Whether your submitting a letter of support for a grant application (e.g., Institute for Museum and Library Services), supporting (or opposing) a legislative action, or advocating something more local/personal, your actions must be timely. For example, when an organization submits a grant application and needs letters of support, often it is asking for those letters at the last minute which means those letters need to be written and delivered quickly. Lending support to something that is occurring within the government may mean having to contact the appropriate government representatives immediately in order for the support to be effective. Advocating often cannot wait for a convenient time.
This past winter, I worked on a grant application with a team of people. Our call for letters of support when out as soon as we had a firm idea of what people were being asked to support (and after we had some documentation to share). But our supporters did not have weeks in order to write those letters; they only had days. We needed very quick responses and got them from those who were able to act immediately.
At the Special Libraries Association annual conference, Doug Newcomb explained that SLA had created a public policy platform that allows the organization to decide quickly what to advocate for. Rather than having to poll members of the Public Policy Advisory Council about each issues, Newcomb can use the public policy platform to decide what to support. That is useful, especially when letters of support need to be done quickly (sometimes even instantaneously).
We did not mention the fact that advocacy must be timely when we talked to the Spectrum Scholars yesterday. ALA had a web site of resources to help library advocates, including the Library Advocate's Handbook (which was handed out yesterday). Being timely is mentioned in at least one bullet point, but it should be in big letters. Yes, there are things you need to do all the time, but you also need to be prepared to act quickly when the need arises.
Although geared specifically for libraries, Library Advocate's Handbook would be useful to any organization. Even new digitization programs would find information here that could help them. Yes, you may have to think a bit about how to change some of the advice to fit your situation, but some of it you could use immediately like the Shaping the Message Worksheet on page 31.
Finally, if you know that you will need people or other institutions to be advocates for you, educate them ahead of time about what you are going to need and when, as well as why. Get them on board now. Get their questions answered now. Then when you need them to act quickly, they will be prepared to do so.
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