Experience is the worst teacher, it gives the test before presenting the lesson.
-- Vernon Law
The advocacy process can be very complex and much of it is hidden from view. Often you need an insider to act as your champion inside the system.
Ideally, your champion will be someone who:
• Is influential within the system you want to influence – even if your issue is not legislative, a legislator can be influential in advocating within the administration and bureaucrats have a lot of influence with legislators
• Is experienced at working within the system successfully
• Knowledgeable about your issue
• Dedicated to the issue, perhaps for personal reasons
• Works easily with you and your organization
Champions can be
• Legislative staffers
• Agency staffers
• Experienced advocates
• Influential organizations
• Another elected official – e.g. a mayor
After you identify your champion –TRUST them.
• Get them what they need when they need it – e.g. information, fact sheets, mailings, a grant written, a letter to the editor
• Do what they tell you – if they tell you to organize calls to a legislator, do it
• Communicate with them often – let them know what is happening outside the process, find out what is happening inside
• Thank them profusely and publicly
• Support them after the process (and before the next time) – e.g. make sure your supporters know of their hard work, work on their campaign
• Invite them to your celebration
In advocacy trainings, I advise that if your champion wants you to walk his dog, do it. Legislative and administrative processes have become so complex that an inside strategy is usually necessary.