Every member of a nonprofit’s team has an important role in advocacy, even if it’s not included in their assigned responsibilities. If you work or volunteer for a nonprofit, then you are most likely passionate about its cause and in a prime position to advocate on its behalf. Whether you’re a regular at legislative hearings, or you just want to tell your friends why your nonprofit’s services are so valuable, having the right tools will help you deliver your message successfully.
Five key skills for excellence in advocacy:
Show your passion – How often have you been in a situation where someone is trying to pitch you on a product or idea and it’s obvious they don’t really believe in it themselves? The first thing you do is question their real motive. Next, you tune them out. As an advocate for your organization’s mission you’ll be effective when you let your passion for the cause shine through. This is one time when it’s great to wear your heart on your sleeve!
Know your subject – You need to make a case for your issue or cause, and you need to be able to respond to questions and objections. Know everything about what your nonprofit does, who it serves, how it makes an impact, so you can speak with authority. Not only will you be more effective, you’ll position yourself as an expert that your audience can rely on for the future.
Practice diplomacy – This one can sometimes be the hardest. When you are trying to win someone over, avoid getting angry and steer away from insults. As an advocate you want to build support for your cause. Skilled advocates understand the difference between stating a case and starting an argument. You’ll make more progress by practicing the art of patience and showing respect for differing opinions.
Be persistent – If diplomacy is the art of patience, persistence is the art of stamina. It doesn’t always come naturally – most of us are uncomfortable with confrontation. As an effective advocate, you’ll want to demonstrate an ability to overcome obstacles, avoid showing frustration, don’t be discouraged when success does not come easily and don’t give up.
Communicate well – Advocates often need to make their case around complex issues that may stir up strong reactions. Perhaps the most critical skill for excellence in advocacy is to be an effective communicator. Here is where practice is most important. If you need to speak in public, try stating your case in front of a friendly audience first and ask for constructive feedback. With written communications, get started early, organize your thoughts and make sure a fresh set of eyes reads what you’ve written before it goes out. Typos are not an advocate’s friend!
These key skills are ones we can all develop with a bit of practice. The more tools in your toolbox and the more you use them, the better you’ll be at doing a great job. Keep at it and you can help change the world!