Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Board Priorities: Advocacy

(Part 2 of 3)

The second sector priority identified by delegates to the first Nonprofit Congress is “advocacy and grassroots community activities,” defined as “advocat(ing) for the sector at large and engag(ing) our constituents to solve problems at the grassroots level” (source: Nonprofit Congress).

Advocacy may not pop immediately into the typical board member’s mind when asked about the responsibilities that come with the job. But I believe it is one of the areas where they can not only contribute but make a significant impact for the organization.

If we’ve done our recruitment job right, our board member peers are connected community leaders who understand and support that mission in deep ways. Besides the staff, who is better equipped to make your case with policymakers, opinion leaders?

National Congress delegates generated a list of implications for the sector if it met its advocacy goals. As I review that list again today and apply it to the organization, I see several items where board contributions in this area can truly make a difference. Among those impacts:

• Having a larger impact and a force of change on public policy
• Having a presence at the table when decisions are being made
• Adopting different ways of thinking
• Improving organizational visibility
• Increasing visibility for social change

Has your board acknowledged its advocacy role? Has it seriously discussed the specific ways in which it can fulfill those responsibilities and envisioned how that work will advance your organization’s mission? Does it understand the places where members can impact policy and effect social change?

Next time, I’ll discuss the third sector priority and consider how individual nonprofit boards can address it in their organizations.

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