Advocacy is about making the case for your work, and is something every land trust and individual can do!
Through building relationships with decision-makers, telling the story of your impact, and speaking up for the issues that matter to you, the advocacy process:
Builds your community – Your local, state and federal elected officials are trusted leaders in the places they call home. Having these public champions in your corner not only helps raise the visibility of your work, but forms lasting partnerships that bring new ideas, networks, and ways of thinking
Broadens your impact – Let’s face it: we all rely on strong conservation programs for our work. By communicating how these public funds are positively impacting local communities, it helps build broad support and strong budget allocations into the future
Drives policy change – Sometimes, there comes an opportunity to expand the policy toolkit for our efforts or the need to challenge legislation that undermines robust land conservation. Together, as part of a coordinated statewide land trust community, we can speak with a strong collective voice loud enough to effect lasting change.
What Your Organization Can Do
Every land trust’s advocacy program will look different and depends on your priorities, community, and capacity. You probably have one already and maybe didn’t even know it! Here are some of the tried and true things you can do:
Celebrate your successes – When you finish an amazing project or launch a new program, share it on your website and social media or work with your local paper to create an article! These communications are vital in demonstrating how you serve your community.
Develop one-on-one relationships – Invite elected officials or their staff to a coffee hour for a chat. Encourage them to join your celebrations and events. Consider giving them a platform to talk with your supporters about why conservation is important to them.
Host a tour – Bring key stakeholders on a tour of a project to highlight key issues and elevate landowner voices. This time outside together provides a concrete connection to the land and the impact of your work.
Join public meetings – Most local, state and federal government meetings have an opportunity for public comment. Write down your thoughts, show up, and get your input into the record.
Go to the capitol – WALT holds advocacy days in Olympia for you to visit with elected officials about current legislation or funding programs. Or go ahead and schedule your own organizational meetings during the session to make a key ask.
Create an advocacy plan – If your organization is ready, consider developing an organizational advocacy policy and annual policy platform to help identify your key priorities. Once you know what you want to accomplish, then you can create a plan for engaging stakeholders, policymakers and the public through your outreach, communications, and programs.
Cultivate messengers – Your staff, board, landowner partners, and community supporters are key messengers that can speak to local values and impacts. Find ways to help them develop as ambassadors and stay engaged in the advocacy process. WALT can help with in-person trainings and resources!
What You Can Do
So you’re ready to translate your personal passion for land conservation into results on behalf of the land, waters, and species that sustain us? That’s amazing! Everyone has their own style, but the following tips are pretty key to being an effective advocate:
Do your homework
If you know your officials and are an expert on the issue, congratulations! If not, take some time to understand those representing you, do background research, consult experts, and prepare your thoughts.
Sometimes, the simple things make all the difference: be punctual, identify yourself and where you live, show respect for cultural and political differences, and use titles to recognize your decision-makers and leaders.
Know your ask
Your leaders and elected officials have to make lots of complex decisions every day. It helps to be very clear about what you want from them, whether it is a specific vote on legislation or public support for a project.
Make it personal
Connecting the issue to what you care about and sharing stories of its impact is the single best way to inspire action and lasting change. So go ahead: speak from your heart!
Follow up with people
Don’t forget to follow-up with a thank you and potentially reiterate your ask. We aren’t always perfect, so this might be a time to provide any clarifications or fill any knowledge gaps.
Share what you learn
When you find out what your public leaders know about an issue and how they feel about it, let us know! This gives our community the chance to provide the support they need or address their concerns.
Visit our Resources Page, and select “Advocacy” to get an advocacy guide, lobbying guide, and more!