Nonprofits should advocate for results

To the editor,

I tend to agree with your view [“Nonprofits’ strength lies in diversity, teamwork,” Inside Philanthropy, 11.26.07] that nonprofits should advocate for themselves and for their issues, and do that in an appropriately collaborative manner.

I would add one more element to the equation: They should advocate for results.

The conversation that nonprofits generate through their advocacy should focus on the ends or goals that they are pursuing.

It is not enough just to say, “Look at us,” or, “We have an important issue.”

They should talk about why their approach would be better at reaching the desired goal and ask that it be considered in the discussions on that basis.

In particular, nonprofits should talk about effectiveness.

That conversation provides a basis for comparing the for-profit option, the nonprofit option and the government option.

The question should be: Which is the most effective means to solve the issue at hand or move it forward?

In many instances this discussion will lead to good things for the nonprofit. But more importantly, it shifts the debate from the input side to the output side.

Rather than discussing whether, say, $1 million goes to homeless issues, the conversation should be about which approach can reduce homelessness the most with a given investment.

A conversation about the most effective means to reaching the desired “ends” or “goals”  would shift focus and emphasis and through that leverage increase the ‘good’ that is done.

— Paul Lawler, Lawler Consulting, Wilmington, N.C.

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