Busting the myth of advocacy

Wrapping up our three-part "Advocacy 101" series, Amanda Morgan-Mootz and Taylor Gleason of World Vision's advocacy team debunk some common myths about what advocacy is and is not.

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Each week on the Discovery Channel’s popular series Mythbusters, special-effects gurus run scientific validity tests to prove whether popular rumors, myths, movie scenes, or internet videos are plausible. This week, we’ve decided to bust a few myths of our own as we continue our Advocacy 101 series.

When I was 2 years old, I thought there was a monster living under my bed. There wasn’t. In the same way, we often imagine advocacy as scarier or more difficult than it really is.  We assume it’s reserved for those who run in political circles, or that it’s a lost cause -- when we really just need someone to come and shine a light on it long enough for us to realize it’s not as daunting as we imagined it to be.

To help us overcome our fear, let’s put advocacy to the test and debunk some common myths.

What advocacy is not:

– Advocacy is not only for professional lobbyists.

– Advocacy is not walking down the street with a bull horn.

– Advocacy is not rioting in a demonstration or protest rally (rallies are activism, which sometimes has its place, but it’s not always effective advocacy).

– Advocacy is not the same as fundraising or donating to charity.

Ways that you can advocate:

1. Start talking.

Sure, it’s NFL preseason and your Pinterest boards are full of hot topics, but our daily conversations with coworkers and friends can have more impact than we realize. If God is moving your heart about a particular issue, tell someone else about it. It’s that simple. The more your passion shines through, the more likely they’ll be to follow your lead!

2. Pray.

Prayer isn’t the sum total of advocacy, but it is the right foundation. Since God is the giver of justice and the author of power, why wouldn’t we first ask Him to show us how to act and to lead the way before us as we seek to influence powerful decision makers? Both prayer and advocacy require persistence, so train yourself in the closet before you march the halls of Washington.

3. Use social media.

Did you know that 100 percent of U.S. senators have Twitter accounts? Many of them are also on Facebook. In our digitally social era, you can directly message or tweet your representatives to get their attention; they’re literally a click away. Follow @WVUSAdvocacy on Twitter for important updates and ways to make the most out of your social media channels.

4. Get on the phone.

You use your phone every day anyway, so why not take a few minutes to make a phone call that can make a difference? It only takes phone calls from just 10 people in one day for a member of Congress to take notice of an issue. Find your representative’s phone number, or call 202-224-3121 to have an operator connect you directly.

5. Send a letter or email.

More than 10,000 bills and resolutions are introduced in Congress every year. Writing a quick letter or email to your representatives about a specific issue will help them take notice, and it encourages them to act. Try it right now by using this form to ask your members of Congress to support the Water for the World Act.

6. Meet your representatives.

It may sound intimidating, but you have more access to elected officials than you realize, and the most effective advocacy -- by far! -- happens when you build a relationship with your representative. He or she likely has a local district office in your city and spends time there specifically to meet with constituents like you. You don’t have to be an expert to ask your representatives to take action on an issue you care about. So grab some friends and schedule a meeting!

7. Add your name.

There is strength in numbers! Signing a petition, when strategically timed and delivered to the right decision-makers, can sound an alarm to those in power that an issue is urgent and that a large number of people they represent are asking for action.

What do all of these options have in common? Action. If you think you can’t be an advocate, prove the myth wrong and take some small steps right now. We have lots of tools to help you.

Visit Beyond 5 to join a community of advocates who are using their influence to help stop preventable child deaths, and take action today.

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