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Become an Arts Advocate

You have the right and responsibility to participate in the legislative process. MCA is dedicated to empowering arts supporters throughout Minnesota to become advocates for arts-friendly policy.

Tell your elected officials art matters.

There’s always a way to advocate on behalf of the arts, and communication with elected officials is most effective when it’s ongoing. Get to know your representatives, and make clear why you care about the arts.

Legal Regulations for Citizen Lobbyists

As an individual American citizen, you can: Give money to candidates, host an arts fundraiser or candidate event at your house – and invite all of your friends, and volunteer for a political candidate’s campaign.

As an individual American citizen, you cannot: Participate in campaign activities as an employee of your arts organization.

Helpful tips

when contacting your legislators.

Tips & Pointers

When calling your legislator, DO:

-Ask to speak with the aide handling your issue. Aides have the legislator’s ear, and are often very knowledgeable about your issue. Be sure to take down their name in case you need to reach your legislator again. 

  • Be prepared and be brief. Keep notes handy and try to limit conversations to five minutes or less. And get your main points covered as close to the beginning of the conversation as possible.

  • Leave your name and contact info and make clear you’d like a reply. This helps aides respond with information on the legislator’s position. 

  • Follow up your phone call with a brief thank you note, a concise summary of your position and additional information if it has been requested.

When calling your legislator, DON’T:

  • Bluff. If the legislator or aide asks you a question that you cannot answer, say that you will get back to him/her and then do the appropriate follow-up.

Tips & Pointers

  1. KISS: Keep it short and simple. Know why they should care, and what you want. If you’re in a group, designate one spokesperson. If you come to Advocacy Day, we’ll provide simple information to convey.

  2. Have your facts straight. Familiarize yourself before you meet legislators. Talk about how constituents are benefiting from what you want. If asked something you don’t know, don’t guess – find out and send it later. Learn your legislator’s position on arts issues with MCA’s Legislator Survey.

  3. Be on time, polite and patient. Your legislator is busy and may be late. Just be grateful for the time and make the most of it. Don’t show up unannounced or assail those who oppose your issue. 

  4. Introduce your team members and note their connections. Make sure that the legislator knows your connection to his or her district – whether you are a constituent living in the district, an artist working in the district, etc.

  5. Make your issue personal. Tell stories about how your organization or other grantees have benefited the people in the legislator’s district.

  6. Be a resource. If your legislator needs more information than you have on hand, offer to obtain it. Let MCA know if you need help, and be sure to follow up with information in a timely manner.

  7. Say “thank you” again. Leave some information for the legislator to read, but keep that information simple, too. Be direct by asking at the end of the meeting, “Will you support my cause?” His or her answer will determine your future efforts.

  8. Make notes about what happened. It’s important to share what you learn with MCA. Take a few minutes to write down your impressions and any specific statements of support or opposition. Did they give any advice or display knowledge of any specific arts organizations or issues?

  9. Maintain relationships with your legislators. When you get home, send a thank you note along with other information that may be of interest. Invite them to local arts events, openings or other activities.

  10. Provide publicity opportunities (photo opportunities, events, occasions to meet people). Invite your legislator to your organization’s annual meeting, an opening night gathering or other arts related events.

Tips & Pointers

A letter documents your views and reminds your legislators that their decisions have a direct impact on you. Write to the legislators who serve on the committees that affect the arts. MCA can tell you who they are, or you can find yours online.

For issues that need more immediate attention, there may be a fax number. Check out our Arts Alerts to see if any prompt action is required right now.

When Writing:

  • Use the correct address and salutation, e.g. Dear Senator [last name], or Dear Representative [last name], or Dear Governor [last name]

  • Type or write your letter clearly. If your letter is not easy to read, it could be discarded. Be sure to include your return address on the letter. Non-constituent mail may also be thrown out.

  • Use your own words and stationery. Legislators feel that personal letters, rather than form letters, show greater personal commitment on the part of the writer, and therefore carry greater weight.

  • Be brief. Choose a few bullet points that are direct and succinct; however, include enough information to explain why you are writing.

  • Be specific and keep your message focused. Avoid writing a “laundry list” of issues so that your most important message stands out. If possible, give an example of how the issue affects your district.

  • Know your facts. It is important to be accurate and honest in your letter. You can seriously hurt your credibility by offering inaccurate or misleading information.

  • If you can, find our how your legislators voted on this issue or similar issues in the past. Personalizing your letter to reflect the viewpoint of your legislator can be very effective. If the legislator has voted in favor of your issue in the past, express your thanks. MCA can help you track down this information.

  • Be timely. Contact your legislator while there is still time for him/her to consider and act on your request. Respond quickly to MCA’s Arts Alerts.

  • Be persistent. Do not be satisfied with responding letters that give a status report on the bill, promise to “keep your views in mind” or otherwise skirt the issue. Without being rude, write back and ask for a more specific response.

  • Say thank you. Like everyone else, legislators appreciate a pat on the back. If, however, your legislator did not support your position, let him/her know that you are aware of that, and explain why you think he/she should have decided differently. It might make a difference the next time.

  • IMPORTANT: DO NOT use a negative, condescending, threatening or intimidating tone. You will only alienate your legislator and cause bad feelings that might hurt your case. Only write in tones that you would care to receive in the mail! Be nice.

Tips & Pointers

Through MCA’s Desktop Lobbyist tool, arts advocates can learn about current issues affecting the arts in Minnesota, learn who their legislators are, and send emails in a matter of moments.

When emailing a legislator, make sure to include a note in the subject line indicating that you are a constituent, such as “Message from an Arts Supporter in District XX.” 


Legislators want to hear from their own constituents, but often don’t have the time for others. Within the body of the e-mail, sign the message and add a home address. Make sure to ask them to write back. “I’m looking forward to your response on this important issue,” for example.

Calendar for

There is always a way to advocate on behalf of the arts, no matter what the season.  Here are some year-round arts advocacy initiatives for individuals:

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Volunteer to help MCA prepare for the upcoming session and Arts Advocacy Day event. And don't forget to join our email list.


The legislative session begins. Read MCA’s Arts Alert emails and respond to calls-to-action. Recruit friends and family to attend Arts Advocacy Day with you!


Help MCA generate calls and letters to legislators in support of the arts. And don’t forget to join our email list


Attend arts hearings at the Capitol. Don’t forget to wear your red “Arts Advocate” pin! Sign up for MCA’s Arts Alert emails to learn about future happenings.


To keep up-to-date on legislative happenings, and keep your friends updated too, Sign up for MCA’s Arts Alert emails.


Send thank you letters to the Governor and your legislators.


Ask the candidates in your district if they support the arts. If they do, volunteer for their campaign. If they don’t, reeducate them on the importance of the arts to your district.


Contact your legislators. Invite them to a local arts festival or event.


Host a get-together in your home. Invite arts-supportive neighbors and your legislators to come and discuss the importance of local arts organizations and programming.


Join MCA as a member and sign up to receive our Arts Alert Emails.


Attend MCA’s Annual Meeting. Collect your legislators’ names and contact information so that you are ready to take action during the upcoming session.


Add your legislators to your holiday card list.

Calendar for Individual Advocacy

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Become an MCA member.

We know you care about preserving the arts, and we work on behalf of the entire arts community. Financial support from people like you make our work possible.

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Your elected officials are your organization’s voice.

While MCA is always working on behalf of your organization, it’s important to remain informed and involved.

There’s no end to the ways your organization can advocate for the arts. Communication with elected officials is most effective when it’s ongoing. Take the time to get to know your organization's representatives, and tell them why it supports the arts.

Legal Regulations for Organizations

Educate elected officials on issues of concern in the arts community, arrange meetings with them to learn their views on the arts, invite them to organizational meetings and events and send them literature on arts issues.

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, your organization cannot: Endorse or oppose candidates for public office, collect or distribute funds for political campaigns, use your facilities for political fundraising (although you can rent out your facility to candidates at the market rate), or engage in legislative activites past a "substantial limit" (the IRS has a lobbying limit for organizations; call MCA for more information).

Organization Member Benefits

As a member, your organization benefits from timely legislative updates and collective action on arts-related state and federal legislation.

To maximize your organization’s membership, be sure to:

  • Schedule an Advocacy 101 workshop to be held at your organization for its staff and board.
  • Coordinate colleague attendance at MCA’s Arts Advocacy Day event at the capitol. It’s a great way to bond as a team while working toward an important goal, networking with peers from other organizations and having fun.
  • Have MCA provide your staff and board with personalized legislative and congressional contact sheets so everyone can have their elected officials’ information at their fingertips.

Taking Action Year Round

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Join MCA or renew your organization’s membership.

Put your legislators on your organization’s mailing list.

When your organization receives a grant from the State Arts Board or a Regional Arts Council, write a thank you note to your legislators and to the governor.

When you are turned down for a grant due to lack of funds, write to your legislators and the governor asking for increased support for the arts.

Be kind, not confrontational. Make friends.

Appoint a board member to become an Advocacy Liason to MCA. This person can report to your board on federal, state and local political activity affecting the arts.

Invite your legislators for a tour of your facility and educate them about what you do and how your community benefits.

Invite your legislators to openings and community celebrations and ask them to make a short speech about the importance of the arts to your community. Take pictures of legislators at these events and send them to your local paper.

Invite your legislators to speak with your board of directors about the arts.

Make sure that MCA is updated with your current board and staff lists so that we can identify arts supporters in every legislative district.

Attend MCA’s Arts Advocacy Day event at the capitol (in February/March).