Have you ever taken action to raise awareness of a cause or issue that needs support or to be changed? Or have you wanted to but didn’t know where to start? I wanted to help you get started by sharing five ways to advocate for change.
Many people think advocacy is lobbying legislators but that’s just one part. Advocacy includes a range of activities, from public education to voter education to research and more.
I’m a three-time cancer survivor, my sister is a melanoma survivor, my dad died from the disease and too many family and friends are touched by cancer. So probably not a surprise that participating in cancer advocacy efforts is a big passion of mine. It’s not just about fighting the disease (although, believe me, I pray for an end to it!), but ensuring that people have access to education resources, support services, affordable care, preventive programs and more.
Diagnosed with my first cancer in 1997, I promised myself I would help others with this disease going forward. Advocacy, and the millions of people who volunteer to fight cancer, also helped me. Pushing for change saved my life three times. I am alive thanks to research advancements, preventive screenings and new treatment options. Last year’s third cancer diagnosis made advocacy especially personal (read why). I have my own two legs, breasts and an excellent long-term outlook. (Read how advocacy also made a significant difference in my dad’s diagnosis.)
There’s a lot going on in our nation/world right now. From fighting cancer to the coronavirus, social injustice and more. People are feeling sad, frustrated, worried, angry and more, and rightly so. Taking action for change isn’t difficult. There are many ways to get involved in social causes that are important to you. Not everyone is comfortable or able to participate in lobby days, protests, marches and other, especially with the coronavirus still a serious threat to health. That’s ok because there are other opportunities to make a difference.
Here are five ways to advocate for change:
1. Find a cause you care about and get involved with an organization that aligns with your views.
There are a lot of great organizations focused on advocating for thousands of causes. I’d love to support a lot, but I choose a few to ensure my time and talents are making the best impact. Cancer, biking, protecting the environment and affordable healthcare access are a few of my favorite causes. Most organizations have great training opportunities to get new volunteers comfortable and engaged (I’ve led several of these trainings and love sharing my passion for advocacy!). Many of these organizations need volunteers to help with phone calls, collect petitions, write letters to the editor, promote fundraisers, recruit other volunteers and more. You can be as active as you’d like. Every bit makes a difference!
2. Educate yourself.
You don’t have to be an expert on every issue, but at least know the basics before sharing content. Maybe choose two or three areas that motivate you and learn a lot about those. Learn about different viewpoints so you understand how to respond to all views. If you’re searching the internet, make sure you land on credible sources.
3. Contact your elected officials.
Many people think they have to be a lobbyist or specially trained to meet with an elected official. Not true! These are your representatives, working for you. Regardless if you voted for them. They should be willing to hear your concerns. Call the office. Attend a town hall, coffee hour or schedule an office meeting. Send emails and notes, sharing a personal connection to the cause. Stories make an impact. It’s important that our elected officials know how we feel about certain issues. They are charged with protecting and supporting all constituents. Be respectful, to the point and let them know why your concern/issue is important.
4. Share information with your family and friends.
Be thoughtful before clicking the ‘share’ or post button on social media. Make sure the info you share is credible, accurate and can create positive change. Many people will get involved with a simple ask. I often encourage family and friends to support cancer advocacy action, whether signing a petition (so easy via email!), making a donation, sharing education resources, sending an action alert to representatives or other. It’s a great way to engage people who might not have known about the opportunity.
Politics can be ugly, especially these days in the U.S. But voting is a privilege and opportunity to make your voice heard. You can’t advocate change by sitting on the sidelines. I don’t call myself a member of any party, I vote for the candidate. So I take my time learning about candidates, their views of issues important to me, how they voted in the past, their treatment of people and other things that matter to me. And I proudly vote in local, state and federal elections. Remember: EVERY. VOTE. COUNTS!
BE The Change.
I always like to remind people that positive change begins with one person. One person deciding to step up, help others and advocate for something better. Be that person.