Krista Davidson | HACA/VHF Advocacy Committee Co-chair

It’s hard to believe that the VHF annual education meeting has come and gone (go here to see photos from the meeting)! We had an excellent time this year in Natural Bridge and heard from fantastic guest speakers throughout the weekend all with the theme of storytelling. During our Advocacy and Storytelling session on Saturday, we heard from Delegate Sam Rasoul of the 11th House District, Micheal DeGrandpre, HFA Creative Director and Becky Bowers-Lanier, HACA/VHF Advocacy Consultant. Delegate Rasoul shared several advocacy tips to help our stories have a more significant impact.

First, humans are emotional. When sharing your story with your legislator, try to find that emotional connection. Finding the feeling is usually the conveyance of your values. Delegate Rasoul listed these values as necessary to convey as advocates: connection, cooperation, respect, forgiveness and disagreeing without being disagreeable.

I’ve been thinking about those values and how they relate to advocacy on behalf of people with hemophilia. Connection reflects on personal relationships. While few people have hemophilia, many people have (or have experience with) chronic health conditions. You can connect with the policymaker around the challenges common to individuals living with chronic conditions. This approach helps legislators understand that shares commonalities with other chronic diseases, and thus, you connect with that feeling.

The other values – cooperation, respect, forgiveness and disagreeing without being disagreeable – help you advocate as a person who is willing to work with legislators to achieve goals important to the bleeding disorders community. Inherent in this work is your willingness to accept compromise or incremental steps if needed; this conveys respect and cooperation. The other two values – forgiveness and disagreeing without being disagreeable – help you solidify relationships with policymakers. You may not always agree with them, but you can work with them while respecting what they do and what they believe. These values are of primary importance in creating a relationship with a legislator.

Delegate Rasoul then told us some practical tips for being an effective advocate. These were:

  • Be confident. You are the master of your story.
  • Be brief. You’ll have about 15 minutes max to tell your story when the General Assembly is in session in January and February.
  • Be focused. The legislators prefer summaries of information only, no big packets. Keep it local. Legislators like to know numbers. For example, how many people in Virginia have bleeding disorders? How many in the legislator’s district?
  • Consider joining a coalition of other advocates with rare, chronic conditions. There is strength in numbers. (VHF has an advocacy committee – contact for more information)
  • Know the bill number(s) coming through the current General Assembly session that impacts your story.
  • Ask for your legislator’s support for your bill; this is an excellent way to stay in contact with your legislator and help keep them accountable.

I hope these tips help you on your advocacy journey! I plan to practice them! Join VHF for a night of advocacy on Thursday, September 26th where we will have 3 advocacy focused educational dinners across the state. Go here to learn more: