Tuesday, May 18, 2010

An Easier Route for Nonprofit Advocacy

There is a great deal of teeth gnashing among the nonprofit community in Wisconsin about the need for advocacy. The subject returned to the surface this week at the Wisconsin Nonprofits Association 2010 Summit. Discussion ensued about finding nonprofit groups of influence who could bring the message to the legislative table with the clout that would get decision-makers to listen. Ideas floated about how nonprofit organizations might band together in raising a common voice. Proclamations were made that a march on the capital would engage nonprofit leaders and advance the cause. All great things. Yet, all things requiring time, strategic focus and resources --- three of things I continue to hear from executive directors are lost in the pressing demands of delivering programs and keeping day-to-day operations moving forward.

So, my suggestion is to make it a bit easier. Consider if each nonprofit identified a policy-related change that would advance their mission and enhance their impact. This selection could take its direction from others (e.g., the Wisconsin Nonprofits Association is ratifying policy positions at the close of the 2010 Summit). Then, they create the storyline of why that change is needed, how it might advance the nonprofit's intended impact, when it affects the theory of change and who is needed to make it happen. That story becomes central to its communication with stakeholders -- staff, Board members, volunteers, individuals served, donors, etc. There becomes a call to action that aligns with the nonprofit's activities and the decision-makers timeline.

A nonprofit builds longevity through the people connected to its cause. Rather than focusing energy on a large-scale collaborative endeavor toward change. Start in the backyard with the people you know to care about your cause, then go see the neighbors and find out what it might take to play well together.
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