It’s here! Report from Advocacy Capacity Tool Users

I’ve never camped out for a new record release, or a new iPhone, or, well, anything.

I’m not really much for sleeping under the stars.

But I have been eagerly awaiting the release of some aggregate data about the organizations that have taken the Bolder Advocacy (Alliance for Justice) Advocacy Capacity tool, especially since these data were one of the major impetuses for moving the ACT to a free format. It’s sort of a trade, really; in exchange for access to the assessment at no charge, organizations agree to let AFJ learn from their responses (anonymously).

Since organizations can then compare themselves to other organizations within their sectors, or of their same sizes, I think examining these results can spark some critical conversations within nonprofit Board rooms.

But I’m even more interested in what looking at these findings can do for grantmakers, capacity builders, and others interested in catalyzing advocacy fields. And that’s how AFJ has framed this first analysis of the initial Advocacy Capacity Tool users: what do organizations need, to move forward?

The Executive Summary is only five pages long and well worth your time, but in the interest of even speedier access, here are the most important pieces, from where I sit (as one training future professionals and providing technical assistance today):

  • Yes, organizations want more advocacy funding, but better planning is perceived as even more important, to advance their advocacy. I do quite a bit of campaign planning with advocating organizations, and I definitely see this need, too. To me, it also relates to their adaptive capacity, because it’s hard to quickly pivot your strategies–and, so, to develop better plans–without having engaged in an intentional reflective process from the beginning.
  • The areas that nonprofit organizations most want to improve, in their advocacy, did not necessarily correspond to their weakest areas. AFJ theorizes that this is because organizations are prioritizing the areas that are most important to their advocacy, but I think it could also reflect that adage that it takes capacity to build capacity, so maybe some of the other elements are places where organizations feel overwhelmed, or, possibly, that organizations feel that they have complementary relationships with other sectors/providers that fill these needs, which, for thinking about field capacity, would be a very promising thing.
  • Legislative advocacy is the best developed, an unsurprising finding that, nonetheless, deserves some of our attention, particularly as elected officials around the country evidence considerable resistance to social work policy priorities, emphasizing the importance of using the entire spectrum of tools with which to induce change. At the same time, a large number of organizations indicating that they are not taking the 501(h) election suggests that there may be room to enhance this legislative advocacy, too.

There is so much about which to be excited here–the availability of a strong tool, for free; organizations’ willingness to share their data, including intimate data about governance and funding; AFJ’s commitment to making this information available in a transparent way.

I look forward to future cohorts’ findings and to the ongoing conversation about what we’re learning.

I’m not pulling out the lawn chairs to camp out on the sidewalk yet, but I’m eager.

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