What Makes an Effective Advocate?

Effective advocates are:
  • * Well informed regarding their subject and armed with information supporting their goals. While decision-makers expect professionals to have special knowledge about gifted education, this expectation is not necessarily true for parents. Anecdotal information from parents is most effective.
  • * Knowledgeable about their constituency. While advocates are usually speaking for themselves, they are sometimes authorized to speak as representatives of an organization. An advocate must be aware of the difference.
  • * Resourceful in finding information and gaining access to decision-makers.
  • * Quietly persistent; do not be afraid to ask questions.
  • * Clear about what action you want.
  • * Imaginative in suggesting solutions.
  • * Respectful of others’ points of view
  • * Politically aware
  • * Tactful
  • * Enthusiastic and pleasant
  • * Well organized and accurate, not exaggerating, in your reporting and note taking.
  • * Articulate; prepare your main points and speak succinctly.
  • * Knowledgeable about the power hierarchy and other issues that may be central.
  • * Sensitive to others’ reactions

Effective advocates must do their homework ahead of time if they wish to influence policy decisions and legislation. Such homework includes being sure that requests are specific and proposals are well documented. In addition, it is important that advocates know the assignments, areas of expertise, and areas of interest of school officials and other
decision-makers.

Decision-makers are obligated to be aware of all sides of an issue, and they must look at the total educational picture when making decisions. Therefore, effective advocates are prepared to respond to possible criticism and explain why high ability services should be high priority.

Advocacy will be more successful when the advocate has knowledge, good sense, good humor, and good manners.