You Need to Move Advocacy Up on Your Agenda

community development ensuring sustainable resources impact Jan 30, 2024
You Need to Move Advocacy Up on Your Agenda


One of the four primary functions of a not-for-profit board is ensuring sustainable and sustaining resources. Why? So you can accomplish your mission.


Then why is so little time spent on advocacy and influence – training, resources, support?


Most agencies either advocate or provide services. But you need to do both. And it starts at the top. Of course, in order to advocate, you need to know the relevant legal framework to maintain your charitable status, but this is too often an excuse not to advocate. Advocacy is not necessarily lobbying.


It starts with a plan. Do you have a plan?


A plan requires that you do the necessary research, have difficult conversations with reluctant board members and leaders, and ensure adequate support and training for effective advocacy work (as well as pressure to do something!).

Have you engaged with other agencies and boards? Who are your natural allies in the not-for-profit sector? Politicians, in particular, like coalitions; they are just easier to deal with. And failing a coalition, develop a network of groups and individuals.


And speaking of politicians, they are not all bad.

We know that politicians are motivated in three primary ways: satisfying constituents, gaining influence, and making good policy.

We know that they are also influenced by their personal values and beliefs and measures of ideology. And their belief about the outcome in those three ways -- satisfying constituents, gaining influence, and making good policy.


Now your threat to not vote for them may be laughable if you never did in the first place, and you may not be a constituent, and your idea of good policy may not be theirs. Nevertheless, understanding these three elements is critical to your research.

You may need to hire specialists in advocacy, government relations and policy work. This might include lobbyists who can “open doors”. But beware those who open doors available to you if you would only knock. The barriers of access to politicians are fewer than you might think.

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Be prepared to work with all political parties, both sides of the aisle. A major job for you as Chair? You have to get the excuses off the table.


The most common are:

"It’s not my job." Then whose is it? Your best advocates are community members, not staff who can be perceived to be self-interested.

"I am not competent." Then, include adequate and ongoing training in your plan. Remember, talk is not influence. Talk is talk.


What are your metrics for success? Even just numbers for initial contacts and follow-up can be a start. Advocacy takes time. As we often say, advocacy is a deliberate, planned, sustained effort to develop understanding and support incrementally over time.

There is no silver bullet, no quick fix.

The bottom line: The relationship is the message... develop connections with opinion leaders and decision-makers.


And remember to get our free e-book: Advocacy: Lessons Learned and Next Steps.

This 26-page e-book by Ken Haycock explores the lessons learned in his decades of experience and research into advocacy for not-for-profit boards. Learn how to ensure sustainable (and sustaining!) resources and support from key decision-makers in your community.


What are your main “pain points” dealing with advocacy as a priority?

What advice would be most helpful to you?
And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!

Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.




It Starts with a Plan

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P.S. May I ask a tiny favour? Would you mind sharing this blog with one person? I would love it. You can post the links in your Facebook Groups, LinkedIn or even send an email.

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