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What does it mean to be an advocate?

According to Merriam-Webster, an advocate is one who pleads the cause of another, one who defends or maintains a cause or proposal, or one who supports or promotes the interests of a cause or group. Simply put, to advocate is to support or argue for a cause, policy, or proposal — or to plead in favor of it.

But say “advocacy” in the halls of a nonprofit and you’ll hear that record screeching needle silence followed by quick looks away. Somehow it has become a bad word for nonprofits. The crux of the problem is almost certainly that nonprofit leaders, staffs, board members, and executives confuse advocacy for lobbying, on which there is actual regulation.

Being an advocate, a proponent, a spokesperson, or a champion is, in fact, exactly what organizations are doing and should be doing as nonprofits. You needn’t be deemed an advocacy organization to advocate on behalf of your clients and beneficiaries. Moreover, telling a story, showing a need, making a connection to a needed resource, or championing change in the community are the roles of an advocate regardless of the type of organization — or whether there is a defined advocacy program.

Advocate, ambassador, champion, cheerleader, and volunteer are all monikers attributed to this work. Making one person’s life better or easier, safer or more fulfilling, is all that an advocate is called to do. Tell the stories. Share the stats. Lead a discussion. Make a difference with your words and actions. Advocacy is the good kind of infectious.

How are you advocating today?

RBW Strategy can develop budgets, offer coaching on crafting them, or provide outside reviews. Feel free to get in touch, we’re happy to help!
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