Training local advocates is a critical part of our work. Indeed - all politics are local - we adhere to that political maxim in all our work. The key to our community’s success, and the implementation of our 2017 advocacy roadmap - is the extent to which we effectively organize, register voters, mobilize ahead of election day, build relationships with public officials, and leverage our influence with candidates, incumbents, and policymakers.
While our #YallaVote initiative leads efforts to empower Arab American voters during election seasons, it is also a program to equip and organize our community members to engage public officials year-round.
To have an impact nationally and locally, Arab Americans must commit their efforts towards effectively building the relationships, visibility, and influence our community needs to advance our shared issues. AAI has developed resources you can use to prepare and direct your advocacy efforts. Learn who to call, how to reach them, what to say, and when to follow up. Knowing the issues you care about is only part of the job. Advocates must also know what tactics are effective, the community they are representing, and the system they are engaging. Use the links below to find out more about all of these topics and more.
For more information, you may email GovernmentRelations@aaiusa.org.
BEFORE YOU START ADVOCATING
Before you contact your representatives or organize a group to do so, here are some important recommendations for how to request meetings and build relationships. Here's a rundown of how to get going:
Personal Visits. A personal visit is the most effective way of communicating with your public officials. Here are some useful tips:
- Schedule a meeting with your public official and three to five local Arab American community leaders. Public officials have busy schedules even while in recess - going in as a small group of prominent local leaders both demonstrates the seriousness of your meeting request and maximizes the members' time.
- Send an e-mail outlining what issues you plan to discuss and who will be attending the meeting, including their role in the community. You may use this sample e-mail to request your meeting.
- You may be scheduled to meet with a staff member. It is important to note that staffers have considerable influence on their bosses, and have a strong grasp on policy issues. Officials rely on their staff for information and briefings. Treat a meeting with a staff member as you would a meeting with your public official.
- Have a specific “ask” for the meeting - - but no more than 2 or 3.
- After the visit, send an e-mail thanking your official or staff member for their time. Emphasize that you appreciate them taking time to listen to your views and concerns, and that you look forward to their continued cooperation with the Arab American community.
- Remain in communication with the office – follow up on the status of your concern, provide the latest news on your policy issue, and request future meetings.
Other effective advocacy techniques include:
- Social Media. Social media is one of the most effective ways to get your public official to pay attention to your concern. Facebook and Twitter are two powerful ways to identify yourself as a concerned, engaged, and attentive constituent.
- Letters or E-Mails. Letters/e-mails to your public official stating your support or opposition to a piece of legislation or policy is a helpful way for your official to gauge support or opposition in their district.
- Media. You can also get the attention of your public officials by writing opinion pieces for your local newspaper. You may view our guide on how to write and publish an op-ed here. Op-eds are great ways to engage other members of your local community and generate discussion around a policy position.
- Phone Calls. Personal phone calls are a quick and easy means of communicating with your public official. Offices document calls from constituents to ensure they have an accurate record and measure of concern in their district.
- In-District Events. Dropping by an event in the district that your Member of Congress is attending or speaking at is a simple, constructive way to engage policymakers. Say hello and raise an issue of concern. Quickly request the business card of a staffer to conduct immediate and long term follow up.
In all of your advocacy efforts remember the below tips:
- Always be polite, even when oppositional.
- Identify yourself as a constituent and explain your role in the community.
- Cite the specific bill number or policy that you are discussing.
- Don’t rely on solely on emotional arguments. Explain how a policy would directly impact you and why the official should support or oppose said policy.
- Try to be as concise as possible.
- Regularly follow up with your public official to maintain and build on the relationship you created.