Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Making the world safe for grassroots advocacy

Just saw an interesting article / report on the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest website discussing the concept of Nonprofit America as a force for democracy. The report outlines work done recently by Johns Hopkins University on the state of lobbying and advocacy in the non-profit community. Here are a few key findings:

  • 73 percent of the groups surveyed reported engaging in some type of policy advocayc or lobbying during the year
  • Well over half engage in some advocacy activity every month or more, although a very limited amount of resources are devoted to those efforts.
  • Most organizations reported that those they serve (clients, members or patrons) are rarely involved in the advocacy efforts of the organization. Most of the work is done by the executive director.
  • Most advocacy is directed toward state or local policy makers as opposed to federal.
  • People get involved for three reasons: relevance of legislation to the organization itself, relevance of the legislation to the people it serves and interest of the executive director.
  • Advocacy involvement is on the rise in the non-profit world, although the funds to undertake advocacy are still very limited.

What all this tells me is that while lobbying and advocacy are certainly an important part of non-profit life, there is SO MUCH MORE that could be done to encourage wider involvement. If one communication from an Executive Director of a group could be considered somewhat powerful, imagine the impact an organization could have with a properly mobilized grassroots army!

The good news is that most of this mobilization can be done with a limited budget using new social media tools. At a minimum, organizations wanting to enhance their advocacy efforts should set up a Facebook group and gather more supporters there. Blogs, Twitter and podcasts are other useful ways to get the word out.

I'll be doing more webinars in the future on these topics -- so stay tuned!

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