April 25, 2013

"The Ask" Is At The Heart of Advocacy, But "The Why" Wins Votes

advocacy stop at the stop sign and observe traffic laws people

I have a confession to make. There's a stop sign on NW 18th Street and I use to roll it all the time. That is, until one cold morning, I saw this woman holding a sign telling everyone to slow down and stop. Now I yield to the traffic law, which of course, was the right thing to do all along.

There is power in asking someone to do something, especially in such a bold way. It was really cold that morning, which just underscored her passion and commitment. 

The "ask" is at the heart of all advocacy. Whether you're asking a citizen to join your organization or asking a lawmaker to vote against a piece of legislation, asking for help and support does not come easy for most people.

Laura Fredericks, author of The Ask, explains why people are afraid to ask.
"What boggles my mind is seeing and hearing how many people, regardless if you are in the non-profit or business sector who cannot ask for something that is important and personal, such as medical advice, a raise, a promotion, or to financially support an independent film, a new play, a concert, or art exhibit, because they are afraid of rejection, afraid of offending someone, and most importantly, afraid to examine their views on money and what emotions that brings up for them."
When we advocate for the Oklahoma Arts Council or another organization receiving public funds for arts and cultural programming, we are at the most basic level asking someone for money. Part of what makes the ask so difficult is not being able to adequately answer the "why."

Why should government fund the arts? 

It's much easier to answer why people should stop at stop signs. And, yet, a woman must still bundle up on a cold morning and hold a sign in hopes motorists will do what they should have been doing all along. So, it's easy to see why it's so much harder to advocate for a complex cause like public funding for the arts. What makes it the right thing for lawmakers to do?

I have shared the video The Parable of The Tuileries, several times online and in forums. I think I can't share it enough. It explains how the arts benefit the government and justifies its continued reinvestment in arts and culture.

But, sometimes, when you're one-on-one with a legislator, the best argument for public funding for the arts is a personal one. Like the woman holding the sign -- did she witness an accident? What personal experience contributed to her strong position? The most powerful arguments are always the ones that leave us feeling vulnerable and exposed.

Why do you support public funding for the arts?

If you have the opportunity to talk to your legislators on Arts Day at the Capitol, come ready to tell one 30-second story about how public funding for the arts has impacted you in a personal way. 
  • How has public funding for the arts been a difference-maker for your organization? 
  • How does it make your community a better place to live, work and play? 
  • How is it contributing to future generations of Oklahomans?
  • What would happen if you lost that funding? How would it impact your life or the lives of your fellow citizens and friends? 
Arts Day at the Capitol is May 8. Are you coming? 
 You can also email us and let us know you're coming!

-- From , Director, OFTA