Monday, August 18, 2008

Advocacy at a Glance

From Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits
The Center Line - Summer 2008

In his work on funding of nonprofit advocacy, Lester Salamon wrote, "of all the functions of the nonprofit sector, few are more critical than that of advocacy, of representing alternative perspectives and pressing them on public and private decision makers" (Reid 2000, 68). Nonprofit advocacy takes many forms. Community advocacy involves changing the ideas and attitudes of the public. This is typically accomplished through education programs that may include direct mail, publications, group presentations, and a Web site. Many nonprofits make effective use of the media to reach the public and promote an issue using newspaper coverage, TV, radio, feature articles, editorials, letters to the editor, news releases, and press conferences.

Some nonprofits find legal advocacy (using lawsuits in the courts to protect or create rights, improve services, or raise public consciousness about an issue) an effective method of accomplishing needed reforms. The advantage of legal advocacy is that courts are open and complainants (those who make a complaint in a legal action) must be heard if the complaint is presented in the proper terms.

Nonprofits pursue legislative advocacy when the target for change is a federal, state or local law, school board policy, or budget allocation. Nonprofit advocacy to influence legislation may involve legislative monitoring, committee testifying, lobbying, writing position papers, organizing networks and coalitions, and a variety of other activities.

Reduced to its most basic level, effective nonprofit advocacy is about communication and relationships. Usually changes come about slowly, and advocates need to exercise persuasiveness, persistence and patience in representing an issue. Effective advocates are flexible and resourceful, willing to compromise, negotiate, collaborate, and prioritize to accomplish their goals.

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