How to be a better advocate
New year, new goals. Is there a spot for advocacy on your 2018 to-do list? There should be.
An advocate is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. Whether you are making the case for take-out over home-cooked or arguing either side of the Affordable Care Act you are advocating. It is an innate skill, and an important one to hone. As nonprofit professionals, we likely have a cause (or many) that we care about deeply. We may work for organizations that take stands on particular policies and issue areas. Millennials are less likely to vote than any other generation. Only 50 percent of 18-29 year olds turned out to vote in the 2016 presidential election. We owe it to our communities, workplaces, and ourselves to have our voices heard.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to be a better advocate:
Know the issues. Know your stance.
If there is a topic you are passionate about, learn all there is to know about it. A world of information is at your fingertips. All it takes is quick google search and you will find books, articles, research, and information galore! Make sure you learn about both sides of an issue. We live in an ever-increasingly polarized world. Do your part to speak intelligently and arm yourself with facts, not talking points.
Use technology. If you can text, you can contact an elected official.
Odds are you are reading this on your phone. This blog is circulating via social media. If you can post on Facebook you can be a proactive advocate. Share reputable articles that inform your friends on issues. Share your local officials contact information and drop them a line or email them. Use this guide to help you draft an email for your representatives.
Be genuine in your advocacy. Speak out on issues that you care about and believe in. Leverage your strengths to support your causes. If you are a good public speaker, go visit your local elected official. If you are a strong writer, pen a letter to the editor.
Consider making advocacy a priority in 2018. There is no excuse not to. Identify what you care about, learn about it, and then speak up in whatever form feels best for you. If you’re looking for an easy first step, check out the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Training on Advocacy.
Wishing you an impactful 2018.
Photo provided by YNPN National Chapter
Our organization is a proud member of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, and because of that, we send a few board members to their annual members’ meeting each year. This year, in addition to the meeting, the Center offered the first session in their educational series Beyond Tolerance: How nonprofits are leading diversity, inclusion, and equity in Oklahoma. Supported by YNPN of OKC, Jade Owen and I were fortunate to attend this opportunity.
We are excited to see the Center offering professional development on these topics and a space for these conversations to take place. We at YNPN of OKC have been having some facets of these discussions over the last couple of years. The national Young Nonprofit Professionals Network has been a leader in these conversations across the country in the nonprofit sector for years, and it is the main topic at the national conference held each summer. Yet, we know we’re not doing nearly enough in this area.
The purpose of this blog post is to provide some context as to why we think this work is important, and how you can help, as inspired by our time in the Beyond Tolerance session and our work at the national level with YNPN.
New volunteers and board members are often surprised to hear that YNPN national’s mission statement is to “build a diverse and powerful social sector.” It’s a message that gets lost in translation from the national level through our professional development and networking events here in Oklahoma City. So if you’ve never checked out YNPN’s stance on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), give it a read.
In addition to the work YNPN is doing at the national level, different local chapters have stepped up with their own EDI initiatives. YNPN Boston has centered their whole organization around this topic and we hope to implement much of what they’re doing.
YNPN of OKC’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion is not solely based on our relationship with our national organization. As Danne L. Johnson, the Constance Baker Motley Professor of Law at Oklahoma City University reminded us, there are systems in place in our society and in our nonprofit sector which actively keep minority and historically oppressed people from succeeding. One example Danne gave was Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap which found that “the percentage of people of color in nonprofit executive director roles has remained under 20% in the last decade.” As an organization which is preparing new nonprofit professionals for what we hope are long, successful careers in the sector, we must work to break down the systems which keep racial minorities, those with disabilities, LGBTQ, and those who are marginalized from ever having a chance to lead in our sector and in our world.
At YNPN of OKC, we have taken a few very small steps forward in this work compared to what needs to be achieved long term.You hopefully have seen our chapter’s Code of Conduct, adapted from YNPN National and YNPN Portland’s version utilized at the 2016 national conference. Our hope in utilizing this code is that it creates a space where every member and event attendee knows that intolerance, disrespect, or hatred for any reason will not be allowed by our organization. But we also realize that our members and community need to be educated on topics like microaggressions for the code to work in a way that does not solely put the burden of reporting a breach of conduct on those who experience these behaviors each day. We need to have a community of allies who are willing to step up, too.
We’ve had programming centered around topics of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the past, and know that there are so many other opportunities for further professional development and conversations in these areas.
We work hard to ensure that money is not a reason that keeps people from accessing our resources and programming through our scholarship program. We try to make sure our locations are easily accessible and take place in a variety of areas in the OKC metro.
While this a small start, we need your help. So what can you do as a person who is reading this to help move this work forward in our chapter?
- Attend any of the Beyond Tolerance training sessions or conversations hosted by the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits
Read the Nonprofit AF blog’s posts on cultural competency, and find other ways to educate yourself on these topics
- In fact, you could read a blog post or another resource, and then host a YNPN of OKC Meet Up to talk with other YNPN members about your thoughts.
- Let us know your ideas for workshops on these topics, or speakers you’d like to hear speak about EDI.
- Let us know how you would like to see our organization move forward in helping to build a diverse and powerful social sector.
- Have patience with us as we learn and grow in this area, while pushing us to be better and raising critical questions as to how we operate as an organization that prioritizes the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
As Danne Johnson left us at the session that started inspired this blog post, we will leave you: “You are the answer the world has been waiting for and we need you.”
This is the first in our blog series "Meet a Nonprofit Leader." If there's someone you'd like to see profiled, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Kay E. Holt has more than 25 years of experience in higher education and arts management. She is the associate director and a professor in the graduate nonprofit leadership program at Oklahoma City University where she leads the new arts administration track. Prior to her current position, Dr. Holt served as executive director of Canterbury Voices (formerly known as Canterbury Choral Society), a position which brought her back to her home state of Oklahoma. Her other career experiences include director of education and community partnerships at The Dallas Opera and visiting professor at Southern Methodist University. Dr. Holt possesses a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Wyoming and is a graduate of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business Executive Nonprofit Leaders program.Read more