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When you’re enthusiastic about a particular cause, you may want to take your volunteerism to the next level and explore how to become an advocate. When you advocate for a cause, you use your communication skills, contacts, and influence to raise awareness and engage others to support the cause. Contacting legislators and other elected officials at the local, state, and even federal levels can be an effective way to gain additional support, access resources, and even shape policy related to the cause.

How elected officials can help

The people elected to represent you in government often have access to resources, programs, and contacts that may give your chosen cause an advantage. Whether you’re advocating for a new recreation program at the municipal level or seeking additional funding resources for a specific condition or illness from federal programs, your elected officials may be able to use their power to open doors, giving your cause access to funding, partnerships, and policy changes.

Getting in touch with the right person

The first step to advocating for your cause is to get in touch with the proper elected official. Municipal officials represent matters of the town or city. County commissioners or executives oversee county matters. State governors, representatives, and senators are responsible for state-level legislation and policy. Finally, elected officials in Washington, D.C., including the president, vice president, senators, and representatives, are responsible for federal legislation, policies, funding, and other matters.

Understanding the programs you wish to access or the type of help that your organization or cause needs will help you identify the proper person to contact. Create the Good® has developed a handy guide to finding and contacting your elected officials.

Determine your best outreach

Sometimes, a letter or email are best when communicating with officials or others who can help your cause. Other times, an in-person meeting helps to make a personal connection and impression. If you meet with elected officials to discuss your cause, be respectful of their time and arrive prepared with well-researched talking points. During the meeting, focus on building a relationship, sharing your organization's work, and addressing any questions or concerns the official may have. This personal touch can leave an impression and increase the likelihood of gaining their support.

Build alliances for greater impact

Collaborating with other organizations and forming strong coalitions can amplify your advocacy efforts by bringing additional voices to the cause. Partnering with like-minded nonprofits, community groups, community leaders, and advocates can increase the collective impact and attract the attention of elected officials or others who can create the change you seek. Connect with others who have similar goals and interests for their causes and show your shared support.

Follow up

The first contact or meeting is just the beginning of your advocacy work! Be sure to keep in touch with the officials whose support you’re seeking. Remember to send a thank-you note or email expressing gratitude for their time and consideration, and periodically update them on your organization’s or cause’s progress so they continue to become more familiar with it. This can help show your commitment and dedication, which can influence their feelings and actions related to the cause you care about.

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