Advocacy in Action: Elected Officials Visit United Way of Silicon Valley
The United Way of Silicon Valley (UWSV) held a news conference earlier this week in San Jose, California that featured Congressman Mike Honda – chief sponsor of federal legislation to strengthen VITA – as well as California State Controller John Chiang. Together, these policymakers spoke about the successes of the VITA program. The event represented one important way advocates can make sure everyone – the media, elected officials, our communities – knows about the valuable work that goes on in the VITA world and the services we provide to working families.
Tax season may be drawing to a close, but advocacy opportunities happen year-round. Among other things, Fiscal Year 2013 budget conversations are kicking into full gear (both in DC and statehouses around the country), talk of tax reform is in the air and this year’s elections are prompting plenty of policy discussions.
Be sure to use the slow months (if you have any!) to establish and strengthen relationships with legislators, and make sure you remind them that crucial free tax-preparation and asset-building services are only possible through the continued support of policymakers both locally and federally.
Even legislators who lack an obvious and direct connection to VITA, such as Rep. Honda’s sponsorship of the VITA Act, may be interested in speaking at or attending your events. After all, VITA organizations serve their districts, their constituents and promote economic growth in their communities. But in order to encourage these high-profile folks to take part, it’s up to you to reach out and make that connection, and to emphasize the impact your organization has in the community.
The UWSV event was particularly compelling because they also brought in two clients to tell their stories and talk about the impact of the VITA program.
Don’t forget to engage the media to ensure the message of VITA’s importance is loud and clear! Putting clients and policymakers side by side reminds everyone that legislative change that happens in statehouses and the Capitol has a real effect on the hardworking individuals we serve.
By Jennifer Thall, Coordinator of Civic Engagement