The 5 Building Blocks of Successful Advocacy
Sure, you have supporters and you may even be getting positive results, but are you missing out on opportunities to grow and leverage your people power through effective advocacy?
Advocacy can be an essential piece of a nonprofit organization's ability to meet its mission. It's about embracing and promoting a particular point of view. And while it may seem like some of the most successful nonprofits excel at championing a single issue or cause, in reality, the long-term work of building change is made up of a series of smaller gains (and losses) done behind the scenes over a long period of time. You’ve probably heard the saying—change doesn’t happen overnight. It involves a cycle of advocacy, policy efforts and building support from the inside out.
Ask yourself—is your organization prepared to make such a commitment? Here are five elements you’ll need to shape a successful advocacy strategy:
1. Commit to the long term. Timeframes of five, 10 or even 20 years are common among groups engaged in advocacy at the federal, state and local levels. To be successful, you must identify a specific long-term outcome and then work backwards to develop your nonprofit's strategy. Create specific tactics, moments of high-profile visibility and resources based on what it will take to achieve your goal. Be proactive—gather necessary intel, brainstorm new ideas and propose policy solutions in addition to identifying any political shortcomings. The approach cannot be rushed. Keep on course and you will gain steady momentum over time.
2. Prioritize growth. Advocates who are successful over time know the difference between general campaign activities and momentum-building activities. General campaigning is about maintaining your base, while momentum-building focuses on the growth and energy behind your movement. Both are essential, but it is often easier to get lost in the work of maintaining existing relationships rather than building new ones. Remember that you must grow your base in order to maintain your relevance.
Reach out through parallel causes to new supporters who are likely to get your cause and easily convert to support it. Also build key alliances with potential allies—community members, leaders and organizations that complement your work and ideally have strong ties to your targeted public officials. Prioritizing your momentum-building activities will ensure that your organization's relationships and reputation will increase over time, and when the opportunity presents itself, you and your army will be ready to act.