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Advocacy: Lobbying Tips

Thank you for representing the arts of Washington County!
The best advocate for the arts is YOU.

All members of the arts community - staff, volunteer leaders, artists and audiences - have the expertise needed to make the case for public arts funding. Your first-hand knowledge of the arts and their impact in your community is one of the most important components of any advocacy campaign seeking the support of legislators.


Politics is about consensus.
Issues with a strong grassroots constituency have the advantage. Make it easier for legislators to support arts programs by making them aware of the community's support.

All politics is local.
Local voices carry the most weight with politicians. Take advantage of your legislator's accessibility by visiting their district offices.

Politics thrives on personal relationships.
Think of advocacy as a year round commitment and work with legislators as you would other community partners. Let your elected officials know you are there as a resource for them. The results are worth your efforts!

On this page you will find:


Getting Your Message Across-
Tips for Strengthening Communication with Legislators

Advocacy is an ongoing process. Legislators face so many competing causes that just one visit or one letter won't make much of an impact. Open the door for further communication by following up. Follow a meeting with a note. Follow a letter with a phone call. Not only will you be able to state your position again, you will make a much stronger impression on your legislator and his/her staff.

Advocacy Do's

  • Do be courteous and friendly. Refer to Legislators as 'Senator' _____or 'Delegate' ____.
  • Do take the opportunity to say 'Thank You' whenever it arises.
  • Do know the issues thoroughly and be familiar with all sides of an issue. (Stay informed by signing up for MCA's Advocacy Bulletin)
  • Do be a good listener. You will have a better chance to address any objections to arts funding if you know why your elected official is opposed.
  • Do humanize your message. Include anecdotal stories about how programs and public dollars impact real people.
  • Do make sure your elected officials are on your mailing list if you work for a cultural organization.
  • Do invite them to performances, exhibits, special events, and receptions. If they attend, acknowledge their presence publicly and thank them for their support.
  • Do get to know elected officials' staff members and keep them informed on an ongoing basis. Invite staff members to events and cultural programs as well as the elected officials.
  • Do participate in building strong statewide coalitions with other cultural, civic, educational and business institutions in the public and private sector.
  • Do enlist legislators you know are supportive to lobby their colleagues to come over to your position.

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Advocacy Dont's

  • Don't preach or lecture.
  • Don't use a negative or intimidating tone.
  • Don't expect your meeting with your legislator to be long, especially when the General Assembly is in session. Maximize your time by whittling down your presentation to include an opening statement, a few supporting details, a closing summary and request.
  • Don't bluff. If you don't know an answer, say so, and call back with the correct information at the next opportunity.
  • Don't accept a general answer to your request. In a positive manner, request the official's specific views on the issue in question.
  • Don't wait until the last minute to contact your elected official about an issue before the legislature.
  • Don't forget to enjoy your visit! Use your enthusiasm, smiles and eye contact to keep your legislators engaged.

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Meeting with your Legislator

  1. Call to make an appointment and be punctual.
  2. Come prepared. Have written material to leave with elected officials and their staff. Make sure to include appropriate contact information.
  3. Introduce yourself as a representative or supporter of ____organization, in ___ (City).
  4. Be brief and use specific examples that relate to your organization, community, school, etc., e.g., state funds made this program possible and it reached thousands of children; this program assisted in the redevelopment of a downtown area; etc.
  5. Try to bring legislators into the conversation yourself by asking for their comments and concerns; this will give you a chance to offer your experience and assistance regarding arts-related issues and the opportunity to re-frame your request based on their concerns.
  6. Be sure to restate your request, asking specifically for their support.
  7. Whatever the outcome, be sure to thank the official and his/her assistant/s for their time.
  8. Send a thank you note as a follow-up to your visit.

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Writing your Legislator- Letters, Faxes, and Emails

As a general rule, the substance of the communication is more important than the form.

Mail vs. Fax/Email
If timeliness is your key concern, use email or fax to send your message. Although handling and tracking of electronic and regular mail is usually identical, email is logged sooner. If time permits, mailing your letter is preferable.

Personal Letters vs. Form Letters
Using your own words has more impact than simply forwarding a form letter. Form letters can serve as models for composing your own personal response.


Letter Checklist

  1. Make sure your return address is on the letter.
  2. If you are writing to an official in your district, include your voter registration number to let them know you're a registered voter in his/her district.
  3. Address the envelope and the letter "The Honorable______." Use Dear Senator, Delegate, or Representative _____ in the salutation.
  4. If you are writing in regards to a specific piece of legislation, identify the bill number and title.
  5. Focus on one issue per letter.
  6. Indicate the action you want the official to take, the need for the action, and how it will benefit your cause.
  7. Be sure to thank the official, even if they don't support your position.

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Phoning your Legislator

  • If you don't have time to write your legislator, call him/her.
  • Write down the key points you want to make before you call.
  • If the official isn't available, ask to speak to the official's assistant. Make sure to get their name.
  • Introduce yourself, state your position and the name of your organization if applicable.
  • Keep the conversation to the point.
  • Make sure to leave your name, address and telephone number so someone can call you back with the official's position on the issue.
  • Thank the official/assistant for their time.

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  • Increase legislator's awareness of the arts programs in their district and;
  • Remind legislators how these arts programs are partners in helping the state meet other goals, i.e.- quality education, community development, economic growth and tourism.

The Arts Strengthen Maryland 's Economy

  • Public investment in the arts pays off. The nonprofit arts industry generated $817 million into the state economy (2001).
  • While the arts budget is approximately $14 million, taxes paid by the arts community totaled $31 million-more than a 2:1 return on the state's investment (2001).
  • State supported growth of the arts industry fosters increased consumer spending, job growth and tax revenues. Over the last decade the total economic impact of the arts industry has grown by 129%, from $357 million in 1989 to $817 million in 2001. The arts industry generated $31 million in state and local taxes in 2001, $24 million more than the amount generated in 1989.

The Arts Promote Maryland 's Quality of Life

  • A thriving arts community strengthens Maryland 's competitive edge in the areas of quality of life and workforce development.
  • The arts are a potent community development force and serve as an anchor for redevelopment and community revitalization in municipalities across the state. Under Maryland's Arts and Entertainment Districts initiative (Title 24, 2001) the state is using the arts to improve the attractiveness and safety of areas, stimulate business activity in the evenings and weekends, attract residents and tourists and supplement educational opportunities.

The Arts are Essential for Quality Education, Lifelong Learning

  • The arts make a tremendous impact on the developmental growth of every child. The latest arts education research shows a correlation between the arts and higher academic achievement, better critical thinking skills, and a positive work ethic. Arts education also has a measurable impact on youth at risk in deterring delinquent behavior and truancy problems.
  • Every year, through the Maryland State Arts Council's Community Arts Development and Artists-in-Education programs, state's arts funding reaches over a hundred thousand students in over 400 schools from every jurisdiction.

Marylanders Love the Arts

  • According to the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, the 4th most popular activity in the state is attending cultural events and arts festivals.
  • Maryland has experienced a 70% increase in audience attendance over the last decade; Arts events attract 4.2 million more people today than they did in 1990.
  • More than 10 million people attend arts events sponsored by MSAC funded organizations, a number almost double the state population recorded by the 2000 Census.

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& How Maryland Citizens for the Arts works with the Legislature

  1. At the beginning of each legislative session, the Governor submits the annual budget bill to the General Assembly, who may only reduce the budget, not add to it . (The budget bill details state expenses for the next fiscal year. In MD, the fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30.)

    This is why MCA works to educate the Governor and Executive Branch about the arts and cultivate strong relationships with agencies under the executive branch, especially with the Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) and the Maryland State Arts Council (an agency within DBED).
  2. To be enrolled, a bill must be passed in both houses of the General Assembly. To begin this process, any one bill must be read on three different days in each house. There are a lot of issues to be discussed and voted on each year, so the House and Senate divide into committees, to get most of their work done.
  3. Every bill, including the state budget, is assigned to the appropriate committee for review. The fate of most legislative proposals is determined in committee . The first committees to review the state arts budget are the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee/ Sub-Committee on Education, Business and Administration and the House Committee on Appropriations/ Sub-Committee on Education & Economic Development.

    Educating committee and subcommittee Chairs about the arts is a top priority for MCA. It is important to be present for bill hearings and meet directly with key committee members as bills move through the legislature.
  4. After committee consideration, a bill is open to amendment from the floor; this is the second reading of a bill. Any adopted amendments are added and the bill is printed for the third reading, when the legislature will vote to pass or reject the bill. Advocates trying to keep tabs on any one bill are at the mercy of a rather hectic process, where second readings and voting schedules are subject to last minute changes.

    With a large advocacy committee of individuals regularly in Annapolis , MCA can report back to the field on any developments where action is needed. This can be a critical time to call or write.
  5. A bill passed by one chamber ("house") is then sent to the opposite chamber and the process is repeated (steps 4-5). Any amendments made by the second chamber have to be agreed on by the first. If the House and Senate chambers can't agree, a conference committee may be appointed to resolve the differences. A committee made up of 3 members from each house will send the resulting report back to each chamber. If rejected, the bill fails. If adopted, a vote will be called for final passage of the bill in each house.
  6. When the Legislature is finished, the budget goes to the Governor to sign.

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  1. Write, fax, phone or e-mail the Governor and your members of the General Assembly and ask them to support public arts funding.
  2. Ask your local officials (mayors, city/council members) to write a letter to their county delegation in support of public arts funding and the importance of retaining the state commitment.
  3. Work to cultivate spokespersons for the arts in your community and ask them to carry the message to local and state elected officials. Ideally, these should be highly visible individuals with access to your representatives (i.e. - business leaders, political contributors, civic leaders, board members, etc.) Encourage other boards and organizations to adopt a statement in support of public arts funding.
  4. Work with the media in your community (e.g.- write a letter to the editor or place op-eds, arrange editorial board meetings with newspapers, ask your local TV and radio stations to announce arts events, arrange to appear on a local TV or radio talk show to discuss public support for the arts.)
  5. Work with local arts organizations to establish a Government Affairs Committee to monitor issues affecting public arts funding.
  6. Recognize your elected officials for their support of the arts whenever possible.
  7. Invite your elected officials to any arts events with which you are connected and ask them participate in arts events. Be sure to turn any event like this into a press opportunity.
  8. Get involved in local politics and educate political candidates about arts issues before they take office.
  9. Welcome new state and local officials to office after an election and offer assistance on questions about arts issues.
  10. Join the Washington County Arts Council (www.washingtoncountyarts.com) and Maryland Citizens for the Arts (www.mdarts.org)


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Supported in part by:

The Washington County Arts Council, Inc. is funded by an operating grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, (MSAC), an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. An agency of the Department of Business & Economic Development, the MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. Funding for the MSAC is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, which believes that a great nation deserves great art. Additional funding is also provided by Washington County Government and generous businesses, organizations and individuals.

The Washington County Arts Council is a proud member of County Arts Agencies of Maryland, Maryland Citizens for the Arts and Americans for the Arts.