Research & Organize

How to Research & Organize Your Issue

The basis for effective advocacy on an issue is well-researched information presented in a credible manner. Before contacting a policymaker, it’s critical to know the pros and cons of your issue, as well as your opponent’s position. Key questions to ask and answer beforehand include:

  1. If you are working on a specific measure, what is the bill number or title? Who are the sponsor(s)?
  2. What are the federal, state, and local laws and regulations affecting the issue?
  3. What are the roles and responsibilities of government officials involved? Who should we contact?
  4. Is there a department, agency, or commission with responsibilities in this area? How does it function? Who serves on it?
  5. How can we personalize the issue to our community? What arguments can we prepare that demonstrate how the bill will affect the legislator’s constituency?
  6. What other groups are concerned about this issue? What is their position? What are you primarily in opposition with them about? How effective are their efforts?
  7. What mutual value, if any, could be added to existing efforts by other groups? What could we accomplish working together? How can we best work with other organizations?

It is important to become familiar with the groups that support and oppose the family and consumer sciences position on any issue in order to position you as a credible source. Congress often feels it must show voters a willingness to trim the budget, to which most people will react positively. The complexity emerges when addressing questions such as how much and from which programs Congress is willing to decrease the domestic budget. Family and consumer sciences professionals can offer invaluable advice on where to best reduce and how much to reduce funding for research, education, and programs serving families.

Most federal programs of interest to family and consumer sciences professionals are funded with discretionary monies, which currently comprises about one-third of the federal budget. Family and consumer sciences professionals must demonstrate that their programs are not a low priority on either education or community agendas.

Collect & Organize Relevant Information

It is critically important for legislators to understand how vital family and consumer sciences programs are to the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. The skills learned in these programs are integral to an individual’s overall quality of life. Gather information to support your position, such as:

  • Fact sheets that include background information about the issue.
  • Summary of the legislative proposal, and an analysis of the bill.
  • Facts and statistics that support family and consumer sciences views.
  • Surveys or opinion polls of your organization’s members.

Consult a variety of sources to learn as much as possible about your issue.

Resources to tap include the following:

  1. Newspapers, periodicals, professional journals, and government publications.
  2. Conduct a web search using key words linked to your policy issue. Review listings to identify individuals, organizations, and agencies involved with the issue. Visiting web sites can lead to more contacts and resources to learn all perspectives. You may locate people who share your view and find ways to join their efforts rather than “reinventing” a response to the issue.
  3. Experts in the field. They are often willing to meet with a group to provide information and answer questions.
  4. Government agencies that deal with the issues. Agencies are often interested in citizen support. They are a good source for documents and statistical information.
  5. Elected officials at all levels of government. As a taxpayer, you are entitled to time and information from those who have been chosen to represent your concerns.
  6. Professional and advocacy organizations.
  7. University and public libraries.

Analyze & Organize Your Position

Do the strategic work of analyzing your issue from a family perspective. Several tools are available to assist you in this process:

1. AAFCS developed the “Five I’s Policy Analysis Organizing Tool” to help you gather facts, summarize the issues, analyze intentional and unintentional outcomes and long- and short-term consequences for the people who will be impacted by the policy. The process helps identify imperatives for action.

2. The following guidelines can help you strategize and address several key questions, such as the following:

3. The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) provides a Checklist for Assessing the Impact of Policies and Programs on Families.

4. Know the important dates of the annual federal spending and budget cycle to time your legislative action.

5. The AAFCS Public Policy Committee ( is available to review the information you compile and provide leads on supportive and/or conflicting efforts. This gives you the advantage of an expert eye before you present to Congress.

Is this Toolkit helpful? Take this quick survey and give us your thoughts.