We welcome January with the promise of a somewhat slower pace (unless you play for the Seahawks, but that’s a future blog post!). Christians and Jews shake off the crazy “holiday” schedule, struggling to find time to reflect, reconnect and rejoice. January feels a bit darker too – with the annual packing up of the lights of the season, from the menorah to the tangled Christmas tree set that never works the next year so why are we packing them up? Oh, that’s another post!

January also brings us into a special time of year – the start of Advocacy or Lobby Days. In this post, I will share a few tips on pool splashhow to dip your toe into the water… and offer a gentle push to our readers who are ready to jump into the pool.

First, lets get the definitions out of the way.   Advocacy = speaking or acting on behalf of yourself or another person or cause. Lobbying = supporting and speaking out on behalf of a specific bill, budget or ballot measure. Political Activities/ Campaigning= endorsing or speaking on behalf of a specific candidate for public office.

The great news is that we can all do any of these actions – with little risk of crossing into “dangerous” territory. The easiest thing to remember is that when we represent a congregation or a nonprofit we can’t endorse one candidate – but we could invite all candidates to a forum in our church to hear their views. If you want to know more check out the National Alliances Advocacy Tool Kit, and IRS Regulations can be found here. 

Now, where to start this year? Lets look at two options… and you take it from there.

armchairBe an Armchair Advocate. This is the most common, and one of the most effective ways to advocate. To be an armchair advocate all you have to do is sign up for advocacy alerts and take action when asked. Easy! The great folks who are tracking the issues in Olympia will give you all the details – you just add any special touches to the message and voila! You’re an advocate!

538357_10200714357321148_586718924_nGet on the ground. Getting face to face with elected officials makes advocacy much more personal. An easy way to get involved is to attend Housing and Homelessness (HHAD), Interfaith (IFAD) or Catholic Advocacy Days (CAD) in Olympia. It’s simple- arrange your schedule to be in Olympia on Advocacy day and sign up to attend (see below for more details). You’ll receive all the training and support you need, plus you get to meet a ton of GREAT people who are passionate about ending homelessness. Last year more than 600 took the step at HHAD to get on the ground and meet their elected officials to speak as a collective voice – Housing for All!

So, here are some links – you decide what’s next…

WLIHA Washington Low Income Housing Alliance is the statewide champion for affordable housing, leading the movement to ensure that all our residents thrive in safe, healthy, affordable homes. We do this through advocacy, education, and organizing. We tell the housing story. We advocate for positive policy change. We mobilize people to make a difference. Visit: WLIHA to sign up for alerts and register for HHAD 2014!! 

FAN – Faith Action Network is a faith-inspired statewide partnership striving for a just, compassionate, and sustainable world through community building, education, and courageous public action. After years of prayerful discernment, Faith Action Network was created in the summer of 2011 by the union of two organizations with long histories of success and dedicated supporters: the Washington Association of Churches, a historical ecumenical agency, and the Lutheran Public Policy Office, the highly effective advocacy arm of the State’s largest Protestant denomination. Visit: FAN – Faith Action Network to sign up for alerts and register for IFAD 2014!! 

Washington State Catholic Conference The WSCC sponsors the Catholic Advocacy Network to enable participants to become informed about legislative issues in light of Catholic social teaching and to become engaged in the political process. Visit Catholic Advocacy Network to sign up for alerts and register for CAD 2014!! 

Other Resources: 

  • FAITH (Faith Action In Transforming Homelessness) A faith-based program created to end homelessness in Washington State. We focus on political advocacy and getting people of faith involved in direct service.
  • Church Council of Greater Seattle We sow the seeds of social change by working in partnership with congregations and individuals alike to speak and stand up for social justice and for systematic change.  We can arrange for educational discussions of social justice issues.  Invite us to worship, a temple talk, coffee hour, Bible Study, forum or a discussion.
  • Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness Beyond the One Night Count is a two hour training that takes you  through “Advocacy 101,” a FUN training with the incomparable pro-democracy cheerleader Nancy Amidei. Together with local experts and allies, we present the facts about 3-4 important proposals, along with simple actions and sample messages. You will leave informed and inspired with tools for engaging your classmates, fellow congregants, neighbors and others to speak up and make a difference.