Friday, November 30, 2012

5 Ways Nonprofit Advocacy Can Succeed

All eyes right now are on the so-called fiscal cliff and while most of the arguments echoing in the congressional halls are about whether there should tax hikes on the wealthiest 2 percent, there are some issues that will directly impact the nonprofit sector. For example, there are still talks about capping the charitable deduction to generate revenue for the government, to which most in the sector are adamantly opposed.

This is where effective advocacy can come into play.

While nonprofits are forbidden to directly influence lawmakers, they can use their supporters to rally for causes like the charitable deduction. In the book "Five Good Ideas," Sean Moore wrote about how organizations should scrap the focus on the nuts and bolts of advocacy in favor of a reliance on concepts, approaches, and mindsets that can help them become a constructive player in public policy.

Moore laid out five ways to avoid the common pitfalls organizations face while lobbying:
  • Understand how the government thinks. Key to successful persuasion is understanding those who you are trying to convince: Their values, objectives, needs, and way of looking at the world.
  • Undertake do-it-yourself public policy. One of the most important things you can do is provide public officials with material they can use in a format with which they are familiar.
  • Build political capital. Whether its leadership realizes it or not, every organization has political capital. This includes the reputation and accomplishments of your nonprofit and its leaders.
  • Be strategically opportunistic. Aim for a balance between being reliable and avoiding being taken for granted. Be prepared to be active, but wait for the opportunity where you can have the greatest influence.
  • Find your champions. Having a champion is a litmus test for your work: If you can’t get someone to play this role, that may be an early warning about the practicality of what you are asking.

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