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MA(UK)’s strategy advice for election advocacy

Five top tips for advocating for your museum in the run up to a general election, Museums Association, 26 February 2024

Source: Museums Association

1. Be aware of what’s allowed

Even if your organisation is a charity, you should still be able to advocate for your museum in the run up to a general election. While charities cannot engage in party political activity, they can engage in political activity if it’s related to their charitable purpose.

This means that your organisation must not support a particular political party or candidate in the run up to an election, but it can raise awareness of the great work your museum is doing and the important issues that impact your museum.

Check out the charity commission’s guidance on charities, elections and referendums to find out more about what’s allowed and what’s not.

2. Get an elevator pitch

Set yourself a clear goal of what you’re trying to achieve to help you create your key messages.

Next, imagine you have one minute to talk to an important policymaker or decision maker: what would you want them to know about your museum? What are the most pertinent issues you would want to share with them in this short amount of time? To help you, think about what’s great and unique about your museum and what poses the biggest challenges to your museum.

This exercise can help you form your key messages. Having key messages can support your advocacy by ensuring your museum has clear asks and that these asks are consistent across the organisation, regardless of who is communicating them.

Once you have your key messages, make sure to get sign off from senior management and trustees and make everyone in the organisation aware of them.

The MA has created its key messages for the whole sector in our Manifesto for Museums.

3. Gather evidence

Having evidence can really strengthen your key messages. A good case study can illustrate the impact of your museum’s work whereas solid quantitative data can prove the reach of what you’ve achieved or the seriousness of an issue.

Gathering evidence doesn’t always mean doing more work – think about what you’ve done already. Do you have participant feedback from a project you have recently run? Or a record of how many local schools have visited your museum in the last year? This information can help to demonstrate the impact of your museum on your local communities.

4. Identify your cheerleaders

Think about who can support your cause by mapping out your key stakeholders. Who is interested in your museum? Who has power and influence?

If you have strong relationships developed with local community groups, this can be a great way to showcase the wider societal impact of your museum.

The MA is here to support you in your advocacy, and we can help you to amplify your messages. We regularly meet with policymakers and decision makers, so if you are doing fantastic socially engaged work that you want to share or there is an issue having a detrimental impact on your museum that you want policymakers to know about, get in touch.

5. Spread the word!

Communication is key – make sure to share your key messages widely. Getting local news coverage of a project your museum is running is a great way to get your message out and to raise awareness of the impact of your museum on your local area.

You can share your museum’s key messages with local candidates on the condition that you make it clear that you are aiming to influence the policies of whichever candidate is elected and are not aligning your support with one particular party.