By: Kaslin Daniels
Last week, in part one of this article, I explained what advocacy is, clarified the extent to which 501(c)3s are empowered to engage in advocacy, and provided examples of successful tactics used by environmental nonprofits. Today, in part two, I’ll share some essential tools for the advocate’s toolbox and outline steps to get started.
Gardens, parks, and zoos can maximize their social and environmental impact by adopting a strategic approach to advocacy planning. Ideally, advocacy should be woven into the strategic planning process, ensuring a plan that connects to the organization’s mission, commits to the long term, and secures leadership buy-in. In today’s increasingly political environment, mission-driven organizations can and should make advocacy one of its essential tenets. I suggest the following steps to facilitate that process.
- Assess: Understand how the policy environment impacts the organization’s work, including what issues and related legislation affect your organization’s mission. You may also want to survey how stakeholders (staff, visitors, members, donors) might consider your strategies, or if they may have opinions on the types of action that are consistent with your organization’s mission.
- Define: Gather a team and develop an advocacy policy. Identify what you are comfortable and uncomfortable doing and consider what makes sense coming from your institution. Define your what (to advocate for), why (does it serve your mission), who (will be responsible for overseeing the work), and how (which tactics will you employ). Deciding the advocacy strategy of your institution is a core feature of your organization’s mission and stated values.
- Act: Implement strategies that address public policy opportunities, challenges, and threats. Successful strategies involve forming partnerships addressing common causes, both within and beyond your sector. Select tactics and develop compelling stories to share. Develop a strong work plan and budget resources to take concrete steps toward making your advocacy campaign a reality.
- Evaluate and Refine: Track your advocacy actions and progress, make adjustments as necessary, and regularly evaluate your overall performance to identify any lessons learned. Don’t forget to recognize successes, express appreciation to partners and supporters, and provide support as necessary.
I leave you with this additional thought: environmental organizations are uniquely situated to promote environmental justice, which strives for equal access to the decision-making process of environmental laws, including those related to biological diversity, endangered species, sustainable development, science education, federal funding opportunities, botanical science and native plants, land and water conservation, climate change, land management, and green infrastructure.
Nonprofit organizations can and should utilize strategic advocacy in order to maximize positive impact and to advance the conversation on issues related to their missions. For those wanting to find out more about nonprofit advocacy, check out: