Giving Compass' Take:

• Will von Geldern shares critical lessons in nonprofit advocacy work that are sustainable and help organizations reach desirable outcomes.  

• How can donors best support nonprofits that do advocacy work? Are you ready to engage in supporting nonprofit advocacy? 

• Here's why strategic philanthropy needs advocacy.

In recent years, philanthropists and community-based organizations alike have increasingly explored policy advocacy as a way to protect and promote the wellbeing of individuals that they serve. In today’s contentious political environment, mission-oriented organizations have realized that their work can be viewed as political because of its very nature. In my work leading a new grassroots advocacy program at Ventures, a Seattle-based microenterprise nonprofit, we have navigated this new reality.

In the process, we have learned five lessons that can help other nonprofits design sustainable, effective advocacy programs and achieve positive outcomes for their clients.

  1. Be Strategic: We wanted to dive headfirst into advocacy following the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, we moved gradually instead.
  2. Leverage Existing Assets: Creating an effective advocacy program from scratch is a daunting task. With limited funding and staff capacity, we have had to leverage the knowledge, capacity, and relationships we already had to implement a lean but effective process.
  3. Be Deliberate, but Not Slow: Ventures spent a full year developing a sustainable program structure, including our Raise Your Voice program for clients and a policy agenda outlining our advocacy priorities. A year may seem like a long time to spend on program development, but it was necessary for us to complete a thoughtful, comprehensive stakeholder engagement process.
  4. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: Are nonprofits allowed to lobby? If so, how often? What metrics can we use to measure our impact? These big questions often slow the discussion down, but they don’t have to.
  5. Practice Intellectual Humility: Regardless of whether you are familiar with the term, this is one you’ve heard before: Success requires asking tough questions of ourselves and letting the best ideas rise to the top, regardless of whose ideas they are.

Read the full article about five lessons for nonprofit advocacy by Will von Geldern at Stanford Social Innovation Review.