While Meredith focuses on advocacy for libraries, we believe her insights are valuable for nonprofits in any subsector!
Advocacy work can be a hard sell. I’ve been conducting advocacy workshops with library boards throughout the region for three years and sometimes it sounds more political, complicated, and quite frankly like hard work than it truly is.
Basically, advocacy is networking for a cause.
Advocate (verb): publically recommend or support.
Network (verb): interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.
When advocating for your library in the public sphere, you are still getting many of the benefits of traditional networking. It can be even more fulfilling because you are not just focusing on developing your own career but developing public services for your community as well.
Advocating and networking have these common characteristics that go together like peanut butter and jam:
- Meeting and connecting with community members.
- Building your list of contacts within the community.
- Investing in your social capital.
Business writer Margaret Heffernan explains that “social capital is a form of mutual reliance, dependency, and trust. It hugely changes what people can do. This is more true now than ever. It’s impossible in modern organizations to know everything that you need to know. What you need are lots of people who know lots of different things. Collectively you’re smarter.”
By creating a network of people in your community and letting them know you’re an advocate for the library, you can impact your library’s goals significantly because of the opportunities that arise from involving other perspectives.
There are a few tips that make networking easier for introverts and extroverts:
- Approach someone confidently.
- Have your elevator pitch, a concise 30 second message, ready and polished.
- Ask thoughtful questions.
- Be genuinely interested.
- Say something memorable that emphasizes or demonstrates your elevator speech.
- Follow up!
It can be even more straightforward by creating an advocacy plan. In the workshop, we discuss and create key messages that can be your elevator speech. We identify stories, which would act as a memorable tidbit that emphasizes the key message or elevator speech. Your entire library board will be sharing a similar message and the chance of success increases exponentially because of the connections created in each of your separate networks.
Your social capital will rise and your library’s goals and visibility in the community will improve too.
Parkland Regional Library
 Career advice for millennials (and really, anyone) from Margaret Heffernan by Juliet Blake
 Practical Networking Tips for Introverts by Maricella Herrera Avila
Header photo attribution: WOCinTech