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Arts organizations and arts advocates engage in a variety of strategies and techniques to build political support for the arts. The Arts Advocacy Checklist is designed to help you evaluate the level of your advocacy involvement against a broad range of activities aimed at enhancing the political environment for the arts in public policy.

The checklist includes many approaches to advocacy that have contributed to successful outcomes for the arts in policy and legislation. Use this checklist to measure the extent of your arts advocacy activity. Assess the advocacy engagement of your arts organization, your audiences and the public you serve.

Once you've completed the checklist and identified areas for improvement, NASAA has a variety of tools to help you achieve your advocacy objectives.

[NASAA Members: Use the state arts agency checklist M]

Advocacy and Your Arts Organization

Nonprofit arts organizations play a key role in arts advocacy. Public dollars support their programs, making the arts accessible to more citizens in your state. The well-regarded leaders of arts organizations provide important political connections and powerful voices in support of public arts funding. The audiences of arts organizations are a potentially numerous and vocal constituency for arts advocacy.


Establishing an Advocacy Board

  1.  Your arts organization:
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent

includes advocacy in the job description of every board member

has established an advocacy committee

makes advocacy an agenda item at every board meeting

trains board members in advocacy

prepares board members to articulate the public benefit of the arts programs offered by the organization

selects nonprofit tax status under section 501(h) of the federal tax code allowing lobbying expenditures of up to 20 percent of the first $500,000 of the annual budget
  2.  Your arts organization recruits as board members to work as arts advocates:
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent

corporate leaders with political contacts who are active in the arts

trustees and heads of arts organizations

contributors to political campaigns

constituents who know their legislators personally

Cultivating Political Relationships

  3.  Your arts organization has developed relationships with legislators who are:
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent

influential on arts policy and budget

leaders in the party caucuses

members of special-interest caucuses where the arts intersect with other policy issues
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent
  4.  Your arts organization consults friends in the legislature for advice and help with strategy.
  5.  Your arts organization consults or engages a professional lobbyist to assist in developing important political relationships.
  6.  At arts events, your arts organization:
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent

invites politicians, their staff aides and family members to attend

connects politicians with board members who are their friends and supporters

thanks legislators in attendance for their support of public funding for the arts
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent
  7.  Your arts organization provides legislators with an annual report, guide to programs and calendar of events.
  8.  Your arts organization provides legislators with information about arts attractions and events to distribute to visitors in their offices.
  9.  Your arts organization brings performing artists or exhibitions to the state capitol for special occasions.
10.  In an election year, your arts organization:
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent

informs candidates for public office of your positions on arts issues

invites candidates for public office to attend your meetings and to speak on arts issues

makes research and studies on arts issues available equally to political candidates

Developing Alliances and Grassroots Advocacy

11.  To promote an active and informed network of arts advocates, your organization:
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent

participates in a statewide coalition of advocates to advance public support for the arts

communicates with a network of advocates to keep current about federal and state legislation affecting the arts

Building An Audience of Advocates

Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent
12.  Your arts organization credits its public funders in all advertising, news releases, printed programs, posters and calendars of events to raise the visibility of public arts funding and to let audiences know the value of public support for the arts.
13.  Your arts organization's newsletter includes a regular column on legislative issues in the arts.
14.  Your arts organization sends out advocacy information to its members, with alerts and reminders to contact their legislators on arts issues.

II. Advocacy and the Political Environment For the Arts

The political environment for arts issues in your state depends upon the level of visibility enjoyed by arts advocates and the success advocates have accomplished in building relationships with legislators and creating an involved grassroots constituency supportive of public arts funding.


Arts Advocates Work Together

Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent
15.  A statewide coalition of advocates promotes public support for the arts.
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent
16.  Arts advocates conduct a briefing on arts issues for newly elected legislators at the start of the legislative session.
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent
17.  Arts advocates welcome new legislators to office after an election by writing to offer assistance on questions about arts issues, sending along information about the arts in their communities.
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent
18.  Arts leaders meet with the editorial board of the local press to discuss issues in the arts and public support for the arts.
19.  Advocates come together annually for a statewide advocacy day in the state capital:
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent

to meet with their legislators

to provide the staff and trustees of arts organizations with advocacy training

20.  Your statewide arts advocacy coalition:
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent

convenes arts organizations in the state to discuss legislative issues

promotes cooperation on advocacy among arts constituents

works with constituent arts organizations to rally their members and audiences as advocates for public funding of the arts programs they present

provides case-building information on public arts spending to grantees and other arts constituents

promotes advocacy alliances between arts advocates and non-arts advocacy groups with mutual interests

Arts Advocates Are Visible Politically

21.  Through their involvement in political campaigns, arts advocates:
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent

recruit candidates who share their values to run for office

contribute to political campaigns

work on the election campaigns of candidates they support

participate in candidate forums and town meetings, to confront the candidates and ask where they stand on issues of public arts policy

The Public Is Supportive

Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent
22.  Arts advocates expand their advocacy possibilities by linking the arts to other issues like education, social concerns and economic and commercial development.
23.  Your arts organization offers educational programs to the public for much of the art it presents as a way of making the arts more accessible and meaningful to a larger audience.
24.  Grass-roots arts consumers:
Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent

understand the importance of public funding for the arts programs they enjoy

know how to keep informed about arts legislation

Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent
25.  Material is available to arts advocates with examples of public funding and data in support of the major arguments for funding the arts in the state.
26.  Arts advocates recognize and thank politicians for their good work.
27.  Organizations outside the arts support and advocate for public funding for the arts.

Politicians Are Involved

Strong Adequate Weak Nonexistent
28.  Legislators and other public officials attend arts performances and exhibitions.
29.  Public officials are invited to attend the board meetings and conferences of arts organizations.
30.  Legislators announce the grants awarded to their constituents by public arts agencies.
31.  Legislators understand how their support for the arts helps them achieve their other legislative goals, in areas like economic growth, educational improvement and community development.
32.  A committee on the arts in the legislature creates arts interest among legislators and builds alliances with other public policy interests.

Now that you have assessed your arts advocacy strengths and weaknesses, review your checklist responses and see what needs improvement. NASAA has several publications that can assist in those areas:

To learn how to strengthen your relationships with legislative leaders, consult Access to Power: Building Political Clout for the Arts.

For ideas on how to maximize contacts with your legislators and expand your advocacy clout, consult Forty Action Strategies.

To see how you can broaden the reach of public arts funding by connecting the arts to a variety of public policy issues, consult The Arts in Public Policy: An Advocacy Agenda.

For help with turning your board members into advocates, consult Advocacy for Public Support of the Arts: A Civic Responsibility.

To learn how nonprofit arts organizations can lobby without risk to their tax status, consult Advocacy by Arts Organizations: Tax Laws and Lobbying.

These and other advocacy resources developed by NASAA may be found on our website, http://www.nasaa-arts.org//Publications/Advocacy-Publications.php.

NASAA's mission is to strengthen state arts agencies.
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