At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, advocacy is an important part of the work we do to improve access to education, income and health for all North Texans.
By contacting our elected officials and educating them on the issues that directly affect our community, we’re able to impact public policy in ways that benefit our neighbors for generations to come.
In January 2023, the Texas Legislature will begin its 88th session. The 140 days of any legislative session are extremely important for advocacy. To prepare for this busy time , let’s take a closer look at why United Way of Metropolitan Dallas advocates, what exactly that work entails, how it benefits our community and how you can get started advocating with us.
At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we’re focused on uniting the community to create opportunity and access for all North Texans to thrive. Our work addresses systemic barriers to equity to ensure all our neighbors have access to education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity.
Advocacy is one of the key ways we drive progress toward our Aspire United 2030 goals: our 10-year vision that brings together all of North Texas to ensure more local students are graduating high school ready to succeed to college or career, more adults have access to living-wage jobs and financial security, and more families get the health resources they need to thrive.
We lead and invest in a variety of programs that improve education, income and health in North Texas. But it’s also important for us to work toward policy changes that impact those three areas. To bring about long-term community change, we must look at how current public policies at the local, state and federal impact our communities and then advocate for improvements.
No one organization or person can successfully create significant change on any given issue; rather, we are most successful when we can rally the entire community—individuals, corporate partners, nonprofits and more—and make it a movement.
Perhaps most importantly, we need to always ensure that our advocacy actions are synchronized, so everyone is speaking out with the same message, at the same time, to the same elected officials.
To advocate is defined as “championing a cause.” It can encompass a broad range of activities, from building community awareness on a key issue to mobilizing groups to join the cause.
At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we are in a unique position to pull together our investors, nonprofits, faith institutions, academia, businesses, community influencers and other United Ways to work collectively to speak out for change.
United Way works to amplify individuals’ voices on important community issues and provide a platform for people to take meaningful action that makes a difference. It may take years—or multiple legislative sessions—to pass these policies, but the results can change the trajectory of thousands of lives in our region.
For individual change-seekers like you, there are many ways you can advocate or champion an issue.. We make it easy to know when you should contact your elected officials by providing Advocacy Alerts during each legislative session. When you sign up to receive these emails, we’ll let you know when and how to contact lawmakers and, when appropriate, we’ll provide sample language that you can add to or edit as you see fit.
Some members of the Live United movement join us by advocating in person at the Texas State Capitol or in Washington, D.C. Another way to get involved is to join our annual advocacy event in November, where you’ll hear directly from policymakers about the key issues of the upcoming year.
While the idea of advocating may seem complicated at first, our goal is to ensure it’s very easy and accessible. And the more often you interact with your elected officials, the more comfortable you’ll become with sharing your opinions on key policy issues.
Over the years, our Live United movement has helped to make real progress on a variety of policy issues, such as food insecurity in seniors, the quality of early childhood education and payday and auto-title loans.
One in five Texas seniors worry about having enough food. While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is designed to help, only 36% of eligible Texas seniors are enrolled. Limited mobility, lack of access to or understanding of technology, and lack of reliable transportation are all potential barriers for seniors applying. Many also find the long application and documentation requirements confusing and overwhelming.
In 2019, during the 86th Texas Legislature, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas—in partnership with the Texas Food Policy Roundtable and the North Texas Food Bank—advocated for a simplified SNAP application and renewal process for low-income seniors. This policy was one of our top three legislative priorities for our organization that session, which means our organization directed the majority of its energy and resources toward advancing this issue.
That year, we trained our advocates on how to talk about the need for simplifying SNAP applications and renewals, especially with elected officials, and we tracked the progress of the bill throughout the session.
When the bill was moving, or we needed it to move, staff and advocates flooded legislative offices with calls and emails asking for their support. Throughout the session, we stopped by the Capitol offices of the 30 state legislators who represent our United Way of Metropolitan Dallas service area. Then, advocates met again with these legislative offices about this issue when they were in Austin for United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Day at the Texas Capitol.
In the end, time ran out, and the Texas House and Senate couldn’t pass the bill before the end of the 2019 session. However, the Live United movement and other advocates had created enough momentum to keep the issue in the spotlight.
Food advocates worked with legislators to get the bill refiled in 2021, where it passed both chambers with bipartisan support. Since then, Texas Health and Human Services has developed and launched the Texas Senior Assistance Program (TSAP), which allows Texas’ low-income seniors to apply for SNAP using a simplified application and process.
Another example of our advocacy work came during the 2021 legislative session, when advocates successfully pushed for legislation improving the quality of childcare, streamlining the system and requiring the state to create a plan for supporting the childcare workforce. In addition, that year United Way and our supporters also worked to encourage legislators to protect payday and auto-title loan ordinances that help to safeguard Texans from predatory loans.
Lasting change only happens when we work together. That’s especially true when it comes to advocacy. The more voices we have supporting key legislative priorities, the more likely we all are to create meaningful change for our community.
Right now, you can take two important steps to make sure your voice is heard: