Advocating For Your Museum: How It Works, Why It Matters

Museums and other cultural organizations face ongoing pressure in the public arena. Private funding sources may carry restrictions, and public sources of financial support face repeated threats to their very existence. Added to this, the public may not be aware of the benefits museums bring, both in support of the local economy and as part of developing healthy, vibrant communities. In this environment, it is more important than ever that museum professionals advocate on behalf of our museums with the public and government officials. Attendees will learn specific techniques (and be given examples of resources) to craft a narrative about their museum, its story, and specific, measurable benefits it provides.


Unknown Speaker 00:00
Welcome, everybody. Thank you for coming to our presentation today about advocacy, how it works and why it matters. So we all My name is Shawn Glynn, I work with various historic houses in New Jersey also serve in some local and county government, historic preservation and advisory boards. Can everybody hear me? All right? We're all good. We'd like our AV system now. So we all know that museums are frequently pressed for cash, government support is seemingly under constant threat. And the rationale for government spending on museums is often under attack. It's obviously a source of immense frustration for for many of us, but the three of us are here today to show that we can do something about it. And that our position is also that advocacy is not just something that we can do but something that we really should and must do. We all of us can make the case for for museums with government officials at all levels, both in general in terms of museums as a field, but also in terms of how we can advocate on behalf of our own specific museums. We will hear from three people today will first hear from Celesta, Wald, who is the Executive Director of the California Association of museums, she'll provide information about issues that museums face and how governments can help be part of the solution. We'll also hear from Claire Blackmon from the Peabody Essex Museum. Claire has been a longtime participant in a AMS annual Advocacy Day. And she also is active in local and regional advocacy projects, Claire and I will alternate a bit with me providing some commentary and insight on what people in government look for, and how to how to tell the story to government. And I do want to say that any positions that we express here are not necessarily those of our organizations that we work for and purely represent our own opinions. Hashtag disclaimer. So before we get started, here's an easy tool for you to find out who represents you. It's, at least it works if you live in the United States. So if you text your zip code 2520 202 223, it will send you back a message that will include your senators, your member of Congress, your state senator, state representatives, and their phone numbers. It doesn't provide emails, but it does provide names and it provides that phone number because the very first step of knowing how to advocate is knowing who to advocate with. So first, let's turn it over to Celeste.

Unknown Speaker 03:00
Thank you, Shawn. I, As Sean mentioned, were coming out this, the three of us have very kind of distinct kind of different perspectives to look at advocacy. And I think that's great, because there's lots of different ways that you can be an advocate for museums or for your point of view. And I think it's really refreshing that we're kind of giving three different views. I'm looking at it very much from the perspective of advocating for the field for the museum field, from mostly kind of an association collective at collective effort. And also from an institutional perspective, not necessarily individuals. I was joking with myself on the way up here that I'm okay, I'm the boomer on the table. So that's me, that's and my teenage daughters call me Boomer all the time, which I'm not I'm Gen X, but that's fine. Whatever they I told them, I said, if you can have a, if you can decide what age ranges of boomers, I've decided it's anybody over 12. So which they didn't find the humor in that at all. But anyway, I've been with the California Association of museums for 15 years now. And we are very active in legislative affairs, we have a lobbyist in Sacramento that represents the interests of the museum field. I'm also I serve on the board of the coalition of State Museum associations. So I'm also active on a national level of knowing what the role is or what the role can be of State Museum associations and advocating for the museum field. And so I'm going to kind of look at it with that hat on. How many people here are from California, just so I can kind of get a sense of the room. One, okay. So every state is different. Every state is different. So I'm going to try to present that every state is different in my presentation. How many of you have met with elected officials before? Okay, so about half half. Okay. I'm also as this slide indicates, I'm looking at this front as a very basic introductory level. So bear with me, those of you who have experience, just bear with me and in knowing that I'm trying to try to create a baseline way approach. Okay, so first, let's dispel the myth that nonprofits cannot lobby, I still get this question all the time. You know, we I serve on a board, and we're a small in a rural area. And we're being told that we can't lobby, that's not true. Museums can lobby, there are just some rules that you have to follow to make sure that you're in compliance. So as my slide here indicates, you can not charitable nonprofits, which are most museums or 501, C, threes, cannot engage in political campaign activity. So that means you can't be partisan, you can't support an elected of one elected official over another, you have to really kind of stay out of elections in terms of electing somebody for public office, you are allowed and you are encouraged to lobby and engage in legislative activities. The question is to how much of that can you do, you would have to get, you would have to do a lot of lobbying and a lot of legislative work to hurt your tax exempt status. But the problem is, is that the IRS is kind of rule for that or kind of rule of thumb is it has to be insignificant, which is not necessarily defined for most 501, C threes. So it just has to be an insubstantial amount of your nonprofits, activities, there's lobbying, if you are nervous about the amount of energy that your nonprofit is doing, you actually can do what's called a take the H election, which basically means you fill out a different form, and you track what you spend in terms of your your lobbying and your grassroots advocacy work. That's we're a 501 C three. And that's what we do. So when we send out a call to action to our members, a portion of our communication managers time is put into our lobby tracking sheet and we report that to, to the state. So yes, museums can lobby, but inform yourself and make sure that your leadership is aware. And I say that because if you are an institution that is taking the each election, then you have to track what you're doing in terms of your lobbying. But we definitely encourage you and I gave you a handout. That is a handout from the National Council of Nonprofits, that really can kind of help articulate the important role that we can play in advocating it that I think also all of us are going to touch on this to some degree.

Unknown Speaker 07:52
Um, I also want to say, though, that according to some research that the American that am has done American Alliance of Museums that 97% of Americans believe that museums are educational assets for their communities, I would say that if 97% of Americans believe that, then we kind of have a role to play in being public education. So if the government your government cares about something like climate change, or you know, equal rights, then you have a you we as public education institutions have a role to play in that. So in educating the public about those topics. So we're powerful conduit for public education. Okay, where can you start, I'm going to start here, and then I'm going to do go a little bit deeper, very basic level, if you aren't already receiving advocacy alerts from the from a, or and you're not already receiving advocacy alerts from your State Museum Association. In some areas, regionals also play this role if there's not a State Museum Association, but we associations were built to be sort of these collective effort groups for advocacy. So pay attention, you know, sign up for our alerts and pay attention to what we're putting out there. And what we're asking you to do. If you're looking to be an advocate for the museum field and your museum, I would say ask your leadership, what the protocol is for responding to legislative calls to action. Most often I've I've heard, leadership is usually like, great, you want to be involved in this great, please respond to this call to action when a um does it or when the State Museum Association does, but just make sure that you they are aware that you're doing it on behalf of your institution, don't go rogue? Because like I said, some museums are tracking what they're doing and also you don't want to get fired. So definitely make sure that your leadership resource is comfortable with you doing that. And if they have somebody else, that's that that role. Sometimes it's a development person, but if they somebody else is supposed to respond to these calls, to action, then ask them what you can do to help? And are there mechanisms in place to track your organization's lobbying activity? So these are all kind of good questions to ask. Once you have all of that clarified, though, take action. Like, if there's one thing that I want you to walk out of here today is that if you are, you know, empowered to take action take action. When we send when our association when am and others send out calls to action. It's really frustrating when we only get 10 People respond. So I really am looking at each of you, I want each of you to realize that these calls to action are talking to you. And don't just assume that somebody else is going to do it. I would also encourage you to ask to attend AM's advocacy day all of us have participated in Ames advocacy day, or your state museum Association's Lobby Day. And it's a great training opportunity to get aware of what the issues are, and get used to doing it and kind of a group environment because it can be a little bit scary if you're doing it on your own. And on these days, you don't feel alone at all you're you're you're you feel like you're part of a community advocating for yourself. So museums advocacy day, is usually in February. It is spearheaded by the American Alliance of Museums, but there are many of state, regional and national museum associations that also sign on as full partners. So for example, my Association California Association museums has been a sponsor and a partner of museums advocacy day for over 10 years, since they started doing them again.

Unknown Speaker 11:43
What I often hear is from from why people don't participate as this, my museum doesn't receive IMLS funding, so we don't have we so we don't participate, because we don't have any skin in the game? Well, I would say there are there's a lot more at stake than just IMLS funding, it is true, we only have competitive grant programs through IMLS, which is really important for the field, but they're the here is a list of a lot of other subjects that you would be advocating for if you went to museums Advocacy Day, charitable giving the you know, a lot of museums are dealing with the standardized deduction issues right now, elementary and secondary education, kind of what the what the federal government does in that arena, I would advocate that that's more important at state level. But yeah, public service loan forgiveness. I mean, how many people do we know that are entering the field with significant student debt. So that's a really important subject matter. I would also say funding for other federal agencies other than IMLS, like NEA any age, National Science Foundation, if you this affects federal funding for these entities doesn't just affect them at the federal level. It also affects your states because it affects the funding for your arts council, and your Humanities Council. Also some policymaking like protection of cultural property, I'm not going to dive into any of these in great detail. But am has a really great website where it does dive into these more deeply. So if you go online, if you look at these slides, and you click on more information, it will take you to that page. So about half of State Museum associations have active advocacy programs. So not every single one does, but about half of them do. So that means about you know, 2025 of them 26. And some of them have lobby days or Advocacy Days like they have at a in California because that's really the one that I can speak of, in great detail is we've done it differently in different years. Sometimes we've done Advocacy Days where we invite our members to it, it kind of depends on what's at stake. Last year, we partnered with the Californians for the arts on their arts advocacy day, and also celebrated arts, culture and creativity month with them. And you know, it's pretty, this is pretty common that you'll find that the State Museum associations might might partner with the arts advocacy group or the humanities group, it kind of depends on where, where there's more pressure at the state level, so which state entities interact with museums the most? So this is a picture of our poster from our to advocacy day. And some of our board members we actually are board members have a separate Lobby Day, their advocacy day that allows us to focus in on deep dive with specific key legislators. Some of the issues, it's different in every state. So it's really hard for me to kind of give you a snapshot of what it looks like on a national level in terms of what's going on in states. But listen to this to the States. sticks, because I think it's this is I am going to get on kind of my soapbox and say how important it is that we pay attention at the state level of what's going on. Half of members of Congress were state legislators first. So if you look at this is kind of, you know, educating state legislators about museums before they get to the federal level, that's pretty important to be able to educate half of them in advance. And there's also for for every bill that passed the US Congress, there were 23 bills that paid pass state legislature. So in 2014 180, failed five bills.

Unknown Speaker 15:48
Four months, okay, yeah, 185 bills passed the Congress, the average state passed 462. So if you really want to look at what's going to impact museums, it's happening, a lot of it's happening at the state level. So as I mentioned, appropriations for state agencies are some of the issues, educational standards, a lot of those are set at the state level. state bonds are funding measures. This is a hot topic in California, because we we can get funding capital project funding for museums through statewide bonds. And also, this just top touches on some of the topics that are in laws that are in the legislature here in California, property tax exemption repatriation of native remains, classification of protections concerning summer camps, which affects museums, summer camp programs, charitable giving, employment law and contractor classifications, so each, each state is going to be different. But this, these are kind of, it's got a broad range. For me, from my perspective, this is what effective advocacy looks like a diverse group of individuals from across the state having a conversation about the impact their museum has on their community. And if this dialogue is not taking place, then laws that are being created with out are being created without our input. And I know that our other presenters here are going to touch on that as well. I also liked that this has kind of a community aspect to it, not people doing it on their own. So your typical advocacy or Lobby Day includes training, so they want you to be prepared, so includes training, so they'll, this might be an all day, or it might be just in the morning. I would also say if you are meeting with an elected official, there is a certain part of research that you should do in advance like coordinating with the other meeting participants who's going to talk about what topic who's going to give examples of their programs or exhibitions, to underscore the need for this for the educator, or the elected officials take this particular action. Have they supported museums in the past, it's always great to start a meeting with a thank you. And it also shows that you're that their actions are being watched, and you're paying attention to them. I wrote this slide to ATMs website is just a wealth of information. As I mentioned before, they have policy issue briefs on the federal issues. They've got a lot of great information, infographics, they've got templates on economic and educational impact samples and templates, they've got training videos on their YouTube channel, they really have some fabulous information if you're just getting started. Um, I will save this for the end. Since I'm short on time, I have just a short. Oftentimes, when you go to museums advocacy day, you also get to hear wonderful things about museums. And it's great hearing that from elected officials. So if we have time, at the very end, I'll play this for you. If not, this is on AM's YouTube channel. Thank you. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 19:02
Alright, so let's get all my business in a row here. What Celeste has been describing is a very formal mode of participating in government lobbying. It's effective, we should be doing it. But I'm here to talk about more informal ways of doing advocacy of using our institutional power and building soft power to make things happen for your museum and the communities that you serve. So here's my soapbox slide. Museums are not neutral. We this a lot now, but it remains important philosophy. And you'll still have to overcome some resistance to this idea. We know that the quote is, if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. But also I take comfort in the fact that like these are times of great moral clarity right now, like we know what the right thing is to do. And we can do it. We cannot pretend that we're above what's happening in our state houses in Washington or on the streets. We can't ignore our powers institutions to do something about that injustice. And so we have to actively fight For our values for our budgets and for our people, because if we don't fight them, people that don't share our values they share. Well, they're out there. So the soapbox bit is just I want people to not just advocate for the status quo, because I'm less funding is good, and it should continue. But what does your grant matter if your museum is underwater? Or if it's on fire and a wildfire, and charitable deductions might put some money directly and you receive his pockets? But what good is that if you don't have state funded services like water, or if the private utility companies are shutting off the power for half a million people, because they've neglected their upgrades, like, there's a larger emergency at hand here. And lastly, I'd like to point out that we have literal concentration camps on our borders. So how can we celebrate and exhibit the art of indigenous people and Latin American people, when we're undoubtably keeping artists in camp and separating them for their families. So in general, what I want is for you to broaden your definition of a museum issue when you're thinking about your activism. So these might seem like daunting issues to address, but I'm here to tell you that we can do it, and that institutional power is real, and you have it. Museums are rich and resources, we have lots of tools, and let's use them, your museum might have some money. My Museum has a $500 million endowment. So you know, there's that we have prestige, we have constituent goodwill. And no one in government hates museums. As we said, people in the United States generally agree with what Museum is doing. And we also have a large platform of people we build up that goodwill with. We have people resources internally to we have board members, we have artists who know how to make like compelling statements. We have donors, we have members, we have graphic designers, we have people who can do research really well. These are all useful tools for advocacy. Alright, so your first step to exercising that institutional power I'm talking about is to assess the conditions that you're working under. And there is a very powerful framework for figuring out why state actors do what they do. It's called analysis of material conditions. And so your local politicians don't make the decisions they do because they're assholes, or because they're stupid. They don't make them because on the other hand, if they're like moral and believe in human rights, and all that stuff, they make decisions they do, because there's some material benefit, either, you know, real or perceived. And the key is to figure out what material benefits they care about most, what material benefits you can offer your museum can offer to the community. Some of these material benefits, benefits might need to get reported. But right now we're just talking about the annual analysis.

Unknown Speaker 22:39
And a very good method for analyzing the material conditions is to buckle down and read the whole budget. It's very illuminating. And other than zoning budgets are probably the most obvious battleground in our government. So because what you spend your money on is your priority full stop. And here's a pie chart I like to put up of federal government spending in 2016. Do you see the tiny sliver of blue at the airways pointing to at the top there? No, that makes sense. Now, the resolution is not great. But still, that tiny sliver is the the entire funding for the NEA NEH N Corporation for Public Broadcasting combined, as compared to the federal budget. And you know, budgets are the least sexy part of government, but they are the most crucial. And you can make a big impact here, especially on the local level. You can ask for money to be spent on things that help your community and your museum. This is, you know, easy to justify and a little can go a long way. And so pay attention to where the money is being spent. Because again, politicians will say they support things, but if they don't put the money where their mouth is, it's that's not really support is it? I don't particularly care if my Congress person speaks at a march about the climate emergency. I care if they voted to increase military funding by $700 billion, because the US military is the number one polluter on Earth. So are we spending money on that? Are we spending money on upgrading our our power grid, that kind of stuff. Some towns have participatory budgeting. So if you have just pretory budgeting, please participate in it. And we can find that. In news Tech, we know that people make the interactives people make the algorithms and tech doesn't make itself and so similarly, people make government. And so we need to be able to influence the people that are doing that influence their thoughts and their decisions. Relationships are an area where museums Excel, we are good at making deep personal connections. And we know the importance of doing this and sustaining these relationships with members and visitors. So we want to know, you want to know who these people are that you're advocating with and make them have goodwill towards you. I argue that the most productive relationships you can build is with the staff. The politician is the face but he's not the one he's the one that runs for office but it's the staff who set the meetings right the BRI to draft the legislation, they have their politicians here. And often these are young adults, they're idealistic. Maybe they're underpaid, you know, but they need to hear from you. Who are the experts in your field about what's happening. This is a picture of a staff member for Seth Moulton, who is the congressman from my museums district. She's enjoying an art exhibition at Penn with all the balloons, this is the only time you got me to go into the balloon room, because I knew I had to form a relationship with this woman. And I think she was impressed. It was fun. So for both staff and politicians, a key part of relationship building is to get them in the door, because you have cool stuff. And you have compelling stories at your museum. And they should see those in person and feel them in person. You have beautiful venue space, so maybe ask them to speak at non political events. This is a picture of the mayor with our director and board director at the anchor drop, we had a 4400 pound anchor that we had taken away to do some construction, and they put it back outside. And this is big deal to the people in town. So she came in gave a speech. Everyone's real happy about it kind of local Goodwill being built up here. Consider also leveraging your board. Oh, that should be a gift. Why is it not giving? That's so rude. He dances, it's a great gift. Anyway. So your board is made up of probably wealthy, powerful people with connections of their own. Maybe there should be politics, but one assumes that if they're on your board, they care about what happens to the museum. So they need to call up their buddies from the country club from the banks, other institutions in town, they need to spread the good word about the museum about what your asks are for government. And yeah, there's a good old boy network, and it's gross that it exists, but you can leverage it with your board members. And lastly, representative democracy is a numbers game. And if you don't have the money to spend or you're not allowed to spend it on politicians, then you need the bodies to bring to the table. So who in your area shares your values build some coalition's? Are there more museums? Are there libraries? Are there nonprofits? Are you in your state and regional advocacy Association? They might be advocating already, but it's less as maybe they're overburdened? Maybe they need some help. Maybe they need you to respond to their calls. Did they email you asking you to show up to advocacy day and I will say that nothing about my job is I'm the Digital Asset Manager I don't have anything to do with lobbying in general but I said you know I want to show up and I did and it works you know you're a voter you're a constituent do it. So if you if you build your coalition's you have to commit to don't break a promise always show up in solidarity. If they need you to help with something, you come out for them. And they'll come out for you. That's the point of solidarity. So next is Sean.

Unknown Speaker 27:44
Well, thank you, everybody. So again, I want to reiterate that my opinions are personal opinions, and not necessarily those of any particular governmental body. Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer. But I do want to talk about my own experience, both as a museum professional, and as somebody who has actually served on some town, town boards. I have thankfully never been an elected official. But I've served I've worked with historic preservation Commission's I work with my County's cultural and heritage commission. So it's a whole bunch of other things. If I say what Claire said about zoning being getting people fired up, yeah. Zoning is big business, zoning is big business, when you start getting death threats from at you, you're on to somebody. So but what I do want to talk about most government is not resolved in that kind of thing happening. So it's, it's mostly harmless. But as much as you know, federal government gets all the attention. Celeste talked about how there's much more going on at the state level. But Don't ignore your local and your county governments either. Because that in most places is where zoning is controlled. It's generally not a federal, or a state issue with some exceptions. county and local governments often have significant grant money. The budgets aren't as large as the federal government, but you have a but local officials are your neighbors. These are the people that you will bump into in the supermarket. These are the people who you will see running around town, they're the people, you'll have a much greater opportunity to influence them and get to have a real conversation and build that relationship with your local and with your local and county government officials than you would with anybody, likely even at the state level, certainly at the federal level. So we've talked about the democratic process, and as much as we usually think about the democratic process as the democracy part and going in and voting on Election Day, which I hope everybody did. It is as much about the process as it is about the democracy. It's one of those things people don't necessarily always see, the government is about rules. It's about regulations. It's about process, much more so than what we're used to in, certainly in the nonprofit world, but even in the for profit world, it's defined processes. There are timelines, their rules and regulations, they tend to exist, the ideal, and it's not always an ideal that's met. But the ideal is that these processes, regulations exist to ensure equal treatment. From anybody who comes before government that government is not allowed to play favorites. We can't just give the budget to such and so because we like them, we can't have a pay to play contracting. That's why these, these procedures and processes exist. So taking some time to understand the process can help you navigate it. And what Claire said about working with staff is absolutely essential. The staff can be your allies and helping to navigate the process. If they're not your allies, they can help cut red tape. But make make certain that it's cut lengthwise, and you will rue the day that you did not you were not nice to staff. So definitely be nice to the staff. But do try to understand the process and understand that it is generally there for a reason. And it is just assume it's going to be there and

Unknown Speaker 31:33
work to to navigate it as best you can. So what makes government work, government is a lot of government is about balancing competing interests. And it's about making tough choices, among many good and worthy projects. We all believe in our museums missions, we believe in what we're doing, we believe in why we're here. But everybody else who is who's out there looking for support from government also also believes in their projects. And when there's a limited amount of money to go around. That's when government has to make tough choices, among several different projects, all of which are equally worthy. Government balances our interests and our desires versus other organizations Recreation Committee that wants additional funding for a ball field, for example, government also feels pressure from the taxpayers and voters to say, well, we don't mind that you're spending money on museums, we mind more that you're spending money at all, people will want their taxes a little lower or maybe not spend on something else. So that's what government is about. And it's about balancing competing interests and making those tough choices. Also, keep in mind that especially at the local level, at the county level, and amongst appointed officials, people may not be getting paid or they may only be getting paid for expenses. There are a lot of people are there to simply because they believe in the mission. They have a goal of public service. And they're certainly not in it for the money. They take the role seriously. And that includes trying to apply the process as fairly and evenly as possible. I do also want to mention appointed officials that as much as a lot of attention goes towards elected officials don't ignore appointed officials and the boards and the Commission's that they all serve on this, as I mentioned, historic preservation Commission's and County Arts Councils, they control budgets, they control grants. These are smaller than federal, but they can often be really quite significant. And the reporting requirements are often less to just a little side benefit. In addition to that, it's the local and county officials and the appointed officials who you know, the the elected officials will look to for advice. The elected officials may ratify the budget, but a lot of the decisions are made by an appointed commission. So don't ignore them. They can be they can be powerful allies when it comes time to go to talk with your elected officials. One thing that we've all touched on is that our main role is to participate. I'm going to quote the West Wing and that President Bartlett said that decisions are made by those who show up. My own corollary is decisions are made by those who show up about those who don't show up. My experience in government is that people don't show up. Public meetings are often very lightly attended especially at the local level and especially for appointed boards rather than elected Officials, people may attend a meeting if there's an item, an issue in town that directly affects them. You know, it's either whatever it is, but otherwise the audience can be somewhere between thin and non existent. So this is a graph that I made up showing participation over the years that I've been in government. It doesn't include zoning boards, where yes, it is a contact sport. And as much as it can be a little hard to read, the x axis is the year going back to 2005. The y axis is the total number of people who showed up at those meetings throughout each year just to pay attention to what's going on in their communities. And yes, that ranges from a low of zero to a high of two. So that's three people in about 15 years. And that banging sound is Alexis de Tocqueville turning over in his grave. But the thing is that this, that big, giant honking space in the center, where nobody comes to meeting, this can actually create an opportunity for us when we do participate. So imagine you're that that one person on that first person who showed up about 10 years ago, showed up didn't say anything left, we never heard from him again. But

Unknown Speaker 36:23
imagine that you show up. As we've all said, we show up with an agenda, we show up having prepared, we show up with an appointment, we show up knowing the issues, we show up with our data briefs, and we have something or we show up to meetings simply to provide an update about our museum, we've done this awesome thing. We've worked with children, we've worked with underserved communities, give a quick update just a minute or two. Invite them to your major events, talk to them about the communities that you serve, and your mission, keep it concise, keep it focused, but show up and tell them they will get to know you over time. And now imagine that all of us do this i Celeste said that it's a little disappointing when you send the email out to the entire state or the entire country and 10 people do this. So again, there's safety in numbers. When we all show up and we all advocate then people will notice that museum people have something to say maybe we ought to listen. Some things that don't help quite as much are, yes, come to the meetings, send out all your information. But don't just stop at mailing out a postcard to your elected officials or to your county committees. Everybody does that. So imagine everybody hear sends in their postcard once a month, you get a massive pile of correspondence about this thick, and you kind of flip through it everybody read the correspondence will pass it around. So it helps to make that personal connection. The best flyer for the best program will get lost in the shuffle. That's the benefit of going to public meetings presenting this information in person so that you can give them quick updates, you can invite them to your events, and you can start to make that difference and build that relationship. The other part of benefit of going to public meetings and talking with people as well. Claire talked about coalition partners and going to public meetings is a good place to find them. When you go to public gatherings and there's a bunch of museums or other historic associations or arts associations are other nonprofits whose missions may overlap, profess it's a good place to go meet people find out the issues, it's as much about listening as it is about talking. This is where we find out what's going on in the community and find out who is thinking what it's a it's a great way to build a network and to increase your own credibility. So what does government look for? Well, statistics, we all know that anybody who's ever filled out a grant report knows all the statistics, all the numbers, all the math, it makes us crazy. But it is it's the language of government because they are dealing with many, many, many different issues. And so being able to show quantifiable results is shorthand. It's a quick summary. It's a good way to it's what government looks for and being able to quantify your museum story is is a good way to speak government ease. Here's here's just one example. Again, I Celeste mentioned the a m templates and I definitely want to to second that recommendation. The A M website has some terrifics templates. This is just one. It's their overview, information sheet just about museums in general. Showing that across the United States means seems contribute $50 billion in economic activity that we create 726,000 jobs. And that grabs people it gets their attention. It is something that they have other templates as well, economic impact statements, social impact statements. The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in New York has a lengthy educational statement. Look for good examples. customize them for your own museum, of course, keep them brief, no more than a single two sided sheet of paper. So if you've got three or four pages worth making one sheets worth, again, people, if people in government have questions, they'll ask have this have the backstory in the back of your mind, but and be prepared to answer any questions, but lead with something brief and concise. And these really do work. I know all of us can probably tell stories about having meetings with people who may not necessarily come in as museum supporters or spending on museums supporters. But when they see quantifiable data like this. It is this is an easy way to make the sale. I've gotten comments from congressional staff from other from elected officials that say that this kind of summary actually does do an amazing job and getting our mission,

Unknown Speaker 41:23
our information across. So some things to include, again, we probably all at a basic level, the number of visitors number of school children, some I don't know, I know New Jersey, they look for a separate count of number of children, number of schools, number of school groups, all these need to be separated out for whatever reason. financial impact, don't forget that your museums spending as much as Claire said, it's a it's a moral document, our budgets are also we're job creators. Everybody that works for us is a job. That's a job we've created. Every dollar that we spend in our communities is measurable impact. So you can include that information. And of course, if you're doing innovative programming include that in any summaries that you bring to government officials. And we talked about Celeste mentioned 97% support for museums. But that it does mean that we're going to run into that 3%, who doesn't agree with us. And it's also that some parts of that need to be convinced people, not everybody supports large government or supports government spending on on to support charities that people on more conservative members of government will tend to say, well, they they're not opposed to museums, support for museums is pretty much universal across the ideological spectrum. But if people simply believe in a smaller role for government, or that government shouldn't pick winners and losers, then having this quantifiable information can actually be really effective in reaching them and saying, Okay, you may not think this, but here's the here's the amount of jobs we create. So again, this can actually can actually work in reaching people who might start off a little a little skeptical. If you're in Okay, yeah. So I'll do be focused, I was about to say, be focused and concise. So I'll skip that slide. Remember that this is an ongoing thing. It's about ongoing work and building relationships. It's, it isn't if you remember that one guy who showed up for one meeting about 10 years ago, well, nobody else does either. So don't be that guy. And keep at it, build the relationships do the work. And that is the most effective thing you can do is simply participate and keep at it. So with that, any any questions? Yes.

Unknown Speaker 44:11
Can you speak into the mic?

Unknown Speaker 44:18
I'm gonna sit down. I'm not gonna just like awkwardly stand here. Um, yeah, so I just, I was actually originally gonna ask about museum stepping into local government before you started talking, Sean, because in my spare time, I am involved with zoning issues of zone your neighborhoods and single family zoning. And I live in DC. And so that's like a hot issue around increasing density and stuff. But um, I was just going to ask about how Have any of you have experienced about encouraging museums to advocate about, like intensely local issues like zoning or or in more mass transit or increased, you know, minimum wages and stuff like that. Because these are the kinds of things that keep diverse audiences from being able to come into our museums because they can't access them physically or, you know, otherwise, like, you know, don't have the economic ability to come. And I think museums can play a real role in like forcing that stuff. And I just didn't know if you had an experience of that.

Unknown Speaker 45:30
Well, I think that this is I had, I haven't specifically done these within my museum I've kept it mostly am situations. But I think that this is part of a larger project to make your museum understand that these local issues are important and just as important as IMLS funding. I know that there are often there's often things like local boards, like the Preservation Committee and stuff that the museum is like, oh, you know, we have a, we have an issue before we have a historic house before the board there, that kind of thing. I do think that we, we are on a commuter rail line, and they have a $10 weekend pass thing. And I think that it would be good to bring that up to my board of directors and be like, hey, you know, this is a thing that helps people we have get people up from Boston to come to Salem, and having the $10 commuter pass made it a lot easier. So short answer, no. But we'd like to, do you have anything else to say?

Unknown Speaker 46:31
I can add a little bit? You know, I think that the museums that I've seen that have gotten involved in local government issues are museums that are usually associated with federal with local government. So we have about one out of every five museums in the state of California, are not private nonprofits, they have some sort of city or county that they're aligned with. And they usually have those lines of communication are pretty open, because they're already within the structure. I would say that. So, you know, I would say it's a tougher sell for the private nonprofits, because usually, what gets them out and at these meetings are usually when it has to do with funding. So whether that has to do with a direct funding grant program, or it has to do with, like, maybe an admissions tax, like they do not like admission tax, I know that. So that it's usually when it affects them directly, they'll do that, um, I thought that they're a real missed opportunity in the state of California was a several years ago, we changed our, the way that schools, the funding mechanism for schools, was more money went to the local government, the local school board, and less was from the state. But the amount that was given had to do with the number of second language learners or English language learners or those in poverty. So that the schools, the school districts that had more challenging issues in terms of their student population got a bigger piece of the pie got more money. But it also required that the local school board have a five year plan of how they're going to use that money, and they had to do townhall programs. And they essentially had to listen to what the local community was, what their input was, I did not see it happen on a really tight timeline. And I did not see very many museums participated in that even though I was a cheerleader going, please go to these meetings, because that was an opportunity for them to really make an impact on a local level. I knew the timing was right. And I was a volunteer for the California Alliance for Arts Education. And in our local school district, we got we went from zero art teachers to 14 art teachers, because the timing was right. So if there's a way that you could just kind of line that up and have your ear to the ground, and you're like, you know, this, this, we this isn't about funding, but this is a huge opportunity and kind of make that sell. It kind of needs champions within the museum to make that make that case.

Unknown Speaker 49:17
And from my own experience, both doing this and seeing other other people do this is what can be helpful is to go to other organizations events. So if if you work with a history museum and the local historic count and local arts council is having a public visioning session to show up, they may invite you anyway. But just make certain to be one of the people who participates in in those type of events or community organizing events, and that once we as museum professionals and museums as organizations, once we get out into the community, it's not just about working with we talked about working with government But, but it's all it is also getting out into the community and making those connections in the community so that they know we're on their side, that bit of representation of the representing the museum in that in the community is a good way to show support. But it also, over time, it can help build those connections as those organizations will start to bring people into the museum. So it's a way to, it's a way to advocate it's also a way to continue to build to build the coalitions that we need to run the mic for more questions. Think about it for a second. We can't have answered every question.

Unknown Speaker 50:45
When I put up the discussion questions, maybe

Unknown Speaker 50:47
we can or we can. So we just have, we do have a couple of questions here. That if we want to break down for you just want to call something out, because we're a fairly small group here to think about what your board members are comfortable with doing. So your board is, aim has an article about your board as your secret weapon. Think about the political terrain, and we'll examine your own capacity, and then to take an inventory of assets you already have. So does anybody anybody want to share any of this? They can think

Unknown Speaker 51:28
in terms of political terrain, I was wondering if you guys, you mentioned PSLF, public public service loan forgiveness for as a thing worth advocating for. And I was curious, because that's a that's a really interesting issue, because a lot of but budgetary stuff lives with Congress, which is great, because you're not at the whim of the executive being one party or another, particularly one party that doesn't want to fund arts things. But with PSLF, you know, that's kind of directly controlled by the executive. And, you know, I don't know if people know what's going on with that right now. But a lot of people who meet the criteria for 10 years of public service and not are not, they've approved, you know, less than 1% of the people who qualify since 2016. And so I was curious about if you could just talk about advocacy in the age of being under for those types of things where the executive has, or mayor in the case of a city has a lot of power over a thing and they're just intransigent about it. And then like, is that just is it not even worth advocating at that point, because, you know, they're not going to change their minds, because it's such like a, an ideological issue, as opposed to like, with Congress, where it's like, oh, well, at the end of the day, like the House and the Senate have to agree on the federal budget. And so it's a lot easier to get things put in for museums.

Unknown Speaker 52:43
It's always worth advocating.

Unknown Speaker 52:49
So I, I have sat in on meetings where I know, I'm not going to change their mind that the federal government or in my case, the state government should fund museums, because I know that that's not part of their ideology. But I still go through the motions, because I think it's still important to make that point. And I usually tend to focus on the things that I know that they care about, like the local economy, like the you know, trying to produce more in taxes or for the economy for like that information about in the handout that I gave about tourism, you know, that that tourism, tourists that go for culture tend to spend more money like that I've seen that have traction before. So I think I think it's really, I think it's always worth it. I wouldn't give up on anybody. I also think that sometimes it's just finding the right person to twist their arm. So there is and sometimes that you those are not very, you have to kind of put feelers out and figure out where that is, like, for example, we have I don't know if you've seen one on California roads while you're here, because there's only one California but the Snoopy license plate. Has anybody seen a soupy license plate? No, everybody shaking their head. Okay, so the Snoopy license plate is actually a special interest license plate that actually funds museums in the state of California. And we had a bill that was going to there's 11,000 On the road on California roads, but we had a bill that was essentially needed to pass the state legislature in order for that program to move forward. And it was at that point, there was not a supermajority in the state legislature so that meaning that we needed to get some Republicans to vote for it. And because it was a two thirds bills and urgency bill, and and do you know that it came down to the executive director of a very small museum I'm in Modesto, having been in a rock climbing competition for a different nonprofits fundraiser, where he beat her, the elected official beat her, that she was able to go into that meeting and say, Okay, now that you've beat me and you embarrass me, this is what I want, I want you to vote for this bill, it comes down to that it really does. So, you know, maybe you may have allies in ways that you're just not, you just don't know yet.

Unknown Speaker 55:28
And when it comes to public loan forgiveness, I have one of my friends is one of the like, 96 people who got her loans forgiven $50,000 worth. So if you want to talk to me about that after we can talk more about how she did that.

Unknown Speaker 55:46
I was just going to expand upon that as well. I'm on PSLF, I work for a nonprofit. And, of course, when all the stories started coming out about the low rates of actual loan forgiveness, freaked out, understandably. So. It's less about executives not wanting to do it and more about the user interface of the way that it's actually done. That's a place where I think the advocacy could be a bit more internal, just in terms of like, making sure we're actually helping our employees know how to get recertified, etc. But I would also argue that that's one of the places where I as a person who works in a museum and a nonprofit, but who isn't an executive actually feel as if I have a place to engage in personal advocacy as well, because I think part of it, it can become much more powerful when I as a person that says, Hi, I'm a human, and I benefit from this anti vote. Can can go to those places and do something like that. And I'm curious, actually, there is a question in here, I promise. Where it seems like a little bit of a gray area as someone who as a citizen who benefits from a federal program like PSLF, were I to go to a place and advocate, even as an employee of a nonprofit? Are there? Are there lines that we have to toe when we work in these spaces, but are also individuals with agency of our own? And can you maybe speak to whether there needs to be caution or anything along those lines as we advocate for our personal beliefs?

Unknown Speaker 57:22
I think that you should advocate for what you care about. I wouldn't I'm not up here saying don't advocate for what you as an individual care about. I would say if you're doing it on behalf of your organization, just make sure you go through the proper channels. That's all. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 57:36
And I completely agree. And I think that's time so we're, I'm here for the rest of the conference. But thank you all for coming and attending today and hope to see you in the halls or on ledges are of all of our legislative bodies in the sea on Washington and advocacy day next February. Thank you. Thanks very much.