Build Relationships

Building relationships is about two-way communication. The first step is identifying the people, organizations or groups with whom you should be building those relationships!

Types of relationships — Qualitative v. Quantitative

Qualitative relationships are ones that you may develop with an individual or small group that will have a BIG impact. These people may be directly in charge of policies that affect your classroom or may be people who directly influence others. For example, it may be that you begin to develop a relationship directly with your superintendent by inviting him or her to visit your classroom or asking her to be a member of your advisory committee.

Quantitative relationships are ones that you develop with groups and that engage a large number of people in order to gain necessary support. This could be in the form of a letter-writing campaign to your community or even a video about your program created by your students that is showcased to the entire school district. These activities seek to engage a large number of people to gain the support for the program in high numbers.

Identifying individuals influential to your program

  • Legislative Action Center
    Use this tool to help you identify key legislative leaders with whom you should build relationships to advocate for your profession and program.
  • Create a database of supporters
    It’s important to keep your supporters’ information at hand so you can call on them any time they’re needed. Use our database template to help you keep your contacts organized and record visits and interactions. The tabs across the bottom make it easy to categorize your information. Download our Excel advocacy contact database template.

    • Key NAAE and Agricultural Education Contacts
      It is also important to know who the key contacts are for agricultural education. We’ve included a short list for you to reference.

      Alissa Smith
      Chief Executive Officer
      National Association of Agricultural Educators
      (859) 967-2894 or (800) 509-0204

      National FFA Organization
      (317) 802-4412

  • Key Congressional Committees
    It is also important to know what committees your state and national legislators serve on. This way you can determine whether you may be able to influence specific issues at the committee level. You can find which committees your state legislators serve on by visiting the legislative action center and entering your zip code to search the state.

    This document outlines the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate committees that influence agricultural education. Take a look to see if your legislator serves on one.

  • Once you know your contacts, don’t hesitate to use them! See our communications tools below for tips and samples.

Communication Tools

Using the proper communication tool in the right situation is beneficial to building the best quality relationships. We have developed some examples and tools for you use as resources.

A one-pager is an eye-catching way to highlight the most important aspects of your agricultural education program and reinforce the message you deliver when you advocate in person.

Here are a couple of examples from Freedom High School in Wisconsin. These highlight the achievements and impact that the Freedom agricultural education program has on the school and community.

Develop your own one-pager with our downloadable template.

One-Pager Tips:

  • Think about the impact you have in all elements of your school and community
  • Focus on the whole program of agricultural education, including classroom instruction, experiential learning through supervised agricultural experiences, and FFA.

Even if you’re not having a special event, having a legislator visit your program is a great way to create a connection, reinforce your message and build a relationship.

Planning a legislative tour in 10 steps

Even more powerful than telling your story is having someone witness it firsthand. Use these examples to craft invitations that will encourage decision makers to visit your program.

Invitation Flyer
Invitation Letter

Sample Letter — grassroots support
Sample Letter — legislator
Sample letter — local leader

Writing Congress
Writing a letter or email is the most popular mode of communication with a congressional office. Here are some suggestions to be sure your time is well spent:

  • It is best to write a personal message rather than sending a canned letter or email.
  • Your purpose for writing should be stated in the first paragraph of the letter.
  • Be as specific as possible. If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify it accordingly, e.g., House bill: H. R., Senate bill: S., or specify the issue clearly.
  • Be courteous, to the point, and pay attention to grammar and spelling.
  • Use specific, local examples to support your position.
  • Add a subject line between the Congressperson’s address and the salutation to help the congressional staff identify the issue about which you are writing.
  • Address only one issue in each letter or email; and, if possible, keep the length to one page.

Addressing Correspondence:

To a Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
(Rm.#) (name of) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator (last name):

To a Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
(Rm.#) (name of)House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative (last name):

Note: When writing to the chair of a committee or someone with a special title, such as the Speaker of the House, it is proper to address them by their title, such as:

Dear Mr. Chairman:
Dear Madam Chairwoman:
Dear Mr. Speaker:

  • Use NAAE's Legislative Action Center or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your senators' and/or representative's office.
  • Telephone calls are usually taken by a staff member, not the member of Congress. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue about which you wish to comment.
  • After identifying yourself, tell the aide you would like to leave a brief message, such as: "Please tell Senator/Representative (Name) that I support/oppose (S. /H.R. )" or "Please tell Senator/Representative (Name) that I support/oppose the (specify the issue).”
  • State reasons for your support or opposition to the bill or issue.
  • Ask for your senators' or representative's position on the bill or issue.
  • You may also request a written response to your telephone call.

A press release is an up-to-the-minute summary of your important news. Include who, what, when, and details of why and how. Be sure to type it on your school’s or organization’s letterhead and provide your professional contact information.

If possible, include high resolution photos of the event covered in the release. If the photo files are large, you may need to upload them to a sharing site, like Flickr or Dropbox, and share the link for the newspaper to retrieve them. Write a caption for each photo, identifying the people shown and explaining what they are doing.

If you have a contact at the newspaper, send the news release directly to him or her. If you do not have a contact, call the paper first to see who would be the best person to receive your release. This one step greatly increases your chances of having your release picked up. If you email the release, copy the text of the release and paste it in the body of the email instead of sending it as an attachment. Don’t forget your own school newsletter and other special publications.

Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
PSAs are brief messages that provide helpful information to the public, solicit support for a particular cause, and/or offer an organization’s free services. Unlike paid advertising, PSAs are carried free of charge by publications, radio, and television stations in an effort to educate an audience and to encourage people to do something such as participate, call, write, or contribute.

Before attempting to place a PSA, determine who you want to reach with your message. Then identify the publications and stations in your area that service that particular audience. Once you have determined the media outlets you want to target, contact the head of eitherthe community development or public service department to find out the proper procedures forsubmitting PSAs.

Letters to the Editor
This newspaper section is an excellent vehicle for you to express your views on the value of career and technical education to policymakers and to educate people in the community. You may also use a letterto the editorto correct inaccurate facts, promote your issue or to praise/condemn a recent article. Write persuasively; include local statistics and personal stories to make your point. It is important to find the newspaper’s policy for printing the letters. Most newspapers require that letters be no more than one page.

Other NAAE Advocacy Education Tools

NAAE has many other tools you can use to build professional relationships. If you know about other useful resources we encourage you to share them with us so we can help other educators find the best tools available.

How have you built relationships to become a stronger advocate for agricultural education? Share your story!