One of the important purposes of Friends and its chapters is to advocate on behalf of the state park and historic site system as a whole as well as for individual sites. Friends serves a vital role in this area in that the organization can reach out to elected officials, community leaders and like-minded organizations to support the parks and historic sites. Chapters are responsible for local advocacy in their communities.
As funding for state parks and historic sites has declined over the past few years, it has become increasingly important to educate decision makers and communities on the value of state parks and historic sites to their respective communities. Each year, the Statewide Friends Advocacy Committee gathers to establish the advocacy direction for the organization. However, the core message rarely changes. The core of our advocacy strategy centers on education and outreach about state parks and historic sites and their intrinsic and economic values.
Friends chooses to engage primarily in educational advocacy as an alternative to more aggressive forms primarily to fill the gaps in knowledge about the state’s parks and historic sites. Many leaders across the state are simply unfamiliar with the economic benefits state parks and historic sites provide to their respective communities and to the state as a whole.
Responsible advocacy for a site requires careful planning and precision. The tone of any advocacy effort must match the overall tone for the statewide strategy in order for the message to be most effective.
In all advocacy efforts, chapters should maintain a high level of professionalism and respect. The name and reputation of Friends has grown tremendously over the past few years. Chapter leaders and members engaging in advocacy efforts must remember that they are speaking as a representative of the larger organization as a whole.
The tone of advocacy efforts should always be in SUPPORT of the respective site and never AGAINST something else. Messages should always be positive, not negative.
As such, chapters should always make sure their efforts are in support of their respective sites. There is often temptation, especially as budget resources are scarce, to advocate for an issue at the cost of another issue. In the state budget, parks and historic sites compete for funding with education, health care, emergency services and myriad other services. A chapter’s tone should always be in support of their site and not against anything.
Statewide Friends will make advocacy materials available to chapters that are consistent with the Friends message and strategy. Materials may be site specific and/or may relate to the entire system of parks and historic sites. These materials are available at no charge to the chapters and should be used as the cornerstone for the chapter’s advocacy efforts.
Chapters are encouraged to create their own local materials to use alongside the statewide materials. In fact, materials that tell local stories often create a better connection for the audience than more generic information. For example, a chapter may choose to create a chapter history along with some facts about the chapter such as number of members, number of volunteer hours, or any special projects that have been completed. Local information like this can help to paint a more memorable picture for the intended audience.
Chapters with specific issues not addressed by the general advocacy strategy are required to seek guidance from Statewide Friends before engaging in any other advocacy activities with elected officials, state and local governments, the media or the public at large.