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6 Tactics to Take Effective Action

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August 13, 2014

By Chrisi West

You’ve identified a policy change in your state that could benefit military retirees, veterans, or family members. What’s next? To make a difference at the state level, you need to be an effective grassroots advocate. Use these six tactics to take action and cultivate more supporters for your cause:

1. Go online. 

Visit MOAA’s online advocacy center at www.moaa.org/contactcongress. You can pinpoint the top legislative issues using the State Report Card and use MOAA-crafted language from the advocacy center to write an email to your state-level representatives; most elected officials have an online constituent contact form so you can send your message through electronically.

2. Have a conversation. 

Identify like-minded supporters in your personal networks at work, church, your neighborhood association, or other local organizations you’re a part of, and talk to them about the issues you’ve identified and why they’re important to your community, military people, or the nation.

Give supporters the phone number or email address for their state legislators and ask them to make contact and share their thoughts on the issue. It only takes a minute to tell your elected officials how you feel, quickly and politely.

When it comes to advocacy, numbers matter. The more constituents your state elected official hears from, the more powerful your voice will be.

3. Be creative. 

Host a letter or postcard-writing campaign at your home, a public library, or a local café and invite friends, family, and other supporters. You can use the template language from MOAA’s online action center to help constituents craft personalized messages to their local legislators.

For greater impact, ask them to share their stories about how they’ve been personally affected by the issue at hand. Make the event fun, and take pictures, then write a blog post about your event or post a photo to Facebook and ask others to join in the campaign with you.

4. Sharpen your pencils. 

Start a letters-to-the-editor program. It’s easier to get a letter printed in a local newspaper than in a large, national paper; just be sure to follow the submission guidelines the newspaper provides on its website.

Connect your local or personal issue to its bigger, national impact to encourage your audience to see how everything fits together.

If your letter is published, try to find a link to your letter online so you can share it easily with other supporters using social media and via email.  

5. Go public. 

Hold a tabling event to share information on your legislative issues at a high-traffic location, such as a farmer’s market or an outdoor shopping center.

Ask supporters to share their contact information with you, and then have them write a short postcard to their state representative (you can provide blank postcards for them to write on), or have them call their elected official right there if they have a cellphone. You can leave a voice mail for most state legislators on the weekend or after hours.

Be sure to get permission from the location before setting up your table, and use signs (homemade ones are fine) on your table to identify your group. This encourages interested parties to come to you, so you won’t always have to approach people cold.

Don’t forget to follow up with potential volunteers by sending them links to contact their state representatives directly; include information on future organizing events.

6. Grow your network. 

Train your fellow advocates on the how-tos of contacting their state-level representatives, and then ask them to do the same with their own friends and family. The goal is to replicate your effectiveness and create other issue advocates who can reach out to their own networks.


Copyright Military Officers Association of America. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared in the 2013 MOAA State Report Card.