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Volunteers Vote Blog #1: A New Way to Make Our Communities Stronger: How to get your charity involved in advocacy

Posted By VolunteerToronto, September 25, 2019
 Volunteers Vote

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

 

A year ago the Supreme Court decided that charities, and their volunteers, should play a bigger role in their communities—they allowed charities to advocate politically for their causes and clients.

Advocacy is a new tool to help charities achieve their goals. A charity that runs an out-of-the-cold program to help homeless people can now also advocate for long-term housing programs and a soccer club can advocate for field clean-up and maintenance.

This change is particularly exciting because charities are so well positioned to be effective advocates. Charities are trusted by the public more than nearly every other group. They have amazing networks, built up over time by working within their community. And charities often work at the grassroot level—they know what is affecting their communities and which issues need to be raised.

Advocacy work is very exciting, but it can be hard to know how to start. Here are some tips to get you started the right way: 

 

Do your research 

First and foremost, advocacy is about getting specific decision makers to act. To succeed, it’s important to understand the decision maker you’re trying to reach and what they find compelling. Visit their website and do some research to find out what issues they care about and what they’ve said to the media. Connecting your mission to issues they care about is a powerful way to create traction.

 

Develop relationships

Like everyone else, decision makers respond best to people they’re familiar with. Getting to know them and letting them get familiar with your organization before asking something of them will make your work easier down the line. Inviting local politicians and decision makers to your events and visiting their offices takes a little bit of effort, but will pay off big later.

 

Get personal

It can be tempting to send staff members to present data and statistics when trying to make your best case, but politicians usually respond best to the everyday voters that make up their constituency. Having volunteers and clients share real stories about their experiences will speak volumes and mean more than statistics ever will.

 

Follow the rules

It’s important to understand that while advocacy is a powerful new tool it still falls within a set of rules. Your advocacy has to fit within your charitable purposes. You should remain non-partisan—it’s okay to talk to politicians and raise public policy issues, but don’t promote a particular party or candidate. And you must register if you’re going to lobby provincially.

 

This was a guest blog by Sean Meagher of Ontario For All. If you want to learn more about how advocacy can help your charity reach its goals, you can find more tools and tips at www.ontarioforall.ca. And feel free to get in touch by email at ontarioforall@gmail.com or by phone at (416) 820-7889.

   

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