Article courtesy National Assembly of State Arts Agencies https://nasaa-arts.org/

The season for state legislative sessions is upon us! State arts agencies are either ensconced in current legislative activities or looking forward to sessions soon to convene. After a fall election cycle that brought us thousands of races at the state and federal levels, we can’t underestimate the importance of building relationships with newly elected officials and strengthening relationships with those continuing to serve.

This is the reason NASAA highlighted politics and policy as one of four key priorities within our 2019 Action Plan. Throughout the year you’ll see NASAA doubling down on advocacy and messaging related to this work. To get 2019 started, we issued three new publications within NASAA’s The Practical Advocate series.

Advocacy vs. Lobbying: An Arts Primer is my favorite new addition to the series. Confusion about advocacy versus lobbying still plagues arts advocates. Our new primer breaks it all down! It clearly defines the differences between education, advocacy, lobbying and electioneering. It also includes practical examples of each activity and sets forth the respective legal limits. Advocacy vs. Lobbying plainly answers vexing questions about advocacy, like:

  • Isn’t advocacy by nonprofits illegal? (Spoiler alert: No!)
  • What’s the difference between advocacy and lobbying?
  • Does federal law allow nonprofits to lobby?
  • Can my 501(c)(3) organization participate in political campaigns?
  • Can I engage in campaigns as a private citizen?

Given that thousands of officials were elected to office in the fall, meetings now matter more than ever. Meetings Matter! explains how in-person visits with elected officials show that you’re involved and that you care. Early goodwill building is also effective in establishing relationships that will pay forward when you must ask for a vote or funding. Whether you represent a state arts agency or a nonprofit organization that counts on public support of the arts, this no-nonsense brief will help you organize effective meetings with elected officials and their staffs.

A new and improved Three Simple Ways to Advocate for the Arts is especially helpful to newer advocates who may assume advocacy is complicated. It doesn’t have to be! This guide provides three easy and effective ways to voice support for the arts. With so many newly elected members of state legislatures and Congress, now is a particularly strategic time to reach out about the importance of public investments in the arts to communities across every state and jurisdiction.

Legislative season also means that arts advocacy days are popping up across the country. Whether you’re connecting to a state level advocacy day or to the National Arts Action Summit, March 4-5 in Washington, D.C. (which includes Arts Advocacy Day), these tools will help you make the most of working with your elected officials. And remember: any day—and perhaps every day—can and should be arts advocacy day, because connecting to elected officials throughout the year helps build relationships that policymakers recognize and value.