Priya Elangovan | April 11, 2022

One stat that we often cite in our Community Leadership Program Trainings is from a 2015 study from the Congressional Management Foundation where 91% of Congressional staffers said it is helpful for messages from constituents to contain information (aka data!) about how a bill will impact a state or district, but that information is only provided 9% of the time. 

Public opinion polling like we sometimes do at AIT is only one type of data that can help inform advocacy. Since public polling is often done at a national or sometimes state level, it’s not always the most helpful resource for finding the best piece of information to include in a local advocacy campaign. But, there are plenty of other places you can look for data, like the Census Bureau, or even state and city websites that give you hyper localized information about your county, city, or sometimes even neighborhood!

Here’s a couple of our tips on how to use data to drive your advocacy:

  • Get Local. 48 states have some form of open data project that can give you information on a variety of issues like business and economics, transportation, public safety, agriculture, and more!, the federal government open data site, also lists the states and cities that have similar projects so it can be a great place to start.
  • Collect Your Own! Sometimes going through large, complicated sets of data takes skills and capacity that you don’t have, and that’s ok! Taking an informal temperature check of your neighbors can be just as great a way to formulate an advocacy campaign around the issues most important to your community. A simple google form or paper survey can also save you time if you can’t call or visit everyone in person.
  • Write it down. When you meet with a legislator or their staff, make sure to provide them a written copy of the data that you used to shape your campaign. You can also make simple graphics or fact sheets that people involved in your campaign can share on social media and share with others – don’t keep the information to yourself!
  • Add Context. Sending out a list of facts by itself is not going to be impactful. The best advocacy combines data with personal and community stories to paint a full picture of the impacts a policy or decision could have. The fun little graphic below gives an example of how combining data with narrative can completely change the way you view it!