I spend quite a bit of time, professionally, these days helping advocates and would-be advocates figure out how to integrate advocacy into their direct-service organizations.
We’re carving out precious time and resources, and it requires making the case that advocacy not only advances organizations’ missions but also complements other agency priorities.
From Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, I have a new tool to add to my repertoire.
This question (modified for an advocacy context):
“What’s keeping your executive director/Board Chair up at night that advocacy can provide a solution to?”
Maybe it’s how the organization can break into a new geography, or diversify its funding, or build stronger alliances.
Maybe it’s how clients can find access to services when their insurance coverage runs out, or when public transportation disinvestment strands them, or when a pervasive anti-immigrant climate scares them away.
Maybe it’s how to keep staff motivated, when they are frustrated from solving the same problems over and over again. Maybe it’s how to institutionalize some of the best practices the agency’s work has uncovered.
The thing is, most nonprofit leaders aren’t really averse to the idea of advocacy. For the most part, we’re all in this work because we care about people, we want to solve problems, and we believe–with good reasons–that great nonprofit organizations can be part of the solution.
What they may recoil from is the risk–the idea of taking on something else, when it seems that we can’t possibly add one more to-do, the fear that standing up may cause allies to slip away, and the accurate assessment that advocacy can be time-consuming and draining (if, also, tremendously inspiring and invigorating!).
And, so, we have to advocate within our organizations for support to advocate beyond our walls.
What better way to do that then to present advocacy as something with the potential to address the very concerns that plague your boss at night?
What do you think? What are your organizational leaders’ greatest concerns today? How could advocacy play a role in addressing them? What kinds of issues, strategies, or approaches would you need to take on first, to increase the alignment between your advocacy agenda and your boss’ greatest dilemmas? How would you broach this in the Board room?