The National Network for Youth has developed for its membership a guide to public policy advocacy called Being an Effective Youth Advocate. We offer excerpts from that publication below to the general public in the spirit of encouraging all individuals and organization to take policy action to improve opportunities and supports for runaway, homeless, and other disconnected youth.
Individuals and organizations can take a range of actions to influence policymaking. Some actions involve direct communication with policymakers, such as through phone calls, letters, emails, town hall meetings, and site visits. Other actions involve reaching policymakers indirectly through the media using letters to the editor, op-eds, news releases, news conferences, media interviews, public service announcements, and advertising.
Preparing to Advocate
Develop a one to two page concise description of who you are. – Include your organization’s mission, goals, youth programs, and any effectiveness data from evaluations of your program.
Be able to summarize the information on your organization in a sentence or two. Use the summary in phone calls and letters to policymakers, meetings and site visits with policymakers and public and media contacts.
Use the Fact Sheets and Issue Briefs that we wrote and/or develop a one to two page concise description of the youth issue on which you will be advocating. Include a brief statement of the issue; the title, bill number, and status of any pending legislation on the issue; what you want the policymaker to do; your reasons for wanting that action; and how the policymaker’s decision will affect your agency and young people in the community that the policymaker represents. Be able to summarize that information on your issue in a sentence or two.
Determine the two U.S. Senators and the U.S. Representative(s) serving the geographic area of your organization. Visit senate.gov and house.gov to identify your Senators and Representatives and to determine their contact information for both Washington DC and home state offices.
Do homework on each of the policymakers you will be contacting. Determine if they have been supportive of your organization/issues in the past. Find out if they are on committees with jurisdiction over the legislation in which you are interested. Complete lists of all Congressional committees and reports of all recorded votes in Congress are available at thomas.loc.gov, the legislative information service of the U.S. Library of Congress.