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Advocacy is not an extra add on.

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.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Steve Tollestrup
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