Articles by Claire Guthrie Gastañaga
Public Advocacy
 Presentations / OpEd / Articles
Ten Tips on How to Become an Effective Advocate for Latinos in Richmond     (Espanol)
The Latino Messenger - El Mensajero, November 2003, p. 7

There are a number of state and local organizations that need your help in advocating issues of concern to members of the Latino community across Virginia. Any of these organizations could use your help in monitoring legislative activities and speaking to state and local legislators and officials about pending legislation and administrative policies.

You can find out which organizations are already formally involved in “lobbying” the state legislature, like the Virginia Coalition for Latino Organizations (VACOLAO), by searching the lobbyist

“Be fearless. Allow yourself to be assertive. As Robert Grudin says, ‘[t]he years forget our errors and forgive our sins, but they punish our inaction with living death.’ ”  Claire Guthrie Gastañaga

registration data base on the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website, www.commonwealth.virginia.gov, where you’ll find the name of the organizations and contact information for their registered lobbyists. You can connect with local organizations and issues by participating in Parent-Teacher Associations, community associations, local business and youth organizations and the like. Once you have found the organization or cause for which you want to be an advocate, you will need to focus on how to be effective. Here are ten tips for being an effective grass roots advocate that will help you be a better advocate, whether you choose to focus on issues pending before Congress, the Virginia legislature, before a local governing body or a local school board:

1. Learn the culture – staff vs. member. In Congress, you have to build a good relationship with staff before you are able to see the member. In the Virginia legislature and in local governing bodies, this is less likely to be true.

2. Learn the procedural rules (formal and informal). If you want to make something happen, you need to know what process you must follow to obtain action on your issue. Is there a particular subcommittee or committee that will hear an issue first? How is legislation or an ordinance introduced? You need to know how the game is played before you take to the field.

3. Be fearless. Allow yourself to be assertive. As Robert Grudin says, “[t]he years forget our errors and forgive our sins, but they punish our inaction with living death.”

4. Recognize your limits. Do not make promises that you cannot keep. Do not overcommit.

5. Find your allies. Build coalitions with other organizations and people who share your goals and objectives. Look beyond the Latino/Hispanic community for support. Get involved personally in mainstream organizations that could help address issues of common concern.

6. Identify your opposition. Find out who is likely to be against you on an issue, and determine whether there is any common ground.

7. Look for win/win positions or acceptable compromise. If there is a balance that can be struck, strike it. If you can move your ball forward a yard, take it. You will be closer to the goal even if you cannot score in one play.

8. Prepare, prepare, prepare. You are presenting a “case” to a difficult jury. If you do not know your stuff, no one will pay any attention to what you say. Want to know more about how people align on issues?  Check out www.pollingreport.com. Want to become a better speaker? Read Leading Out Loud by Terry Pearce. Use the internet to become more informed.

9. Pay attention to how you are marketing yourself. Like it or not, how you dress, wear your hair, talk, all affect how you are perceived. Do not take yourself too seriously. Use humor to defuse “difficult” situations.

10. Keep things professional. Develop relationships by providing information and opportunities and making yourself indispensable.

If you follow these tips, you will be on your way to becoming an effective advocate for a cause or organization whether you choose to focus on issues pending before your local school board or community association, with your local government, or at the state or federal level. Now all you have to do is just “get out there.” (end)

Public Advocacy
 Presentations / OpEd / Articles

Home  l  Services  l  Resources  AboutContact  l
©2000-2004 by Claire Guthrie Gastañaga | copyright policy | legal disclaimer | privacy statement