Magnify your Impact – Nonprofit Advocacy

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to sit down with six policy experts to pick their brains about why and how nonprofit organizations should engage in the policy process. While I sat across from them (for filming purposes), sitting at their feet may have been more appropriate.

 HowardLake / photo on flickr The faculty of the Max Bell Public Policy Training Institute have between them more than 135 years in policy development and advocacy with experience spanning all three sectors. The faculty occupy a range of positions on the political spectrum and they certainly don’t always agree on what constitutes effective government policy. What they all share is the belief that our cities, provinces and country are made better by the engagement of nonprofit organizations in public policy.

Highlights from these conversations are captured in Magnify your Impact, which attempts to address some of the reluctance, felt by nonprofits, to enter the policy realm. I think the primary reasons for this reluctance can be boiled down to four erroneous beliefs:

  1. “One voice won’t make a difference.”
  2. “Government isn’t interested in hearing from nonprofits.”
  3. “The rules surrounding political activity seem too fuzzy, so we best just avoid it.” Caused by lack of clarity around types of activities that charities can and cannot do under the CRA’s rules for political activity.
  4. “Advocacy is only for placard-wielding radicals, not nonprofits like us.” Otherwise stated as a belief that engagement in the policy process is always combative or adversarial.

Some of these beliefs have been reinforced by sensationalized media accounts that further confuse and dissuade. Our hope is that the Magnify your Impact video and Advocacy Learning Series will help to demystify and educate nonprofits around the rules and rewards of engaging in the public policy process.

Ultimately, those of us who work in the sector are drawn to it by a desire to improve some aspect of our communities. While we will continue to work tirelessly within established systems, the systemic issues that are at the root of many of our challenges will not be solved by service alone. The importance of advocacy as a vehicle for change cannot be overstated. So, as change agents, I urge you to “pick up the policy sword” and take a first step by exploring the resources and training opportunities below.

Anna Burrowes
Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily those of CCVO and do not represent official CCVO positions.