The following post on the importance of nonprofit advocacy originally appeared in The Journal Record and was written by Marnie Taylor, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, a replication partner of the Standards for Excellence Institute.
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This week, the Oklahoma Legislature convened in the Capitol to consider policy and an unprecedented budget failure that will affect every citizen in our state. Last month, I spoke with a number of nonprofit leaders in Oklahoma and reminded them that as nonprofits, it is our duty to inform, educate, enlighten and empower through our missions. Whether we provide social services, education, arts and culture or other services, nonprofits can and must advocate for their missions.
While so much nonprofit advocacy and public education happens at the grass-roots level, I also encourage nonprofits to start with their boards to stand for their missions.
While boardrooms are traditionally filled with conversation about fiduciary oversight and fundraising, nonprofit advocacy must be a central part of that conversation.
Nonprofits should start by initiating a conversation with their board to help members understand the real impact of their missions. Through a depth of knowledge, nonprofit boards can set a vision that is aspirational and can attain a wide variety of community changes. Board members who understand the work of a nonprofit make better advocates and champions for their organizations. They can envision a world changed by missions and assess and develop better strategies to implement programs.
I encourage nonprofits to regularly educate board members about big-picture issues that affect constituents. On boards, learning about the greater realities and problems helped me make better decisions that were strategic and in the best interests of those we served.
I would also encourage nonprofits to make advocacy and public education a core function of a board and part of the culture and values of that organization. Draw board members together with common beliefs and values and then turn those into action. Engage the board at every meeting, encourage board members to utilize their own spheres of influence in advocacy.
Now, more than ever, organizations should work hard to engage all board members, staff, volunteers and consumers in the advocacy process. Decisions at the Capitol will have effects on our sector – regardless of an organization’s funding streams. Great nonprofits make advocacy and public education a priority, and there is no time like the present to ensure your board has a strong voice in the advocacy process.
The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits has been a Standards for Excellence Replication Partner since 2006. Replication Partners are licensed to offer Standards for Excellence program materials, educational resources, training curricula, and public education information to nonprofit organizations in a specific location or group of affiliates. Visit www.oklahomacenterfornonprofits.org or www.standardsforexcellence.org/replication-partners/ to learn more.