Friday, November 09, 2012

Report from FOGAH Advocacy Training

As you may know, the Friends of Georgia Archives and History (FOGAH) has hired Joe Tanner & Associates, a governmental affairs firm, to advise the group on their interactions with legislators and executive officials as FOGAH continues to push for a restoration of the budget and staff of the Georgia Archives.

At the Society of Georgia Archivists (SGA) annual meeting, held November 7-9 on St. Simon's Island, Joe Tanner & Associates held a FOGAH sponsored advocacy training. Approximately 60 SGA members and FOGAH supporters attended the training.

The purpose of the session was twofold:
  1. Communicate to attendees the language and focus of FOGAH's current message;
  2. Teach attendees how to approach their legislators to spread the message
A major priority for FOGAH and Tanner was to create simple, clear message that will be effective. What is known right now is that the Georgia Archives will move to the University System of Georgia. This will likely require a budget item in main budget (aka, the proposed budget for 2013-2014) for the State of Georgia.

The message developed by FOGAH can be boiled down to three basic points:
  1. We support the Governor's recommendation to move the administration of the Georgia Archives to the University System;
  2. The Secretary of State has shown his support for this recommendation;
  3. The University System and the Governor will determine the needed level of funding to restore the Georgia Archives and offer a recommendation for the State budget. We would like a minimum of 1.15 million in new money in the budget. Even though there is a minimum wanted by FOGAH, we want State legislators to support the true assessment of need from the University System.
Attendees were asked to stick to this message when approaching their legislators.



Another major initiative for FOGAH is to find supporters in each House and Senate district who are willing to speak directly to their legislators. Joe Tanner stressed that these officials (who are elected every 2 years) are most likely to be responsive to their own constituents, and that they should hear a repeating, unified message about the issue.

Tanner's advice included:
  1. Arrange a face to face meeting with your Senator and Representative;
  2. If they will not meet, try to get them on a short call;
  3. If possible, take 1-2 other constituents with you to meet them;
  4. Tell them up front that you are their constituent contacting them about a statewide issue;
  5. Tell them that you are interested in the issue because you are a member of a specific group;
  6. Leave behind the handout created by the SGA President (these were made available to attendees, and can be sent to interested parties by contacting outreach@soga.org);
  7. If you can't answer a question they have, tell them you will get back with them, contact FOGAH or SGA for and answer, then follow up;
  8. Follow up your call or meeting with a thank you/reminder.
Tanner & Associates encouraged members to look at letters and/or emails as a path of last resort. These are much less reliable avenues of contact when you are trying to communicate a specific message. If you must resort to one of these, make sure to personalize your letter of email. Any kind of form message should be avoided.

These contacts should start in January, after the holidays, and while the new legislative session is still slow and officials have more time to meet with constituents.

FOGAH still needs volunteers to meet their goal of one per Senate and House district. Further training sessions, including web based sessions, will be given in the future.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact the SGA Outreach Co-Managers at outreach@soga.org.

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