on your particular cause. Take time to explain your views, concerns, and suggestions. Seek to offer a new way of looking at the problem and offer constructive criticism, not just negative preaching and scolding. End each visit with a question which evokes a commitment to action such as: “Will you support this issue?”

Testifying:

Testifying before a congressional hearing, your state legislature, or the local school board is yet another way in which to let your voice be heard. Hearing gives policy-makers necessary information to accurately assess, write, and vote on laws and policies.

  • Know why the hearing is being called so your testimony is appropriate
  • Meet with committee members and staff in advance
  • Prepare and provide your written testimony as far in advance as possible
  • Arrive Early
  • Be brief – Don’t read – Maintain eye contact
  • If you don’t know the answer, say so
  • Be courteous and tell the truth

In most cases, you do not have to be present in order to submit written testimony for the record. Call the appropriate office for details.

Media Contacts:

Local Newspapers, radio and television stations will offer publicity for an issue if they are convinced that the issue merits attention, and if you are willing to offer assistance. Remember to utilize your school newspapers and association newsletters as well. Include relevant policy-makers on your mailing lists. Publicity may include:

  • Press releases on noteworthy program (your school’s National Foreign Language Week program)
  • Notices of meeting (your state language association’s annual meeting)
  • Editorials
  • Letters to the Editor

Networking:

Other organizations can be a source of collaborative strength. Expand your network to include areas where you may never have expected to find support.

  • Business with trade concerns
  • Social organizations with international dimensions (Rotary, 4H, etc.)

By combining resources, skills, ideas, and networking lists, you can generate hundreds of letter and calls, positive support, and effective political action. Through joint meeting, coalitions can focus on common goals and priorities, target specific issues, and develop effective strategies.