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Key Access Points | Target Your Time Effectively | Strategies | Tips

Using Your Time Wisely

NCL and its members lead advocacy efforts and identify all key decision points in the authorization, budget and appropriations processes. They are mindful of your time and only mobilize the grassroots when they need help.

Key Access Points

How Bills Become Law: Each of these steps outlined in the legislative process below represents key access points for advocacy:

.graphic of bill becomes law flow chart

Bottom Line: Advocate early in the legislative process. This impacts decisions when they are just beginning to take shape. The further along a bill progresses in the legislative process the more difficult it is to influence it.

The number of times that you will need to take action each year depends on the number of bills Congress is considering that impact adult education and literacy. Some years Congress may only consider a few bills that pertain to adult education and literacy. Other years Congress may consider several related proposals. No matter what, cultivate Congressional advocates year round.

Target Your Time Effectively

See this handout on Using Your Time Wisely to gauge when advocacy is needed at different points in the federal appropriations process, what type of action to plan, and where you can find resources to help you carry out your action plan.

In general, plan to:

  • Write a personalized letter to your legislator in early February. Begin with your Ask and discuss how adult literacy impacts you or your community.
  • Invite legislators to your program and to GED graduations.
  • Respond to 2-3 federal level action alerts.
  • Thank your legislator when they support you.


Calls:   2-3 minutes.
Email:   10-20 minutes, allowing enough time to add your personal message on how the issue impacts you.
FAX: 10 minutes or longer.
Letters: 1 hour to write a personalized letter. Never use U.S. Mail to send letters to Capitol Hill. These take weeks to process. Write your letter, then email or fax it instead. If you know someone who will be visiting your legislator, ask them to deliver your letter personally.
Visits:    Days to prepare; starting weeks in advance. You will need time to plan an effective visit . Instructors will need time to prepare learners to succinctly share their stories and to ask legislators their questions.

Add time to each activity above if you need to make your contact from a different location. Remember, if your program only receives federal funds, then do not use program fax machines, computers, stamps, or other program resources to make lobby requests.

Threshold Numbers: Legislators may have low threshold numbers for responses on issues. Only a few contacts could make the difference on whether:

  • Legislative aides alert them to your issue
  • What actions your legislator then takes.

Learn more about threshold numbers and how this impacts you.


  1. Plan time to participate. Consider your role and which actions you can take and from where.
  1. Investigate your options. Decide which method of communication fits you and your purpose for communicating.
  1. Identify your resources. Which email address will you use? From which computers? Will you use your cell phone or program phone? Why?
  1. Be prepared. Carry a card with you with your legislators’ telephone and fax numbers and email addresses.
  1. Prepare fax cover sheets in advance. If you need to act fast, these will come in handy.
  1. Enlist help. Talk with those who you would like to involve. Let them know there are a few key times when you will call on them for help. Establishing this groundwork in advance makes it easier for networks to respond quickly.

  2. Discuss the issues.

If you are an adult learner or learner leader:

  • Share your advocacy interests with your adult literacy instructor. Make advocacy a part of your learning goals.
  • Contact VALUE – the national adult learner leadership organization. They will help you to get involved.
  • Visit the Adult Learner section to learn how to communicate with policymakers and the public.

If you are an instructor:

  • Speak with your program director about advocacy issues and your interest in advocating for adult literacy.
  • Talk about the issues with adult learners. Use or adapt curriculums like Your Government, Your Taxes, Your Choices so that they understand how their tax dollars are spent, what they can do to impact these decisions, and whether and how to get involved.

If you are a program director:

  • Speak with your staff in advance so they know how they can participate in advocacy, when, and where.
  • Involve your Board members, volunteers and other program stakeholders.
  • Provide advocacy training for staff and program stakeholders or refer them to the resources they need to learn more.

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