On April 4, the Women Give San Diego membership was counseled by two influential San Diego policy makers. Dede Alpert, long time State Senator and advocate for public education and women's issues, along with Nikki Clay, a specialist in government relations and strategic legislative advocacy, presented at the group's recent meeting. During this dynamic presentation, members were advised on how to effectively advocate for the needs of women and girls to legislative leaders.
With years of experience under their respective belts, Alpert and Clay emphasized the importance of reaching out to city, county, and state officials thoughtfully and strategically. As the budget crisis at all levels of government makes legislative advocacy especially challenging this year, effective planning is crucial. Alpert and Clay recommend the following in order to maximize results from advocacy efforts:
1) Make a personal connection with legislators as this is much more effective than mass faxes or e-mails. Don't ask for money or support immediately - simply familiarize him or her with the issues at hand and explain why they are important. If at all possible link your cause to the legislators own experience or record. Legislators who are sensitive to the issues of women and girls will likely champion such causes in the political arena. Identifying these key individuals can be especially effective for your cause.
2) Make a personal connection with legislators' staff members. In some ways, building a relationship with staffers can be more important than building a relationship with legislators themselves. Staff members are more likely to read advocacy material thoroughly and are, in some cases, more likely to enjoy longevity in their positions than legislators.
3) Once you have secured a meeting with a legislator and his or her staff member, plan your presentation carefully. Ensure the presenting group is in agreement about what should be discussed and who should be responsible for highlighting particular aspects of your presentation. Be sure to stay on topic and focused in the course of the meeting, thereby maximizing the effectiveness of your "face time."
4) As the current budget crisis makes asking for "new" money next to impossible, advocacy efforts this year should be focused on "free" ideas, making existing programs more effective, and advocating for existing programs that are in danger of elimination.
The recommendations by Alpert and Clay are especially important as Women Give San Diego seeks to develop it's advocacy efforts with the creation of an Advocacy Committee. The committee is currently discussing possible women and girl-related issues around which to mobilize. Committee members are also planning to join Women's Foundation of California "Legislative Action Day" May 3 & 4 in Sacramento to plug into the foundation's lobbying efforts. The issues targeted at the day of lobbying have been selected by fellows of the Women's Foundation of California's Women's Policy Institute: a year long program of training retreats, to teach women activists and grassroots organizations how to successfully negotiate the labyrinth of Sacramento.
Women Give San Diego Member, Johanna Schiavoni comments:
“I will be attending the Legislative Action Day to sharpen my skills through hands on training and real world practice. There is no better way to learn to be an advocate than to be directly involved with legislatures and decision makers. I am excited to do this with the Women’s Foundation of California, an organization whose values and goals align with mine and Women Give San Diego.”
We will hear more from her and other WGSD members who attend the Legislative Action Day.
If you are interested in joining the WGSD advocacy committee or would like more information about Legislative Action Day, please contact Jennifer Dryer at email@example.com.
Jennifer Levitt is a WGSD member and blog contributor.