Dictionary.com tells us that to advocate is to “speak or write in favor of; recommend publicly; support or urge by argument.” Sometimes, it can be all too easy to get caught up in that argument approach—especially in today’s political climate. To be a truly effective advocate, you’ll find winning support for your cause is far more successful than winning arguments.

As the old saying goes: When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Here are three ways to approach your advocacy challenges from a different angle:

1. Do something nice, and don’t expect anything in return. Some of the most effective advocacy initiatives begin not with the statement “we need your help”, but with the question “how can we help you?”

Plan to visit with the elected officials and other influencers most important to your organization. Start the conversation by telling them you’re not there to ask for money or anything else. You want to know how you can be a resource for them. Ask what challenges they are facing in providing constituent services, or what information they’d like to share with the people you serve. Offer to be a point of contact for their constituents.

Invite them to your organization to meet your staff and talk about what they are working on. People in those positions are constantly bombarded by those who want something from them. Find a way to be of help (in a way that is consistent with your mission and values) without asking for a quid pro quo, and you will have made a friend forever!

2. Get a bigger boat. The more voices there are to carry your message, the further it will go.

Think about who you’ve invited to spread the word about your issue. Look beyond your most natural allies (such as your staff, volunteers, and those you serve).

The most effective spokespeople are often those who don’t benefit directly from your success. Human service providers can advocate for the arts. Artists can advocate for public safety. Educators can speak about the importance of public transportation, etc. Your message can carry added weight when delivered by an unlikely messenger.

Reach out to organizations and audiences that are less obvious choices and invite their participation. Offer to help them in return. You may end up finding new allies and a newly amplified message.

3. Tell me why I should care. When you believe strongly in a cause or an issue, it’s easy to assume that everyone else understands why it’s important.

It’s a mistake to think that the person or audience you are trying to influence cares about the same things you do. Always take the time to know your audience and be prepared to explain your issue in the context of why it should matter to them. How many of their constituents will be impacted?

If it’s something with a very narrow focus, be able to demonstrate how it fits into a bigger picture or connects to another issue they can relate to. Above all, avoid creating the impression they should only care because you do. Don’t just tug at their heart strings—stand in their shoes.

Do you have a story to share about how you approached an advocacy challenge from a different perspective? We’d love to hear it. Email our Advocacy Network Program Director, Betty Dean, at bettyd@www.nonprofitadvancement.org.

 

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Nonprofits are rediscovering the power of the vote.

So many issues, so little time! Between the screaming headlines, the social media blitzes and the mountains of position papers, developing an effective advocacy strategy for your nonprofit—much less finding the time to implement it, can seem like an impossible task.

At the federal level alone, current issues surrounding charitable giving, unrelated business income (UBIT), the 2020 Census, the Johnson Amendment and more are all important and worthy of attention. Add state and local issues to the list and it grows exponentially. With so many issues competing for our time and attention, how can nonprofits maximize our impact and effectiveness in the public policy arena? One place to start is by fully leveraging the most powerful advocacy tool we have – the vote.

Nonprofits today employ approximately 13.5 million people and rely on the services of more than 61 million volunteers. Perhaps most importantly, nonprofits provide services to millions of people who tend to be under-represented in the ranks of American voters. Many nonprofits are waking up to the notion that together these groups can be an incredibly powerful influence on public policy, and they are creating initiatives to leverage that fact.

While as nonprofits we are required to be nonpartisan (at least for now – read more about efforts to eliminate nonprofit nonpartisanship) – we must not be nonparticipants. Here are some things we can do:

  1. Start in-house – you have a ready-made voting bloc in your employees.
    • Are they all registered to vote and have you made sure they know the deadline to register before the next election?*
    • Do they know where their polling place is and how to vote early and/or absentee?
    • Does your organization have a policy of giving time off to vote?Take advantage of already existing internal communications channels to share information and encourage every employee to vote. Make sure they are aware of the issues of importance to your organization. You can’t and shouldn’t tell them how to vote, but you can help them be informed voters and make sure they get to the polls. Don’t forget your board members! They are key influencers – encourage them to share their own insights about the importance of voting.
  1. Engage your volunteers – volunteers are passionate about your organization’s mission. Make sure they know that their vote, and their efforts to encourage others to vote, is another important way they can help.
  1. Reach out to clients and the community – many nonprofits serve a client base that may include a large proportion of people eligible to vote but who do not. Consider hosting a voter registration event and asking those who are already registered to sign a “Pledge to Vote”. Help them understand that their vote can be the most effective tool they have to advance their own interests.
  1. Make sure your representatives know what you are doing – let them know you are encouraging their constituents to be informed, engaged voters.

For more information and tools to start a voter engagement initiative in your organization, check out NonprofitVote.org – and get started now to leverage your most powerful advocacy tool!

*Deadlines for in-person Voter Registration for the November 6, 2018 Elections are:

Maryland: Tuesday, Oct. 16
Virginia: Monday, Oct. 15
District of Columbia: Same day registration available

More info at: https://www.voterparticipation.org/2018-election-dates/

 

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Miriam’s Kitchen shares how they integrated diversity and inclusion into hiring practices and key lessons they learned along the way.

Committed to ending chronic homelessness in Washington, DC and interrupting the unjust systems that disproportionately funnel people of color into homelessness, Miriam’s Kitchen has prioritized efforts to increase diversity and inclusion across the organization to better reflect the diversity of their guests (80% people of color; 51% African-American).

So far this year, they’ve had six job opportunities where they turned intention into practice. Mei Powers explains how they successfully filled those positions with six highly-qualified individuals—four of whom happen to be people of color—and shares helpful tips and resources.

Submitted by Mei Powers, Chief Development Officer, Miriam’s Kitchen

I recently sat with our Director of Operations, Jessica Walker, to compile a few lessons that we learned [in integrating diversity and inclusion into our hiring approach]. Each hiring process was unique as departments tried new things to attract skilled, diverse candidates.

  1. What you include (or don’t) in the job posting matters.

    For many job postings, including a bachelor’s degree is an automatic requirement. There are certain positions (like a licensed social worker) where a degree or certification is required. But for others, like our two jobs in fundraising, we intentionally took out the requirement of a bachelor’s degree. Instead we emphasized prior experience in fundraising, volunteer coordination, or events management. I have seen highly-skilled candidates with professional experience get screened out of jobs because they did not have a bachelor’s degree. Today, they are senior executives in the corporate and non-profit world.

    Moving forward, we have also decided to consistently include salary ranges. As someone who works in fundraising, it is just good practice to be transparent about numbers. Also, when you don’t post salary ranges you potentially discriminate against women and people of color. Check out Vu’s post from Nonprofit AF: “When you don’t disclose salary range on a job posting, a unicorn loses its wings.”

  1. Think broadly about diversity and reach beyond your existing networks.

    Diversity speaks to the whole person and encompasses a broad range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives including but not limited to race, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic status, age, family situation, physical abilities and disabilities, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and housing status. With that in mind, we posted beyond the usual networks in places such as Street Sense and tapped into personal affiliations (such as Howard University alumni on staff reaching out to Howard MSW grads).

    We also enabled people to apply in person in case they had limited access to electronic communications. However, we were surprised by some of the fees to post jobs in professional associations of color. To continue to improve our process, we are creating a list of job posting platforms and the associated fees so that we can factor that into our budgets and plans.

  1. Addressing diversity and inclusion takes time and is worth the investment.

    Our Director of Operations redacted cover letters and resumes—removing personal name, location, professional associations, and name of institutions—by hand. Two members of our Racial Equity Working Group reviewed and ranked the applications for key skills that we were looking for in the development positions—prior experience in fundraising, volunteer coordination, events management, and/or graphic design (yes, we were looking for a unicorn). It took more than 3 hours to look over 50 resumes. To save yourself some time, check out this list of “Top 10 Diversity Recruiting Tools for 2018,” which includes a tool to redact resumes that we are further researching.

  1. Ask candidates about how they have navigated issues of identity, power, and privilege.

    After concluding the interviews, we were proud to have asked structured questions focused on skills and our core values such as “guests are the center of everything we do.” However, we wished we had also interwoven questions specifically about racial equity. The Management Center has a great post about this: “3 Ways to Test Whether Your Potential Hire ‘Gets It.’” We plan to review and update the interview questions in our hiring managers’ guidebook based on the suggestions from The Management Center.

  1. Check your biases.

    To reduce our own biases, the development team asked candidates standardized, skills-focused questions and had candidates complete sample work-related tasks (such as writing a thank you letter and delivering a pitch to a donor). When it was time to decide who would get the job offer, the development team also sat with three members of our Racial Equity Working Group (which includes members of the development team) and discussed the skills and areas of concern for our top candidates.

    Together we asked ourselves thoughtful and prodding questions: “What do you mean it would be easier to hire Candidate A? What do you mean when you say Candidate B is more warm and personable?” From this exercise, we agreed that the ability to connect with supporters is critical to our job, and we need a better approach to assess likeability.

Do you have tips or lessons learned in increasing diversity and inclusion? Please share them with us. Forward to Ellen Pochekailo.

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Board members and staff from our 2018 award winning organizations celebrated with our selection committee, presenting sponsor and other nonprofit members at a special event on Thursday, July 26.

 

This is the ninth year Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton, LLP has opened their beautiful conference room space to the Center, with its amazing rooftop views providing a delightful backdrop for our annual Board Leadership Award event. We thank them for their hospitality.

 

After mixing and mingling over refreshments, honorable mentions, Compass and Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, and winners, Easterseals (left photo) and Global Impact (bottom photo), were recognized and presented with awards.

 

Thanks to our presenting sponsor Cohn Reznick and our entire selection committee, this year’s Board Leadership Award was another success, continuing a tradition of recognizing leaders in our region.

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Congratulations to the 2018 Board Leadership Award winners

  

… and to our Honorable Mentions: Compass and Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities

Members of these winning organizations will participate in two live webinars to share best practices revealed in this year’s competition.

Join the discussion!

Open to everyone, there’s no charge for the Board Leadership Award Webinars, but registration is required.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – Register

August 22 @ 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
This first webinar will focus on the importance of diversity and how it guides board development.

Developing an Engaged Board – Register

September 25 @ 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
The second webinar will focus on how to create the perfect pipeline: recruit, onboard, engage and evaluate board members.

You’re also welcome to participate on site. To attend in person (at the Center), please email Sean Sweeney.

Special thanks to our selection committeeASAE, BoardSource and our presenting sponsor:

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Regina Hopkins has been an invaluable, long standing resource to the Center, serving as a member of the board, volunteer faculty member, leader of the Board Boot Camps, AIM Award selection committee member and the Center’s personal guru to all nonprofit law questions. After a long, successful career, including the last 12 years with DC Bar, Regina has officially retired. She is headed to the Cape with the love of her life.

We will miss her expertise and leadership in this sector, but more importantly, her kindness, compassion and how responsive she is to everyone she meets. The Cape will be lucky to have her! We wish her a long and happy retirement.

 

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On June 4, members of the Center’s staff (Elisha Hardy, Lorraine Fowlkes, Aziza Rush, Sean Sweeney and Glen O’Gilvie) volunteered their time to help make The First Tee National School Program 4th Annual Champions Challenge a fun success.

The event hosted about 60 children from 11 schools in the District, including fourth, fifth and sixth graders. Volunteers helped set up, distribute t-shirts, hand out lunches and assist at different stations such as putting, chipping, pitching and full swing. The event was held at Langston Golf Course, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The morning started out cloudy but soon turned into a beautiful sunny day, making it a great time for kids and volunteers.

This event is one of many ways The First Tee of Greater Washington, DC introduces children to the sport of golf while also using the opportunity to share life lessons in their nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.

The Center supports its members with an all staff volunteer day 4 times a year.

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Congratulations to our winner

and two honorable mentions

It was a close competition this year and a real challenge for our selection committee. The competitors were narrowed down to three finalists, and ultimately, Miriam’s Kitchen took first place. They were thrilled to receive the news, as seen in this video clip:

The other two finalists came in a close second and received honorable mention. Congratulations to:

               

You’re invited to learn about best practices, processes and strategies from these winning nonprofits in our FREE AIM Award webinars covering two key topics:

Advocate for Your Nonprofit

July 13 @ 12:00 pm1:30 pm

Managing and Engaging Staff

August 15 @ 12:00 pm1:30 pm

It’s easy to attend—participate virtually from your own desk! You’re also welcome to join us at the Center for the events. If you’d like to come in person, please RSVP to Sean Sweeney.

We’d like to thank this year’s selection committee and our generous sponsor for helping us continue a tradition of recognizing nonprofits for outstanding achievement in management.

 

 

 

 

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Funds will add exciting new element to EPI program.

As part of its leadership and community service initiative, American Express supports development for emerging nonprofit and social purpose leaders. The funds granted to the Center will enhance our EPI program with invaluable follow-up coaching.

American Express supports hundreds of non-profit organizations each year through its foundation and corporate giving activities. For nearly a decade, they have dedicated significant resources to strengthening nonprofit and social purpose leadership by creating and funding programs for those working to solve the world’s biggest challenges.

The Center’s Executive Preparation Institute correlates directly with American Express’s initiative to develop new leaders for tomorrow, while also diversifying the current landscape of decision makers. It’s designed specifically for nonprofit professionals at the management and senior level. Participants learn from nonprofit, government and corporate experts about a range of relevant topics, including nonprofit finances, budgeting, fundraising, board governance, leadership tips and tools, evaluations and how to tell their nonprofit’s story.

The American Express grant will support six months of one-on-one coaching for Center members who complete the EPI program.

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Center members can now choose plans from Aetna and Kaiser Permanente.

The Center is proud to be the preferred provider of health benefits, serving thousands of our nonprofit employees and their dependents. Thirty-six years ago, our priority was to ensure that all nonprofits had the ability to compete among business, government and other sectors for top talent. We organized and established one of the first group health plans, pooling all participating organizations into one large group to accomplish the best benefit plan designs, premiums and renewal rates far lower than the regional average.

Today, our VitalHealth plan continues to thrive. In 2018-19, we are working with two of the most preferred medical carriers—Aetna and Kaiser Permanente—each offering four plan options and additional providers for dental, vision, life, long- and short-term disability insurance coverage.

We have continued to evolve with the changing needs of our participating employers and employees. Our upcoming plan year brings great excitement, including new technology to maximize efficiency and enhance the user experience, one-on-one enrollment meetings for all participating employees to ensure plan selections that meet their lifestyles, and added wellness benefits for all.

The highlights of the Center’s all-star value proposition include:

Experience meeting your needs.

  • 36 years of providing benefits to thousands of employees and their family members
  • COBRA administration for your group
  • 24/7 access to your account information
  • Online account with all the tools necessary to manage your benefits

Access to multiple plans

  • Choice of eight medical plans including PPO, Consumer Driven High Deductible Plan and HMO; employers choose which plans to offer to staff and have the opportunity to offer all.
  • Access to national networks

Ancillary benefits

  • Dental plans with rates as low as $7.93 per month
  • Vision coverage as low as $5.05 per month
  • Life Insurance with guarantee issue up to $150,000
  • Long- and Short-Term Disability Insurance
  • Deductible Protection Plan

One service model

  • Assistance with claims
  • Single billing for all coverage
  • Benefits verification
  • Responsive customer service—one point of contact for all of your benefits

If you are not already enrolled in VitalHealth, consider doing so now.

Learn more about these valuable benefits.

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