We encourage you to take a look at this message on advocacy from Foraker Vice President Mike Walsh. It appeared in our last newsletter.
A recent article from David Thompson, Vice President for Public Policy at the National Council of Nonprofits, asked an important question: “Who has time for advocacy?” His answer was clear – nonprofits in Alaska don’t have the time NOT TO ENGAGE in public policy advocacy. Most of us in the nonprofit sector have heard about the link between active advocacy and meeting mission, and I have a simple formula: More Advocacy = More Mission. At The Foraker Group we have been changing the way we think, talk, and act about nonprofit advocacy. We are working to be better advocates for our mission to strengthen nonprofits, and helping nonprofit leaders enhance their ability to be more involved in public policy advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels.
As I write this article, I recall the recent terrific Thanksgiving dinner with my family. At the table there was lively conversation, hearty laughter, and awesome food – being at the table was wonderful. I then remembered the advocacy phrase: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the table,” referring to the important role of advocacy in helping organizations achieve their missions. More Advocacy = More Mission. Nonprofit boards and staff need to be at the policy table, taking part in the conversations which profoundly affect their ability to be sustainable and to meet mission. If we’re not at that public policy table, we don’t get to participate in lively conversations about our impact on healthy people, strong communities, and a robust economy. If we’re not at the table, are we under the table looking for scraps, in a public policy sense? Insufficient operating support, anemic capital dollars, an unwelcome regulatory environment, and even worse unfriendly tax codes? An October BoardSource article said: “When board members are at the table, you can ensure that your priorities are heard, that your communities are represented, that good ideas are funded, and that failing policies are questioned.“
Foraker is building a stronger culture of advocacy internally and across the sector. Each year as part of an advocacy plan, our Governance Board’s public policy committee, with participation of the Operations Board, develops a public policy agenda that targets changes they would like to see – or in some cases not like to see – in local, state, and federal policy. We are re-envisioning our lobbying and advocacy class, based on the idea of building an internal culture of advocacy, in which a committed board 1) understands the important role of advocacy in meeting mission, 2) knows the law, and 3) has developed an advocacy plan. This year Foraker anticipates a great public policy conversation with the new state administration to build a more positive and nonprofit-friendly policy environment. We are also encouraging boards to think about developing their own culture of advocacy – and we can help! Keep an eye on our class schedule on the Foraker website to see when advocacy classes are offered, and if you have any questions about how to move forward with building your own culture of advocacy, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.