Volunteer Advocacy Ambassador Program

The Autism Speaks Advocacy Ambassador Program is a grassroots program designed to build relationships between constituents and legislators at the federal level.

Advocacy Ambassadors help Autism Speaks meet our advocacy goals by sharing their personal experiences and information on policies related to autism.

Ambassadors are grassroots volunteers selected to serve as the main point of contact for their respective federal legislator(s). They work directly with Autism Speaks staff both in local and Washington, D.C. offices to implement initiatives.

This diverse group of advocates includes nearly 345 volunteers from 46 states and the District of Columbia. People with autism, family members, lawyers, behavioral analysts and more have joined this passionate community.

 

To be successful we must never stop educating our communities, Congress and local legislators... Never underestimate the advocacy power of a mom, dad or self-advocate with a computer or phone.

     - Heidi Fernandez, Georgia Advocacy Ambassador

 

Ambassador Roles & Responsibilities

I.  Establish and maintain relationships with federal legislators

Ambassadors are responsible for scheduling regular in-district meetings with their members of Congress (or staff) to build rapport and request action on Autism Speaks' legislative priorities. These meetings are a critical step in strengthening our relationship with the member.

Meetings will take place at least four times per year, particularly during congressional district work periods. Ambassadors will be given talking points by our advocacy staff on key issues and prepared in advance of these activities.

Sample Actions

  • Send letter or email of introduction to assigned elected officials
  • Request to be included in district mailings and e-newsletters of elected officials
  • Participate in district office visits (four visits minimum per year, one of which in April for World Autism Month)
  • Track and attend congressional members' town halls and other community events
II.  Serve as a local media stakeholder to engage elected officials

The media - newspaper, radio, television and social media - is a critical tool in promoting our advocacy issues. Messages carried by Ambassadors can influence legislators and the public.

Ambassadors will engage with local media as needed. Media advocacy training and message points will be provided by our advocacy team. Assistance with media relationship building may also be provided by our chapter staff.

Sample Actions

  • Submit "letters to the editor" to local news outlets regarding specific legislative priorities
  • Participate in media interviews within congressional target area(s)
  • Post comments on local media websites 
  • Post and share Autism Speaks action alerts on social media
III.  Recruit other volunteers to participate in autism advocacy

Ambassadors often delegate or facilitate advocacy work to others interested in supporting Autism Speaks priorities. Encouraging and recruiting others to participate in local advocacy activities helps to promote acceptance and understanding of people with autism to members of Congress.

With more volunteers and a wider array of advocates, Ambassadors help to highlight the diverse issues around autism spectrum disorder, the needs of the local community and the political power of autism advocates.

Sample Actions

  • Recruit and train additional volunteers to attend district meetings and events
  • Attend at least one Autism Speaks sponsored event per year if available in your area
IV.  Report on congressional district activity, meetings, and events to Autism Speaks staff

Ambassadors assist with and contribute in large part to our chain of communication with elected officials. Ambassadors record and report back to our advocacy team on district events and/or meetings in a timely manner.

Sample Actions

  • Participate in Ambassador trainings and monthly conference calls
  • Inform our advocacy staff of requests for clarification and information from legislators and/or their staff within 48 hours of contact
Term & Time Commitment

Ambassadors must be able to commit to a one-year term. Terms are renewable through an annual application process.

Ambassadors should expect to dedicate 2-4 hours per month volunteering in this role. Time commitments will vary depending on the month and legislative issues. For example, 4 hours of work may be needed in April during World Autism Month, and one hour or less may be needed in June if legislation is slow.

Ambassadors received direct support from our national and local offices.

The Ambassador Program is managed by our advocacy staff. Our advocacy team supplies Ambassadors with compelling and relevant information, trainings and updates to empower advocates to make a lasting impact for the autism community.

Support Includes

  • Monthly e-newsletter highlighting our advocacy initiatives at the state and federal levels
  • Ongoing professional development including monthly conference calls via virtual meetings that update Ambassadors on federal policy progress and advocacy tasks

Local chapter staff also are kept informed of Ambassador Program activities and assist with local recruitment of volunteers. Local chapter staff may participate in monthly conference calls and be copied on general emails related to Ambassador tasks to facilitate local staff-volunteer contact.

Group of 25+ Advocacy Ambassadors standing with World Autism Month Hill Day sign

 

 

Interested? Want to apply?

While applications for the 2020 program were due by September 6, 2019, we are continuing to accept applications on a rolling basis.

Submit your application via the linked online form.

If you have any questions, contact advocacy@autismspeaks.org.

 

Need Help?
Autism Response Team Chat
There are no available agents at the moment. You can also reach the Autism Response Team by phone or email: 888-288-4762, en Espanol 888-772-7050, or familyservices@autismspeaks.org.