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What is Advocacy?

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Advocacy is defined as any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others. This fact sheet offers a look at how advocacy is defined and what kinds of activities comprise advocacy work.

How is advocacy different than lobbying?

Lobbying is only one kind of advocacy. Not all advocacy is lobbying but all lobbying is advocacy.

What kind of activities comprise advocacy work?

The following list of advocacy activities is not exhaustive.

  • Organizing: Build power at the base. Organizing constituents and organizations around a common advocacy message allows for mobilization during critical times.
  • Educate Public Officials: Provide information on issues. Offering fact sheets, research or other information on your issues will educate public officials on the critical issues facing the people you serve. 
  • Regulatory efforts: Take action at the agencies. Work with regulatory agencies to change public policies in ways that positively impact the population your organization serves.
  • Public education: Educate the community on the issues. There are many ways to educate the general public on your issues. 
  • Nonpartisan voter mobilization: Encourage citizens to vote. Engage in a campaign to register individuals to vote and encourage them to do so.
  • Educational conferences: Gather, network, share information, and plan for the future. Convene to discuss issues and strategies affecting your targeted community.
  • Lobbying: Advocate for or against specific legislation. All nonprofits are permitted to lobby. 501(c)(3) public charities can engage in a generous but limited amount of lobbying.

How can your organization get more involved in advocacy? 

  • Educate. Inform your organization about current policies and problems affecting your community.
  • Evaluate. Evaluate your organization's mission and goals, and examine whether current programs involve advocacy as a means to address problems or grievances in the community. If not, how could advocacy play a larger role in your organization's programs?
  • Collaborate. Work in coalitions with groups whose philosophy and goals resonate with yours. Together, pooling staff and resources, all parties involved in the coalition should be equipped to take on campaigns and work for change.

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