Summer Advocacy Tips

Jun 30, 2017 | Citizen Advocacy

Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards members show DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp the blue-green algae bloom on Petenwell Lake.
Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards members show DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp the blue-green algae bloom on Petenwell Lake. (River Alliance photo)

We get many requests for tips about how to best reach out to elected officials about policies and issues that matter to you, your family, and your community. Our biggest recommendation is to build a relationship with your elected officials; summertime is a great time to foster these relationships. Do you need to befriend or agree with your elected official? No. Your goal is to be known as a knowledgeable and passionate advocate, so when they see an email or phone message from you, they’ll take note. Even if you disagree, they know you have a point of view they should consider.

It can be really helpful to get to know your elected official, and for them to know you, before there is an urgent matter you are advocating about. This isn’t always possible of course, but summer is a great time to tell them why you care about Wisconsin’s rivers, lakes, and drinking water; healthy habitats for fishing; algae free water for swimming and boating; or whatever issue means the most to you.

Here are some advocacy tips for you and/or your organization for using summertime to strategically build relationships with elected officials—from the town board to Congress!

  • Attend their public events. Your elected officials often use the summer to hold town halls or listening sessions. This is a great opportunity to introduce yourself, or your organization. Remember to be brief and focus on your most important issue of concern. You can find out about these events by subscribing to their newsletters, email alerts and/or following them on Facebook.
  • Invite them to see your water issues in person. Take them fishing to illustrate why your river needs protecting, boating to see why shoreland zoning has helped your lake, or walk on the beach during a blue-green algae bloom to show them the issue first hand. We know many individuals and groups that have had success advocating for their issue because of the first-hand experience their elected official had with the issue.
  • Invite them to your events. If you belong to an organization such as a: river or lake group, civic group, neighborhood association, etc., invite your elected officials to an event that will introduce them to your organization and the issues you care most about. If you have a newsletter or email list, add your elected officials to the list so they know about your events in advance.
  • Follow up. If you get the opportunity to meet your elected official, send them an email afterward to thank them for listening and to restate the issue you are concerned about. This gives you a chance to provide more detail and maybe even a link to a news article or website that has more information about the issue.
  • Send a letter or email. If you are unable to connect with your elected official in person, you can still send a letter, or email to share your concerns. Again, this is an opportunity to introduce yourself, and/or your issue. Include an invitation to see the issue first hand or attend an event, as mentioned above. If there is a vote or position they have taken that you agree with, be sure to thank them—it is rare for them to receive recognition, and it is meaningful.

There are many bills, ordinances and policies on the horizon. Having a connection with your elected official increases the odds of your next request to vote for or against a bill of being noticed and considered. As always, please let us know if you have questions about being an advocate or issues that you care about.