Why We Advocate
Part of the National PTA’s threefold mission is to speak on behalf of all children and youth before governmental bodies and other organizations. For over 100 years, PTA volunteers have used their time, energy, experience and knowledge to bring about changes in laws, policies and programs for the benefit of children. (Learn more about Our History)
In order to maintain a nonprofit status under federal rules, the Georgia PTA is nonpartisan and works to direct its efforts at members of both political parties in order to enact change. When PTA officers or lobbyists participate in legislative activities that educate lawmakers about officially adopted PTA positions, or support a particular piece of legislation that is in agreement with the PTA Legislative Program, it is done on a strictly nonpartisan basis.
What is Advocacy?
Advocacy can be broken down into basic parts: the Advocate, the Issue, the Act and the Decision-maker.
Anyone who speaks for another is an advocate. PTA members are advocates for children and their parents.
PTA members advocate on a wide variety of child-related issues: education, health, nutrition, safety, juvenile protection, welfare reform, parent and family life, and drug abuse prevention, to name a few.
Advocacy is simply communicating about an issue for which PTA has adopted a position by speaking, writing, phoning, faxing or emailing. The purpose of the communication can be to inform, educate, persuade or increase the level of awareness about the issue.
The decision-maker is any individual or body that has the power to address the issue or solve the problem. Decision-makers include elected and appointed officials, legislative bodies, school boards, county commissioners, and judges.
Every PTA member can be an effective advocate. The process is always the same: identify, research and understand the issue; identify, research and understand the decision-maker; and develop and communicate the message. The process is not always easy, and dedication and perseverance are usually required. Sometimes success is achieved quickly, sometimes slowly.
- Know your issue. A thorough understanding of the issue is critical. Get the facts, complete research, read articles, consult the experts. Be sure you define the issue properly – otherwise you cannot identify the appropriate remedy.
- Know your goals. Set realistic goals that can be accomplished.
- Know your limitations. Assess your organization’s abilities and resources and be sure you are not exceeding your limits. Figure out how much time and how many individuals will need to be involved and determine whether your needs can be met by existing resources.
- Know the level of membership support. Many important issues may not gain widespread support. Issues that address the concerns of the membership and present a likelihood of success will motivate more people to act.
- Know your allies. Identify and reach out to individuals or groups that might support your position on the issue. The broader the support for an issue, the greater the chance for success.
- Know your opposition. Identify potential opposition and understand opposing arguments. Determine the resources of the opposition and gauge how powerful they may be.
- Know your obstacles. Even if there is no organized opposition to an issue, there may be obstacles. Funding is one of the biggest obstacles to achieving success. Sometimes the obstacle may be an existing law or policy that needs to be changed. Identifying obstacles will help you assess the feasibility of achieving your goals.
- Know your decision-maker. Identify who has the power to help you resolve your issue. It could be a school board member, a legislator, a county commissioner, or another elected official. Once the appropriate individual or body has been identified, learn all you can about that individual or body.
- Know your message. Design an effective message that is simple and understandable. Tailor your message to the audience and keep the message consistent. Make sure every messenger carries the same message.
- Know your ultimate purpose. Always keep in mind the reason you are involved – to improve the lives of children. Don’t get so caught up in the issues that you fail to advocate effectively for children.