1. Know your audience: tailor your pitch to prospective partners
In an effort to expand their pool of advocates, animal-welfare organizations went after the highly sought out Wall Street demographic, but rather than making an emotional appeal – or even a general economic argument – the Humane Society picked a specific, mutually relevant issue.
The Wall Street Journal1 writes that the Humane Society landed the endorsement of more than one shareholder advisory group by outlining the financial implications of the wide-spread use of single piece of equipment – a very specific and immediately actionable issue.
The lesson: Getting potential allies to relate to you is essential, but one shared goal is all it takes. Don’t be afraid to dive into unconventional territory to find some common ground.
2. Bigger isn’t always better: don’t be afraid to encourage individual advocacy
Education advocacy has long been closely tied to education professionals. From Education Week:
“Teachers already had a group through their unions, superintendents and school boards through their associations, and there was no other group,” [Sen. Mike Johnston] said. “Now, the ‘reform’ community has one that is supposed to represent kids.”2
This reform community includes parents, but it also includes people that just prioritize education. Creating a space without professional membership criteria allows for input from every possible constituent.
The lesson: You don’t have to target professional advocates, or administrators, or even an artists when recruiting partners in arts advocacy! Encourage you audience to support causes it’s passionate about, regardless of their relationship to the field. Membership in the Arts Action Fund (bit.ly/JoinAAF) is targeted towards citizen activists – that means you.
3. Use it or lose it: activate the partners you already have
Krista Clement, a former Division I basketball player, combined her work in educational leadership with her experience playing for the University of Michigan, by creating the NCAA’s Team Works Award.3 The project is an inter-collegiate initiative that encourages volunteer work among student athletes.
Krista developed this concept in a business class based on her experience with Teach for America. After she completed the TFA program, “[she] wanted more student athletes to make those connections in the communities where they were attending school.”3One of the major successes in the Team Works program has been that NCAA athletes are able to work with kids in their communities to volunteer together.
The lesson: Know who your neighbors are and ask for help. Local supporters sometimes make the best allies.
4. Find your tribe: look for your niche supporters
An agriculture advocate in Australia took a look at social media conversation about livestock as part of a University of Adelaide honors project and discovered that farmers were tweeting, and animal welfare advocates were tweeting, but they weren’t tweeting with each other. Issue-specific hashtags (like #banliveexport and #saveliveexport) were linked to activists, while farmers mostly seemed to be using twitter to, “decrease the social isolation of rural communities.”4 One of the hashtags that was popular among farmers? #tweetsfromthetractorcab.
The lesson: There are people out there that care about arts advocacy that may not be speaking your language. Take the time to explore the entire arts community and to communicate using their style.
The common thread here is that there isn’t one right way to ‘do’ advocacy. Get creative, pursue unexpected leads, and don’t worry too much about being conventional.
The Arts Action Fund encourages supporters of all kinds! Individuals can join AAF here (bit.ly/JoinAAF) and organizations can learn more about becoming partners here (bit.ly/AAFPartners).