The other day I was asked by a colleague whether I thought all the sweeping federal and state level policy changes were prompting more nonprofits to engage in advocacy.
It’s an interesting question and one I’ve been asked many times in the past few months. And it makes sense. We want to believe that in times of adversity nonprofits will rise because we must.
The truth is for a lot of nonprofits these changes represent overwhelm on top of overwhelm. Rather than being a motivator, it has simply heightened the anxiety that many nonprofits experience when it comes to advocacy and engaging in policy reform.
Think about how you operate in your own life. You’re struggling to keep up with day to day demands, and then something unexpected happens and more is heaped on your plate. Depending upon a myriad of variables, including your available support/resources, and your coping skills you’re able to rally in the moment or you adopt a common adaptive technique like avoidance and maybe eventually disconnect.
The same holds true for nonprofits who have a desire to engage in Advocacy but simply don’t know where to start or maybe even how their organization fits into the larger landscape of influencing government policies.
In addition to that layer of confusion and overwhelm, the word “Advocacy” itself is one that has been so misappropriated to the point that I had someone say to me the other day, “You’re like the person who tries to get nonprofits to take their medicine.” I bristle at that analogy because it keeps us stuck in iertia.
During my 15 years as a Nonprofit Advocate Advocacy Equaled Power. Pure and Simple. And it starts with a commitment. And yet like all commitments it can feel overwhelming to take that first step unless you feel you have the supports in place and know where you’re headed.
The other reason I bristled with the “Advocacy as medicine” analogy is that we are only ever engaging in a reactive mode, if we get “sick”, i.e. something happens on the policy front that shakes our world and the world of those we serve. But this stance leaves us in a chronically weakened state, unable to respond effectively.
When we talk about Advocacy pejoratively (“its illegal, dangerous, difficult”) we diminish our capacity as leaders who voices need to be heard. And we distance ourselves from the Arena in which we need to be heard.
I want to invite you to shift your thinking on Advocacy.
Advocacy is power. Advocacy is Leadership. Advocacy is a responsibility. Pure and simple. It’s leveraging your available assets (which includes your knowledge) to make a bigger difference. And it doesn’t have to be difficult.
And that’s what I want us to change. Together. Because it’s a big lift.
Can you start by committing to shifting your mindset, or sharing this with others to help shift their mindset?
Because it’s our mindsets around advocacy that do the most harm and kill our momentum to move forward in making a bigger difference.
I created this video in the hopes it would contribute to your mindset shift. I was inspired by The Good Witch Glinda’s sage advice to Dorothy, “You had the power all along, my Dear.”
So I invite you to take your red shoes out of the closest, dust them off and try them on. You have the power.
P.S. Speaking of mindsets, I’m launching an online course to help nonprofits who want to move from inertia to momentum around advocacy. I would love your feedback as to what would be most helpful to you in a course like this. Please leave a comment on this post, or below the video, or on our Facebook page.