The more we know…

I wrote pretty recently about the benefits of doing advocacy evaluation, for advocates. Instead of viewing evaluation as a chore to be suffered through–for the sake of funders or others trying to hold nonprofits ‘accountable’–we should view it, correctly, as an opportunity to learn more, hopefully in real-time, about whether what we’re doing is working, how we could get better results, and where to focus our limited resources.

I believe that.

It’s why my eyes light up when I help a nonprofit safety-net dental clinic, working to bring affordable, quality health care to rural Kansas, understand how conducting a policymaker rating as part of their advocacy evaluation can help them figure out where their potential allies are and compare how different messages are moving their targeted elected officials.

But something from Measuring the Networked Nonprofit got me thinking even a little bit differently about how to use advocacy evaluation for our own, internal purposes.

Because measurement can make the case for advocacy work within our organizations, to get the power, resources, and attention we need. And deserve.

If advocacy evaluation can show that our campaigns, and our presence in the public dialogue, raise awareness about the organization, Board members who worry about the ‘negative publicity’ from advocacy might reconsider.

If advocacy evaluation can demonstrate that clients who engage in advocacy have stronger attachment to the organization overall, direct-service practitioners may prioritize advocacy work more as part of their own work days.

If advocacy evaluation makes the case that advocacy contributes to (we don’t have to prove attribution here) stronger partnerships with agency allies, then there might be money for advocacy functions as part of other departmental budgets.

I still believe in advocacy evaluation primarily in terms of the pursuit of knowledge.

There is so much we need to learn, and know, in order to work better. And win more.

But if we can also identify evaluation questions, and construct methods, that position us to advocate more effectively within our organizations…then advocacy evaluation just got even more valuable.

The more we know.

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