Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Kush’

Use your cultivation know-how for advocacy

Building a relationship with your elected officials is no different than cultivating a donor. You can’t expect to call them last minute on an important issue affecting your nonprofit and get results…unless you live in his or her district, but I digress.

Our current Page to Practice™ feature of the One-Hour Activist by Christopher Kush is a smart tutorial on making incremental progress on advocacy without detracting from your core responsibilities as an executive director, staff member or board member. Each of the “10 most powerful actions you can take to fight for the issues and candidates you care about” takes no more than an hour but cumulatively add up to a conscientious approach to advocacy for your cause. Kush also provides five “super-sized” actions that take more than an hour but are worth the effort.

Get to know your legislator: One of the most proactive measures you can take in advocacy no matter how involved you decide to be is to develop a relationship with your legislator. You may be wondering what value you can bring to your elected official by meeting with them. The answer is a lot.

Bring two clients: When I asked Kush about what nonprofit leaders can do when preparing for a meeting, he said, “There are always compelling stories related to important issues–it is usually a matter of taking the time to find them and refine them. I always ask nonprofit executives to ‘bring’ two clients with them whenever they come to Washington, DC, or the state Capitol. Nonprofit professionals should be ready to articulate the experiences of their front-line clients (members or constituencies). By the way, people who work for nonprofits often don’t realize they do have personal stories. Jobs are very interesting to elected officials right now, so just working for a local nonprofit can in and of itself be a compelling ‘story.’”

I dug deeper with Kush on this topic with the following question: In Part Five, you discuss the mistakes nonprofits make when meeting with lawmakers. What’s the most common among them? Here’s what Kush had to say:

Don’t overwhelm with aggregate stats on your issue–anecdotal information does more: You are in a pretty good position if you are actually meeting with lawmakers, even if you stumble. The first mistake is to NOT regularly (at least once a year) talk to your federal, state and local lawmakers to let them know whom you are serving and what the local trends are related to your issues. Any service a nonprofit provides is one less service lawmakers might be asked to provide in their local offices. Nonprofits that are nervous about tax status can be mindful about not making any specific legislative requests when communicating with their elected officials. (Don’t discuss any current legislation.) The biggest mistake if you ARE meeting with your legislator is to rely on massive aggregate statistics to make your impact. Almost all elected officials are far more engaged by small numbers–the number of people who are being served locally, the number of local jobs you provide, the names of local board members, etc.–than they are by the bland large numbers we often rely on to impress.

Watch for more Page to Practice interview highlights in our next blog.

See also:

One-Hour Activist Page to Practice feature

Christopher Kush and Soapbox Consulting

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Using Facebook as an advocacy tool

While it’s natural to assume that social media has permeated all aspects of business, nothing rivals face-to-face meetings in grassroots advocacy, says The One-Hour Activist author and Soapbox Consulting CEO, Christopher Kush. I caught up with Kush in our interview and asked about the popularity of email and other social media. He cited one client in particular that used Facebook to generate interest in face-to-face advocacy events. Here’s the excerpt:

CausePlanet: In Part Two, you present several helpful sections on writing an effective letter or email to your legislator so it gets read and circulated versus simply counted. Additionally, you cover skillful phone calls. Since the book was published, have communication preferences changed at all with the growing prevalence of email? And, are faxes still viable? (All coming in second to face-to-face, of course.)

Kush: It is fascinating how face-to-face interactions with lawmakers have remained powerful despite the social media explosion. Candidates for office love the prospect of clever video appeals “going viral,” but after the elections, the legislative process has proven difficult for social media to manipulate. I think one reason is that some core aspects of social media are a mismatch with legislative influence. Things like anonymity, speed of communication, depth of understanding and lack of geographic awareness all mitigate against social media’s effectiveness in the Capitol.

And now for some praise: This year, I saw several of my clients use Facebook to generate interest in face-to-face advocacy events. The Fragile X Foundation in particular was able to double the number of families who attended their 2012 Washington, DC, conference by providing a place where people could post their excitement about returning to the conference, seeing other folks they had met the year before, and following up in person with their legislators. Now, that was an example of social media making a strategic contribution by complementing more traditional approaches to influence (like face-to-face interaction).

See also:

Charity Case

The One-Hour Activist

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Eight must-know grassroots concepts

For every position there is an opposition. It’s what makes our democracy work. If you lead a nonprofit organization, there’s no doubt an issue or candidate can influence how effectively you raise money or advocate for systemic change. Some even argue an investment in advocacy is an “upstream solution” and preferable to isolated direct service downstream.

The One-Hour Activist: The 15 Most Powerful Actions You Can Take to Fight for the Issues and Candidates You Care About presents a nonpartisan, thorough checklist of tactical best practices for engaging in advocacy on behalf of issues and candidates you care about.

Author Christopher Kush has distilled the essential activities that will help you understand how your letter, email or request for a face-to-face meeting with your lawmaker can be heard above the noise. He covers nuances in relating to your elected officials, leveraging the media, navigating public hearings, analyzing bills, joining public interest groups and much more. The book title may say 15, but Kush highlights 20 specific actions that can advance your cause.

In Part One of Kush’s book, he emphasizes eight important grassroots concepts and I’ll share them with you:

1) Voting isn’t enough. Once you’ve gotten your candidate elected, you can’t expect issues to go your way; the work has only begun.
2) Geography is the single most important thing about you and your issue. If you live in the elected official’s district, he/she wants to make you happy. Period.
3) One angry letter won’t change the world.
4) Instant grassroots (like signing online petitions) is not especially effective. Personalized letters with individual anecdotes and stories are.
5) Money is part of the game. If you refuse to take out your checkbook, you’re leaving an important weapon out of your arsenal.
6) Elected officials are real people with all the complexity and imperfection that implies. Genuinely try to understand who your elected officials are.
7) One successful grassroots campaign will not settle your issues once and for all. The issues worth fighting for will be ongoing, long-term battles.
8) “Staying on message” is the ultimate law of grassroots activism. Everyone who cares about a given issue must make the same exact request, no matter how individualized his/her justification for that request is.

Watch for more highlights in the coming weeks about The One-Hour Activist by Christopher Kush.

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