15 DOs and DON’Ts of Advocacy

DO:  prepare yourself for an appointment; be clear and specific about the purpose of your meeting, introduce yourself and/or your group, and leave materials relevant to the issue.

DO:  be punctual, and be willing to wait for a person who runs behind schedule.

DO:  keep letters and visits short and to the point.

DO:  be accurate and authentic with supporting facts – document resources.

DO:  be pleasant and polite.

DO:  be aware that issues have two sides—yours and that of the opposition. Be the first to acknowledge an opposing viewpoint.

DO:  support officials with positive visibility on behalf of the special needs of gifted children.

DO:  ask for a response to keep communication going.

DO:  follow-up with a thank-you note, phone call, e-mail, an appointment, a letter, vote, etc.

DON’T:  be disappointed if you don’t accomplish your purpose on the first visit; change  is a slow process and involves a relationship built over time.

DON’T:  make your issue complicated.  This person likely must deal with several important matters simultaneously and will be more attentive if you keep your points short and simple.

DON’T:  ever be belligerent or threatening. Consider opposing viewpoints, even if you DON’T share them. Conflict closes communication.

DON’T:  be late for an appointment. Lack of respect for other people’s time is rude. 

DON’T:  forget other staff members in your thank-you cards. Staff members often know as much or more about an issue than a legislator or administrator AND can get to him/her easier and more oft en than you can.

DON’T quit! Persistence and perseverance eventually pay off.

Adapted from an article by Gina Ginsberg Riggs, copyright 1984.