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What is Advocacy?

  • Building relationships with policymakers at all levels of government.

  • Cultivating a coalition of voices from youth, school district personnel, OST providers and others, to speak up in support of these crucial programs.

  • Connecting with your public officials on social media and responding to their posts.

  • Introducing yourself to a public official at a community event.

  • Writing a letter, postcard or email to your public official.

  • Visiting a public official in their local, Oklahoma City or Washington, D.C. office.

  • Inviting a public official to your program so they can see the effects on children and youth in their community.

  • Providing your elected officials with information from parent surveys so they understand the program’s impact on their voters.

  • Anyone can advocate for OST! All it takes is a willingness to tell your story and the story of the children and youth within your programs.

Who Can Advocate?

Anyone can engage in advocacy. Some ground rules for advocacy include:

  • Do your homework. Learn key background information about your elected official(s).

  • Be Specific. Have a clear understanding of what you are requesting of your elected official(s).

  • You are the expert. Provide your elected official(s) with a breadth of information to argue your case. Bring materials to leave behind for your elected official(s) to review.

  • Follow-up with your elected official(s) with a personalized thank-you note.

What Does Advocacy Look Like?

  • Speaking out on issues of concern to the public or special audiences;

  • Testifying at a hearing, writing a letter, communicating with elected officials;

  • Expressing to elected officials how federal funds (i.e. 21st CCLC) have helped your community; and

  • Inviting your elected official(s) to visit your program.

Tips for OST Advocacy 


Build Relationships with Your Local and State Policymakers

The first step to building that relationship is like the first step in building any relationship – you need to introduce yourself, or in some cases, reintroduce yourself. Take a proactive approach and realize that legislators meet many new people – they may not remember you until they have met you a few times. If you're not sure who your legislator is, check here.


Getting to know policymakers’ staff is as important as getting to know the elected official. Educating a staff member on OST issues is an opportunity to inform a person who has the ear of your elected policymaker every day. That staff member may also have a vested interest in OST– for example, they may have a school-age child or grandchild – and champion the issue with their policymaker. If you take the time to establish yourself as the “go-to” person on OST issues, the staff will reach out to you for your opinion when those issues come up.


Cultivate relationships with your elected officials throughout the year, and you will make a stronger impact on their priorities. If you wait to introduce yourself until you have a specific ask, they may be overwhelmed by many competing priorities.


You can see when the Oklahoma House and Senate are in session at When they are in session, the lawmakers will be in Oklahoma City. When they are not in session, legislators are likely to be in their local and district offices.


Dos and Don’ts for Communicating with Elected Officials


Your homework

Before making contact, learn key background information. Visit their official website. Be sure to know if they are part of the Afterschool Caucus and how they have voted on education and youth development issues in the past. Brush up on the legislative process in Oklahoma.


Be specific

When you call, email, or meet in person, tell the official why you are there and what you want. Your interaction might only last a few minutes. Be sure to mention you are a constituent.


Establish yourself as an expert information source

Elected officials have limited time and staff and many competing issues to consider. You can fill their information gap and become their “expert.”


Bring informational materials

Leave your elected official with a one-page fact sheet about your program and any other materials that describe your program’s benefits for youth and families in your community.


Follow up after a meeting

Send a personal thank you note to the official and staff for their time. If you promised information, be sure to send it as soon as possible.



Think you must know everything

It is okay to admit you do not know something. Instead, let them know that you will find out the information and get back to them.


Burn bridges

Work to find some sort of consensus and always leave on positive terms.


Forget elected officials work for you.

You should be courteous but not intimidated.


Setting Up a Meeting

Schedule a meeting with the elected official or staffer to introduce yourself and provide information about your OST program. These meetings are normally scheduled through their website or by calling the office. Remind them that your program is located in their district and that many of your families and staff are their constituents.


Ask if a photo can be taken to share on your website, social media accounts or newsletter. Remember to share the photo with the elected official.


In case you are meeting with a staffer, ask that the information you share be presented to the elected official.


What Do I Talk About?

Your background

  • What is your connection to OST?

  • Why is OST so important to you?

  • Your organization’s background

  • How long has it been in operation?

  • What services does it provide?

  • Where is it located?

  • Has it grown since it was first founded?


Your impact

  • How many children are enrolled in your OST program?

  • How old are they and are they from an under-resourced or underrepresented community?

  • How many families are on your waiting list?

  • What kinds of activities do you focus on (e.g., athletics, arts, STEM, entrepreneurship)?

  • How do parents benefit from the program?

  • Why is it important for your community to retain this program?

  • How does the high school graduation rate of your students compare to the entire school or school district?



  • How many federal and state dollars does your program receive?

  • What federal or state programs do you participate in?

  • How has that funding impacted the quality or size of your program?

  • Has funding suffered over time or grown to meet the need?

Storytelling 101


Afterschool and summer learning programs are important to you. Tell them why. Writing letters is a great way to communicate the importance of expanded learning. The letters to the editor section is one of the most-read sections of any newspaper and an effective way to tell the public about the importance of OST. Legislators, state and federal, are always looking to hear from their constituents on issues that matter to them. Writing letters is an easy way to share your story and let them know what’s going on in their district.  


Tips for Writing Letters 
  • Keep it short and to the point. Limit letters to the editor to 150-300 words. A letter to your legislator can be longer.  

  • Use powerful language – make the most of your limited word count.  

  • Write about your personal experiences with the issue – your letter will be more relatable to the reader. 

  • Make it timely if possible – reference a recently published article or current event.  

  • Include a call to action – something the reader can do to make an impact.  

  • Proof your letter before submitting!  

  • Include your contact information. 

Letter Template 

Dear Editor/Legislator, 


[Start with an attention-grabbing first line. Why are you writing this letter? Are you responding to a previously published article, a proposed bill about afterschool, or a current event?]  


[Make your argument. Explain the issue in a concise manner, pick one or two data points that are powerful and really add to your argument. Example: For X amount of dollars, our program can provide X amount of kids with high-quality STEM activities during the school year or summer.]  


[Focus on your connection with the issue. What is your personal story? Why does this issue matter to you?]  


[Make a call to action. Urge your elected officials to support afterschool or ask readers to reach out to their legislators.]  



[Your name]  


Social Media 

Posting on social media platforms is a great way to share the positive impacts of OST programs as well as demonstrate the need for more programs. Start by friending, liking, and following your friends and other afterschool-related organizations. 


Here are some suggestions for posts: 

  • Links to articles about afterschool and summer programs

  • Pictures from your program  

  • Positive feedback/comments you’ve received from parents 



Cultivating relationships with your local newspaper and TV and radio stations will help keep your program and afterschool in the public eye. Local media are always looking for community stories and will appreciate your input. An easy way to start doing this is to invite them to events hosted by your program.

Nonprofit and Federally Funded Program Rules of Engagement


If your program is a nonprofit or is federally funded, there are laws that define how you can interact with elected officials as a representative for your program. In general, these programs can advocate for themselves, but cannot lobby.

What is lobbying?

Lobbying is an attempt to influence specific legislative action (i.e. bills, acts, ballot measures).


Who can lobby?

Anyone can engage in lobbying. Most non-profit organizations are allowed to lobby but there are limits on how much a non-profit can spend on lobbying. For additional information on lobbying visit:


What does lobbying look like?

Examples of lobbying include: 

  • Communicating with any legislator or administrative official for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action; 

  • Inviting elected officials to an event in support of a specific piece of legislation; 

  • Asking your community members to call their legislators in support or opposition of a specific piece of legislation.


Any person or organization has the right to advocate on behalf of policies they believe in. Additionally, any person has the right to talk to legislators or other policy makers and to try to influence policy on his/her own time.


For more information about the distinction between advocacy and lobbying, please review these resources:


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