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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

Director at Ploughshare
Ploughshare's Director has worked in community development, local government and corporate management for over thirty years both in New Zealand and throughout the developing world. He brings a wealth of expertise in fundraising, governance, strategic planning, change management, leadership development and coaching, advocacy and public communication.
Steve Tollestrup

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