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Advocacy for Organizations - Choosing Your Issue(s)
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Without a clear process for choosing your organization's positions on important issues, misunderstandings, confusion and outright manipulation can threaten to nullify all your advocacy efforts, or worse, undermine the credibility and integrity of the reputation you work so hard to build. It is best to have a written set of parameters and a defined process to decide which issues you will pursue and what your position will be before it becomes a problem.
Create a process. It is best to get a buy-in from the larger group for the initial decision to take on an issue, but have a smaller group develop strategy. Be sure everyone is clear on the issue, position and general strategy from the beginning. Not only does this avoid misunderstandings, but also you will need their help to get it done.
Issues to consider when choosing an issue and a position:
- Does the issue/position fit with the mission of your organization? You'd be surprised how often this is overlooked. Just because it is a good cause doesn't mean it has anything to do with your mission. Beware of losing focus and neglecting the reason your organization exists.
- Is there a unique role for your organization on the issue? For example, a business group arguing for expanding safety net services.
- Can you offer a solution? Especially one with a proven track record.
- Avoid only working on self-serving issues. Too many groups only come to the Capitol when their own funds are being cut. If a cut affects your clients, you should be just as engaged in making that right.
- Timing. Is this a long-term or quick issue? Do you have the stamina to stick it out? Is this the right time for your issue? The worst budget deficit in decades is probably not the right time to propose a huge spending program.
- Controversy. When considering controversial issues, is it worth the flak? Is there a less controversial position that will still make a difference? You may decide to go ahead anyway, but at least you are ready for it.
Don't join forces with others just for company. If you are the only one on your issue, so be it.
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