Is Everyday Advocacy on Your To-Do List?

By Anne Ackerson posted 03-23-2023 03:42 PM


There's an important difference between advocacy and lobbying, but many people conflate the two. While lobbying is the active attempt to influence legislation or ballot issues, advocacy is the umbrella term that encompasses a range of activities, of which lobbying is just one piece. Even though  government employees are generally barred from lobbying for funding and/or legislation, what we can do is consciously and continuously educate elected and appointed officials, and the general public, about what state and territorial archives do and why that work is important. 

A chunk of that education relies on data -- the quantifiable picture you create from the information you collect about users and their needs; your holdings and its needs; and the progress you are making on meeting your archives' goals and objectives. Numbers can tell important stories.

However, equally important is the qualitative impact of your work -- these are the human stories that illuminate how your archives documents government, preserves history, and secures rights. Combining stories with images and quotes makes for powerful reading.

Educational advocacy -- what we're calling everyday advocacy -- helps your agency meet its mission, it helps you solve problems to better meet the needs of diverse users and communities. It may also help your agency avoid problems. 

Where to start?

  • If your archives has a mission statement, make sure it's in a prominent place on your website. No mission statement? Might be time to draft one.
  • Make sure your mission is prominently placed in newsletters and other communications.
  • Place portions of your strategic plan (or a link to the entire document) on your website. This is an opportunity for others to see your agency's commitments and how you will use your resources to meet them.
  • Downloadable one-page backgrounders containing your statistics and stories might have a variety of uses.
  • Discuss educational advocacy with your Friends groups and/or advisory councils. These allies can raise their voices when the need arises, but they'll likely need information from you to help them make the case.

What's coming?

At the Joint CoSA-SAA Annual Meeting this summer in Washington, DC, we'll be hosting a day of Archives on the Hill visits, where we'll be putting educational advocacy into practice. In anticipation of that event, CoSA will be refreshing its popular The Importance of State Archives educational materials. We're actively collecting stories and images for this update and welcome your contributions. Please send them to us at

CoSA's Advocacy Agenda