How to Advocate to Your Lawmaker, Overview & Part 1

We’re thrilled that you’re joining the National Alliance to End Homelessness in advocating for policies and funding to help end homelessness. Here’s what to expect from this course:

  • Videos featuring real advocates talking about their own experiences and strategies
  • Guides to help you prepare for meeting with your lawmaker
  • Four parts total (this page, plus 3 more)

The materials on these pages won’t take you more than one hour to absorb, but along the way you’ll also get started actually preparing for a meeting with a lawmaker. That prep time will take more than an hour, but how much can vary depending on your situation.

If you run into trouble or have questions while taking this course, reach out to learning@naeh.org.

You can do this course all at once or split it up across multiple sittings. When you return to a page in the course, it won’t necessarily take you to the place you left off, so you may want to jot down where you stopped. (Also, please note that this course does not provide a certificate of completion.)

THANK YOU to all the amazing advocates who shared their wisdom and contributed to the videos in this course!

1.1 What Is Advocacy?


We’re using the word advocacy to mean urging a lawmaker, policymaker, or other government official to support a specific cause, often in a specific way (such as by increasing funding). Everyone has a right to engage in advocacy.

Lobbying is a specific type of advocacy, which involves urging lawmakers to vote yes or no on specific legislation that’s being considered.

If you’re a provider organization, you should know that federal law clearly states that no federal funds may be used for lobbying. But the law does not forbid a non-profit from advocating and educating about critical issues. Government officials rely on your expertise and insights, and advocacy is an important part of serving your mission.

1.2 What’s My Role in Advocacy?


Your contribution is valuable, regardless of whether you’re a person currently experiencing homelessness, a system leader, a staff member at a direct service organization, or just an advocate who wants to help end homelessness. Here are some thoughts from advocates we know about the value people in various roles bring to advocacy.

(In this video, we’ll use the word provider to mean an organization that provides services to people experiencing homelessness. You’ll also hear some speakers refer to a CoC, which stands for Continuum of Care, a planning body that organizes the homeless response across a city or part of a state. CoC leaders are also sometimes called system leaders.)

1.3 What if I’m New to This?


That’s ok! You can do this, even if you’ve never met with a lawmaker before. Here’s some advice about getting started from people who’ve been there:

You’ve completed 1 of 4 pages. Up next, we’ll talk through how to prepare for your meeting with your lawmaker.