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The Community Foundation Blog


Highlights from the Everyday Nonprofit Advocacy Series
By The Community Foundation / January 10, 2022
Highlights from the Everyday Nonprofit Advocacy Series

Over the past few years, the Community Foundation has increasingly recognized advocacy as an influential pathway to significant and sustained community change. The Foundation has increased funding in this area, primarily to a select number of organizations with a track record in systems-level advocacy, but also believes there are additional opportunities to expand our support beyond funding and in ways that are inclusive of all types and sizes of organizations.

Natisha Knight, Director of Community Partnerships, conducted an analysis of these opportunities in 2021 by interviewing 25 individuals — including colleagues within the Foundation, nonprofit executives, a civil engineer, entrepreneurs and public sector partners. Through these conversations, she found that many nonprofits felt isolated, lacking the knowledge or confidence in how to advocate within legal boundaries. They voiced an interest in ongoing learning opportunities where they could share resources and ideas with each other.

In late 2021, the Foundation launched a cohort series that invited organizations of all sizes to come together and learn about how advocacy can work in philanthropy, how it can help them advance their mission and strengthen their networks. The more voices that come together, the greater the influence. The process has just begun with the session outlined below, but there is still an opportunity to engage, as programming will evolve with the interests of participants.

The “Everyday Nonprofit Advocacy” workshop featured a lively discussion by Angela Ciolfi of the Legal Aid Justice Center, Phil Hernandez with the The Commonwealth Institute, and Lea Whitehurst Gibson of Virginia Community Voice.  Here are some highlights

  •  There’s more wiggle room for lobbying than most nonprofits think, and advocacy doesn’t always look like traditional lobbying.
  • Visit bolderadvocacy.org for resources to better understand tax rules around lobbying and various ways you can advocate for your mission.
  • Community voice is trusting the people in the community and believing they have solutions to the problems they are facing and fully engaging them in the solution-seeking process.
  •  Systems, like the Virginia General Assembly, are not places where social, economic, and racial justice priorities can thrive.  They are not designed for everyday people to engage with them, as they are often brief and without accessible language and processes. If nonprofits don’t go above and beyond to overcome those structural barriers, then the case for policies that advance social and racial justice won’t be heard.
  • The legal system doesn’t equal justice, we must shape it.  For those who are in direct service nonprofits, pick an advocacy partner and collaborate.  Invite your participants to tell their story to be used as a driver for change. Direct service providers are in great places to think about policy change because they have their fingers on the pulse of communities.
  •  Advocacy takes a lot of work, and funding is often hard to come by.  Think about writing advocacy-related work into your grant-seeking process and reaching out to funders who support advocacy-related work.
  •  A great example of advocacy collaboration through organizing, coalition building, and campaigns can be seen with movements like “Fund our Schools VA” which seeks equitable funding for schools.
  •  “Just like we can never give up on the people we serve in direct service, we can never give up when advocating for major issues and systems that need to change.”

If you or someone in your organization would like to learn about how advocacy can work for your organization, register for the next session - Equitable Decision-Making & Community Engagement with Virginia Community Voice, virtually, on January 26th from 10am to 12pm - or contact Natisha Knight at nknight@cfrichmond.org.

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