Directors into Advocates

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Anne Wallestad, President of BoardSource, is passionate about advocacy. Through her leadership at Boardsource she launched a campaign called “Stand For Your Mission”. This initiative is focused on helping nonprofits understand their role in society, and how to educate board members to become more active leaders in their respective communities.

Let’s take a step back. What exactly is advocacy? What role does it play in your organization’s board? How can you turn your board members into powerful advocates?

Advocacy is the act of supporting a cause. The most useful, and often under-utilized asset organizations have are the executive directors, philanthropists, and thought leaders serving on their board. In Wallestad’s article she encouraged organizations to leverage these influential citizens to propel their organization's mission into the civic realm.

Wallestad provides 4 important questions to ask your board when assessing potential advocacy opportunities:

Do we see our organization as a moral or ethical leader on any issue or set of issues? If so, what are they and how would we define our stance?

If we asked those we serve what we stand for as an organization, what would we hope they would say?

What decisions have we made as an organization that we would lift up as a good example of our organizational values? Why? Are there any decisions we’ve made that don’t reflect our values? Why don’t they?

With what issues, views, or values would we be embarrassed to be associated? Are any of them things that we’d be willing to speak out against publicly? In what circumstance would we feel that was appropriate, or even necessary?

Advocacy is always a moving target and the recent election has put pressure on nonprofits to step further into the civic conversation. To this end, Wallstead believes there is an increased need for local nonprofits, and the boards that govern them, to play a more active role as advocates in their communities. She urges staff to have a conversation in the boardroom about the range of potential opportunities and threats the organization faces. Here are some questions Anne suggests boards ask themselves:

What’s the big picture for the communities you serve?

Are there proposals that could help — or harm — them?

What will that mean in terms of the new realities that are created for those communities?

How will it impact your ability to serve them and achieve the impact you seek?

We live in challenging times and many of us feel called to do our part. The reality is that local nonprofits will be carrying a heavier burden going forward. To carry this burden they will need better tools. This speaks to what inspired Boardable.

The founders of Boardable are also founders of local nonprofits. They saw the need for a better communication and collaboration tool for boards and staff to use in fulfilling their non-profit’s mission. If boards and staff can work more effectively and efficiently the positive impacts they will have on their communities will multiply. If your board is seeking a better way to work we hope you will consider Boardable.





Stand for Your Mission is a collaborative campaign of BoardSource together with the Alliance for Justice, the Campion Foundation, the National Council of Nonprofits, and the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. This [event/training/resource] is based on resources and materials from the Stand for Your Mission Campaign, but is not directly affiliated with the campaign or the partners.  For more information about the campaign, please visit http://standforyourmission.org.