Advocacy is not an extra add on, an afterthought or an addendum for an NGO. It is core business to advocate on behalf of the cause and people you are standing with and in support of. It stands at the very heart of an NGO or charitable organisation. Whether that cause is social justice, environment, medical, arts, international, enterprise, education or sport, advocacy is at the sharp end of a charitable mission and never a second-tier afterthought. It is critical to remember that as internationally funding gets increasingly tied to a strict rule of non-advocacy to remain compliant for grants.
Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we are fortunate to have an enlightened government that recognises though even here care does need to be observed that the right to advocate and challenge the status quo is never traded away. https://www.charities.govt.nz/ready-to-register/need-to-know-to-register/charitable-purpose/advocacy-for-causes/.
Good advocacy gets attention and gets things done. It is important to remember your advocacy has currency and value that can sometimes get changes money and funding can’t always buy.
Advocacy is critical for three key reasons.
- Charities and NGO’s are change agents on behalf of beneficiaries and causes. We want to advance change, circumstances and public recognition for what we stand for. That requires advocacy and often political engagement and lobbying. Change comes about for many reasons and our charitable purpose is not ultimately about money but outcomes. That requires advocacy.
- Our supporters and beneficiaries expect and respect that we advocate and that we are informed and represent them well. They identify and promote the causes that get cut through and succeed in gaining advantage and positive change for them and the critical issues they care about.
- Aligning advocate interests with fundraising opportunities. Given the definition of advocacy, it’s odd that it isn’t more regularly paired with fundraising. Strong advocates become committed donors and supporters. They spread your message and connect you to others who are willing to support what you are advocating for. The two are so closely connected and, yet, rarely spoken about in conjunction with one another. Re-engage your donors through advocacy opportunities and find new donor prospects in your advocate pool.
Lose advocacy and you lose something of your organisational soul. Keep your advocacy passion active and never underestimate the influence you have when you use your voice, feet or keyboard wisely and justly.