How to Advocate for Head Start
Thanks for your advocacy on behalf of Head Start! Reaching out to legislators is a great way to advocate for Head Start programs – many legislators say that having everyday constituents, rather than policymakers or professional advocates, is one of the most powerful ways to win their vote.
Head Start is a federally-funded program, so for a lot of issues, the correct people to contact are your Congressional Representatives and US Senators. However, there are also issues where we advocate in front of the California State Legislature.
How to Connect with Legislators
Find who your representatives are and their contact information here.
Call or email
If you want to request that a legislator take a specific action on a piece of legislation or a budget item (for example, requesting them to support funding for Head Start), you can email or call the legislator’s office. Contact information for federal and state legislators’ offices is available at the link below (note that most offices request that you email through a portal on their website, rather than through direct email).
Head Start California will send out requests to contact legislators’ offices to advocate for key legislative priorities. To receive updates on advocacy opportunities, sign up here.
Request a Meeting or a Site Visit
Meeting with legislators in-person or via Zoom is a great way to share about Head Start and how you serve their district. If you are able, consider inviting the legislator and their staff to attend a site visit of your program.
The best way to set up a meeting with a legislator is via email to the scheduler. Head Start California maintains updated lists of schedulers in the US Congress and California Legislature. You can call the legislator’s office directly to request the information.
Posting on social media is a great way to raise awareness of important issues. Use your own voice and tell your own story, or share or retweet messages in support of the campaign. Below are some tips to help make your social media posts effective.
- Include hashtags. Use #HeadStart and #CAleg. Check to see if the issue you are posting on has a hashtag- many do!
- Use visuals. People are 3X more likely to engage with social media posts that include visual content.
- Algorithms matter. The algorithms on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter make it more likely that people will see posts with higher engagement
- Tag partners and lawmakers. Make sure you tag the handle of your agency and partners, and also the target lawmaker.
A note on lobbying:
Generally speaking, any time you request that a legislator take a specific action, you are engaging in lobbying. Lobbying cannot be conducted using federal funds. If you are requesting that a legislator vote on a bill, or support a budget request or a specific policy, please do this using your personal email and cell phone and when you are on your own time (before or after work or during lunch hour or a break).
However, educating lawmakers does not constitute lobbying. A site visit where a legislator visits and learns about the work that Head Start does would be educational, rather than lobbying. (Be sure to get photos!)
- Email template to request a meeting with a legislator
- 9-minute pitch for directors and others to help prepare for meetings
- Parents, check out the Story Checklist to help structure your personal Head Start story
- View Reyna’s story, shared during our 2022 Parent Advocate Academy