Posts Tagged ‘coalitions’

Highlights from our live chat about collaboration with Tom Wolff (Audio)

“In its simplest form, collaborative solutions means doing together what we cannot do apart,” says author Tom Wolff. If you find yourself in the position of considering collaboration or you discover your organization is lacking a specific competency or resource, consider Wolff’s book, The Power of Collaborative Solutions, your next read. From introduction to index, it’s full of interesting case stories, web-based tools and useful guidance.

Interview highlights

We recently held a lively interview via webcast with Wolff and he answered CausePlanet reader questions. Wolff opened our discussion by highlighting his book, why collaborative solutions are encouraged, six principles for effective coalitions and concerns with our health and human service system.

Sound bite about what’s broken?

These concerns translate to other service agencies, so I wanted to share them with you in a sound bite from the interview with Tom Wolff. You can follow this list below as you listen (the sound bite covers one through eight):

  1. Fragmentation
  2. Duplication of effort
  3. Focus on deficits
  4. Crisis Orientation
  5. Failure to respond to diversity
  6. Excessive professionalism
  7. Detached from community & clients
  8. Competition
  9. Limited and inaccessible information
  10. Loss of our spiritual purpose
  11. Failure to engage those most directly affected

Professionalism versus democracy

Number six, “excessive professionalism,” resonated with me in particular. Wolff talks about how we’re quick to get a room full of “experts” to solve a problem when what we really need is a more democratic process. In other words, involve those most directly affected by the problem to identify root cause and generate potential solutions. Is it messy? Sure, but it will help you arrive at the answers you’re looking for. Wolff says, “When we are facing serious community problems, shouldn’t we just get professionals to solve the problems and avoid the messy process called democracy? The answer to this question is a resounding no.”

One of our interview attendees, Kim Fossey with Louisiana STEM Works, had this to add to our discussion afterwards:

“This was perhaps the most enjoyable webinar I have attended in some time. The concerns for providing comprehensive services and achieving impact are right on as well as the six “common sense” principles.  My biggest takeaway was the need for applying more values-based discussion to our work and use of the six requirements for effective participation.  I see these both as missing –particularly in education-based reforms.  Thanks for a great webinar.  I plan to purchase the book and recommend it to others.”

In The Power of Collaborative Solutions, Wolff says he shares “the ‘highs’ of seeing coalitions gain momentum, attract and hold a solid membership, set a focused agenda, achieve results, gain early, small wins and reach significant changes in program policies and practices. The book also covers the ‘lows’ when the opposition is fierce, the membership dissolves, our best plans collapse and we feel like giving up.” Find out more at www.tomwolff.com

CausePlanet members: Register for our next live author with Kari Dunn Saratovsky when we’ll discuss the why and how of Millennial engagement and the book she coauthored with Derrick Feldmann, Cause for Change, on Wed, Sep 25 at 11 a.m. CST.

Find out more about the book, The Power of Collaborative Solutions or our Page to Practice™ summary in our CausePlanet library for subscribers or the Summary Store.

See also:

Nonprofit Mergers & Alliances

 

 

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Advocacy: Begin with an approach that fits your nonprofit

This article is the second in a series on legislative relations.

Engaging in advocacy is one of the most effective ways for your nonprofit to achieve its mission. By augmenting the services and programs you provide with an active voice for change, you can meet the need while working to affect the systems creating the need. Although it can seem daunting, advocacy programs complement and enhance the work you already accomplish. There is a range of ways for your nonprofit to create change in your community or state.

When deciding which advocacy strategy is the best fit for your organization, consider these three approaches as a starting place:

Voter engagement: Constituents of nonprofit organizations are often underrepresented at the ballot box even though they are directly impacted by changes in safety net programs, education cuts and health care eligibility measures, to name a few. Voter registration is a powerful way to ensure ballot issues and candidates for office reflect the values and vision of your organization. Not only can you increase the power of your voice, but it can be a great way to build relationships with politicians and ballot issue leaders through asking them to speak to your constituents about their platform or issue. Although 501(c)3 organizations cannot endorse or publicly support a candidate for office, you can (and should!) educate your constituents on how candidates’ positions affect your mission. A great resource for involving your nonprofit in voter engagement is Nonprofit VOTE.

Grassroots advocacy: Once your constituents are informed on the issue affecting your mission, encourage them to tell others. Ask them to speak to local businesses, neighbors and others who share in the vision for your community and encourage them to support issues that benefit your organization. Taken one step further, you may want to offer your constituents an email or phone script to call their representatives to express their support or perspective on the issue. Through empowering your members, donors, clients and other constituents to make their voices heard by public officials, you are not only building the strength of your organization but also providing a valuable service to those who feel passionately about your mission. Speaking up as one individual can be intimidating, but speaking as one voice of many is an inspiring experience. Many states have a nonprofit participation project that can serve as your grassroots advocacy resource.

Direct lobbying: The highest level of engagement in nonprofit advocacy (besides running for office– consider it!) involves working with the state or federal government to inform and influence policies. There are some limitations placed on the amount of resources 501(c)3 organizations can dedicate to direct lobbying. The Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest is a great resource. Direct lobbying may involve tracking bills and providing testimony in hearings. A staff member, board member or lobbyist may provide information or perspective on a bill through meetings with representatives or their staff. This is hugely valuable to those who represent us at the capitol, since legislators cannot possibly be fully informed on all the issues they weigh in on. Leaders of nonprofits are oftentimes uniquely informed on how a bill will affect their community. Sharing that insight through a fact sheet, one-on-one meetings or committee testimony can change the course of a conversation or give a bill the boost it needs to be successful.

These three categories are not mutually exclusive. Through the promotion of a voter engagement campaign, you may hear stories from your constituents on how an issue affects them and decide to offer testimony to share those stories with legislators. While tracking the progress of a bill, it may benefit your organization to employ grassroots techniques to show those voting on the bill how those in their district feel. Regardless of how you engage and how often, there are a few basics your organization should have in place before starting to take action:

1. Determine key goals, values and priorities to guide your work. What is the end result you are trying to achieve through engaging in advocacy? Clarifying priorities at the outset will help your board and staff determine which areas to invest the most resources. For instance, a children’s health-related nonprofit may have several areas of policy that directly affect their mission: poverty, education, healthcare policy. To what extent does the organization actively participate in all three? Your nonprofit’s leadership may decide that although bills related
to health in school are important, you prioritize bills that affect primary care.

2. Cultivate partners and build like-minded coalitions. Chances are there are other nonprofits in your community that have similar goals but different priorities. Building partnerships around overlapping issues can benefit all involved. Rather than actively promoting a bill or ballot issue in your constituency, you may offer your support to a partnering organization for which the bill is a top priority. When a priority issue directly affecting your mission surfaces, you can then ask your partners for the same level of support, demonstrating a stronger coalition of support than each organization can offer on its own. Although members of an advocacy coalition may disagree on an issue at times, the benefits of working together most often outweigh the obstacles. And when an issue directly affects many of the members of the coalition, the support and organization of the whole is a boon to the cause.

3. Get ready to communicate. Don’t assume just because you’ve testified at the capitol or registered 2,000 voters that people are aware of your activities. Share your goals, successes and struggles with donors, institutional funders and the media. If possible, include updates and calls to action in newsletters and at staff and board meetings. Let those who support you know why what you’re doing is important. It encourages our communities to value nonprofit engagement in advocacy and most importantly, empowers others to take action.

See also:

Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World

The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change

Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits

Level Best: How Small and Grassroots Nonprofits Can Tackle Evaluation and Talk Results

 

 

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