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Effective Advocacy in Five Easy Steps

Santa Clara County Library, CA

Innovation Summary

Santa Clara County Library District created a workshop for Friends, Foundation members, Endowment members, Commission appointees, and Board Members to arm them with tools, information, and techniques to effectively advocate in their communities, by highlighting the Library's value proposition and strategizing about target audiences and making the right "ask."

Problem Statement

Often, library supporters are very passionate believers in libraries and the way they transform communities, but they don't always have either the knowledge base or the experience to articulate the Library's value to others. With a vast array of support groups eager to enhance the Library's well-being through fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and promotion of services offered, the Effective Advocacy in Five Easy Steps workshop positions these supporters to be successful in their efforts.


For ten years, the Santa Clara County Library District has hosted an annual Friends and Commissioners Forum, a half day workshop held on a Saturday morning, which provides opportunities for education and networking for almost two dozen distinct groups that provide various types of support to libraries in the District, including Friends groups, City-appointed commissions, Foundations, and Endowments. Santa Clara County Library District had the opportunity to have a staff group participate in the County of Santa Clara’s Center for Leadership and Transformation (CLT), an intensive project learning experience to identify an organizational need and put a solution into practice. The Library’s team focused on the Library’s strategic goal of increasing the number of library cardholders who live in the Library District, and created a series of activities to gather information from the community, as well as a set of publications to highlight the value of the Library in our community. In order to maximize the results of this experience, two members of the five-member CLT team identified an opportunity to mobilize library supporters and arm them with the tools and information to effectively communicate about a broad range of library matters. The co-leaders of the project created workshop materials to outline an advocacy model, a set of key messages, and a group of scenarios to give participants the opportunity to role play, both as an advocate and as a recipient of the advocacy message (such as local schools, city councils, or chambers of commerce). Approximately 60 people participated in the workshop at the Forum, and several of the groups have requested and received additional targeted workshops for each individual group.


Participants developed an understanding of the importance of communicating how their library impacts or benefits the things their community already values, learned to define what is needed for the library to meet community expectations, and identified how to assess the costs associated with the need. Participants developed an understanding of the importance of describing the benefit the community will receive as a result of supporting the library. Participants understood the importance of calling their audience to take a specific action related to advocating for the library. Participants learned that a call to action should be stated simply and the task should be manageable. A group of supporters is planning to reconvene in September, seven months after the original workshop, to share their successes, lessons learned, and best practices that other groups might want to adopt.