Tips for Advocating for Your Museum

New to Advocacy? Tips to Getting Started!

Advocacy is year-round!

  • Invite your legislator to tour your museum or attend an event!
  • Make an appointment to visit their district office.
  • Visit your legislator in Richmond, during the Virginia General Assembly session or on Capitol Hill. Legislators LOVE to hear from constituents.

VAM members and VAM staff pose for a group photo during Museum Advocacy Day on January 24, 2024.

The tips below will help prepare you for an in-person visit. If you prefer to write a letter, try this tip sheet for some good guidelines. 

Before Your Visit
  • Make an appointment and include constituents in the visit.
  • Download our Tips for being an Effective Advocate to brush up on your skills.
  • Visit the American Alliance of Museums' website for more resources and tools to help you with advocacy.
  • Check out this playlist of advocacy videos to learn more about advocacy.
  • Develop a one-page fact sheet to leave behind with your legislator that includes your institution’s mission and importance to the community, your funding ask (if any), annual events, and contact information. Include graphics.
  • Utilize VAM’s infographics - VAM's Museums by the Numbers, which showcases the importance of museums to the Commonwealth’s economy.

During Your Visit
  • Check in with the Legislative Aide.
  • Introduce yourself and indicate what group (mention number of members) or institution you represent.
  • Ask for something specific: i.e., favorable consideration on an issue, support for a budget amendment, etc. Know the opposition to your “ask.”
  • Keep your message brief and to the point.
  • Do not stay longer than 10-15 minutes.
  • Use anecdotes and real-life situations if possible – the impact of a VFH or VCA grant on your museum; the effect of your child’s participation in a school/museum program; the uniqueness of an organization’s cultural programming; the participation of an institution in vital research.
  • Acknowledge that funding is competitive and that their assistance is appreciated. Emphasize support for museums and the arts should be considered an investment in Virginia’s economy and an educational resource with a positive return.
  • Offer to serve as a resource in their district.
  • Thank the legislator for his/her time and consideration. Ask for their support for your issue one more time. Leave your business card and the one pager with the Legislator.

After Your Visit

  • Sign up to receive newsletters and follow your legislator on social media.
  • Share your museum news, to stay on their "radar," and potentially include it in their newsletter updates.
  • Write a thank you letter, and include some follow-up information based on something you learned during your visit (i.e. if you learned that the legislator likes Civil War museums, send him/ her a list of ones in their district with your thank you). It will help you be remembered.
  • Set up a time to visit with your legislator in their home office, after the General Assembly session is over. Late Spring, Summer, or early Fall are great times. This keeps the relationship going, and they are more likely to be relaxed and have more time for you since they won't be rushing to a committee meeting or vote. 
  • If you have a funding request for the General Assembly, start the conversation with your legislator no later than September.  December is often too late to ask!

The Virginia Association of Museums serves as an advocate for museums and issues affecting museums. VAM has presented testimony before hearings and regularly provides information on the Virginia and District of Columbia museum community to legislators and elected officials. Through our regular Legislative Updates, we keep members informed of legislation that is of interest to museums and the cultural field. Our advocacy workshops and information will help you to be a better grassroots advocate for your museum.