To ensure continued public funding for the arts, humanities and interpretive sciences, there must be public and legislative support. Public awareness and support result from continuous education about the many ways that public funding enriches the quality of life in your community.
Therefore it is critical for LCC members and their applicants to educate the public, including elected local officials and state legislators, about how funds are used locally and the resulting impact on community life. This educational process is referred to as "advocacy."
When legislators understand your goals and accomplishments, it will be easier to advocate for increased funding for the arts and culture in your community. Here are some suggestions on how to keep elected officials informed about what the council needs, and how the councils work improves the community.
Meet your legislators.
Get to know your legislators so that when the council wants to ask them to support increased cultural funding, they will know about the council and its work. Council members can ask for a meeting, invite legislators to an event, meet legislators during open office hours, or arrange to go a legislative event such as a speech, dedication or fundraiser. Step-by-step tips for meeting with your legislator.
When communicating with legislators, be sure to describe the LCC program, including the following:
- LCCs grant state money through the Massachusetts Cultural Council line items.
- The grants are awarded and administered by community volunteers. Arts volunteers are activists who care about their community. They vote and they are connected to networks of voters who are active in the community.
- The funding the LCC receives is locally controlled to benefit the community.
Give legislators a chance to meet the public.
Invite elected officials to any public event, recognize them publicly, and give them the opportunity to speak. Ask a volunteer to take pictures to distribute to the local newspaper.
Build coalitions with neighboring cultural councils.
Coordinate advocacy activities with other cultural councils. Legislators have many demands on their time. If you include other councils, legislators are more likely to attend. Sponsor a regional meeting for the cultural councils in your area and your legislators.
Communicate with legislators.
Communicate with legislators regularly. Meet with them in their district. Invite them to board meetings, forums, performances and events. Keep telling the story of how state cultural funding affects their district. Write letters and postcards. Keep legislators informed about council events, challenges and successes. Show them how the council is working to build a better community. Let them know repeatedly that council members' political choices - voting and making political contributions - depend on public support for cultural funding. Develop a one-page summary for your legislators.
Thank legislators for their time and consideration. Give them the opportunity to look good by helping the cultural community. Introduce attending legislators at all events. We want legislators to see that supporting cultural funding is not only good for the community, but good politics as well.
Keep MCC informed.
Keep your MCC staff contact informed on council advocacy efforts. Let them know when the council meets with legislators, and what the outcome is. Let them know about support from local leaders and successful alliances across fields.
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Together, the MCC, LCCs and grantees can work to ensure continued public funding for cultural programs to improve the quality of life for residents, strengthen our young people's education, and contribute to the vitality of our communities. Local Cultural Council grantees can play an important role in educating the public, including elected officials at all levels, about how our funding improves community life.
Increasing visibility of LCC funded programs is an important first step for advocacy to be successful:
Another important step to take is to connect grantees with their legislators and other elected officials:
- Encourage applicants to send thank-you letters to their legislators and to invite legislators to funded events.
- Hold a grant reception and invite legislators to give your grantees the opportunity to tell their own story.
- Encourage grantees to invite elected officials to LCC funded projects and events.
And finally, enlist grantees to support calls for public funding of arts and culture:
- Keep grantees informed about the state budget process and how it impacts them.
- Share advocacy "calls to action" with your grantees and encourage them to forward them to their networks.
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You can learn about arts and cultural advocacy opportunities in Massachusetts by visiting the MCC's Advocacy Action Center. There you will find information about:
- The state budget process
- State elected officials that support arts, humanities and sciences
- Sample letters for specific issues
- Key research to help you make the case
- Advocacy tips
- Info about who can advocate and how
If you would like to learn about opportunities to advocate for the arts at the national level, visit the Americans for the Arts' Arts Action Center.
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