Improve Your Advocacy Skills: 4 Effective Methods

Improve Your Advocacy Skills: 4 Effective Methods

Grassroots advocacy campaigns require inventive planning, a deep knowledge of the advocacy landscape, and unwavering dedication to your cause. Of course, to make the most of these factors, you’ll also need to have strong advocacy skills and know how to put them to use. 

Whether you’re a volunteer or a campaign manager, improving your abilities to advocate and support your cause will only make you a greater asset to your campaign. However, few important advocacy skills can be mastered overnight, and as the advocacy landscape evolves, it will only become more necessary to continually learn new skills and refresh your current knowledge. 

Once you’ve decided to take the time to improve your advocacy skills, the next step is exploring your options for how to do so. To help get you inspired, this article will walk through four popular methods grassroots volunteers and campaign leaders can use to keep their skills sharp:

  1. Take online courses. 
  2. Stay up to date with advocacy trends.
  3. Volunteer for a variety of roles. 
  4. Get inspired by past campaigns. 

What you’ll need to master will depend on your role in your advocacy campaign and your campaign’s specific activities. Choose training activities that align with your personal goals to get the most out of your learning experiences and that also provide you with opportunities for making new connections in the advocacy space. Let’s get started.

1. Take online courses. 

If you want to learn something or improve your skills, the most straightforward way to do so is by taking a class. For dedicated advocates, it is possible to enroll in advocacy-specific online courses, but there are also a variety of other ways to acquire skills that are key to advocacy. 

Here are a few fundamental advocacy skills to look for courses in: 

  • Public-speaking. Whether you’re a volunteer or your campaign’s leader, advocacy usually requires having a lot of conversations with different people, most of whom you probably will not be familiar with at first. Improving your public speaking and communication skills can help you whether you’re giving a speech at an event or having a one-on-one conversation with a potential donor. 
  • Teamwork. Advocacy campaigns are a group effort, which means you’ll need to know how to effectively work together with many different people. Classes on teamwork can teach key skills for how to work with others, such as conflict resolution, priority management, and how to brainstorm with a group. 
  • Leadership. If you’re going to be managing or guiding other members of your advocacy campaign, ensure you have at least a basic understanding of core leadership skills. Leadership courses will vary based on their approach to the subject, but most will provide valuable insights into how to inspire and manage others, while maintaining a positive relationship. 

Regpack’s guide to online registration software discusses the many learning opportunities available to those interested in finding them, such as formal classes and courses, online workshops, conferences, virtual events, and webinars, to name a few. With this variety, do your research and choose an option that fits your specific schedule and interests. 

2. Stay up to date with advocacy trends. 

Part of being a strong advocate is knowing what is going on in the greater advocacy landscape. Effective strategies and trends can change quickly, and staying up to date will allow you to learn from others’ successes and avoid their mistakes in your own campaign.

While you can’t know everything that’s going on in the advocacy world, there are several ways you can keep yourself informed about the most relevant information to your campaign: 

  • Check out advocacy blogs. Reputable advocacy blogs can provide a variety of advice for those in the advocacy space, from technology to invest in to instructional courses to register for. Select a few blogs that update regularly and check them like you would your morning paper to keep yourself refreshed on current trends. 
  • Use bill-tracking software. There are many advocacy software solutions to invest in, and those interested in monitoring the progress of specific legislation can use bill-tracking software to stay on top of any updates. 
  • Follow ongoing campaigns. Chances are that there are at least a few other campaigns similar to yours happening at the same time. These can be campaigns in your local area or ones that champion similar causes. Take note of their progress and the challenges and opportunities they are currently facing. 

As a campaign leader, understanding the greater advocacy world can help inform your campaign’s overall strategy. For volunteers, doing your research can make you more informed when performing outreach for your campaign, while also providing inspiration for how you can better contribute to your campaign. 

3. Volunteer for a variety of roles. 

You can learn more about how advocacy campaigns function by working in a variety of different roles. Doing so will provide a multifaceted perspective of your campaign, allowing volunteers to find a role that suits their strengths and leaders to better understand how they can support all of their volunteers.  

Volunteers help advocacy campaigns in a variety of ways, so be sure to volunteer for the activities that are most applicable to your campaign. Here are a few common types of volunteering that might fit your advocacy organization: 

  • Canvassers. Door-to-door and street canvassers help advocacy organizations connect with members of their community. Canvassers should be social, outgoing individuals who are happy to strike up conversations about your cause with anyone. Effective canvassing strategies usually involve either improving your communication skills or learning how to effectively incorporate technology into the canvassing process. 
  • Event assistance. Events often require a variety of volunteers to handle everything from technical support to directing guests to helping with clean up afterwards. Getting hands-on experience with event assistance can help inform your event planning team’s overall strategy and approach to volunteer management. 
  • Online outreach. Digital advocacy can help spread awareness further than traditional methods can. Individuals who are social media savvy and talented at writing intriguing but educational messages can often do well when reaching out to new supporters online. Plus, by experimenting yourself, you can better understand what types of messages best resonate with your supporters. 

Advocacy campaign leaders can also use what they have learned through working in different positions in their volunteer recruitment efforts. After all, those with hands-on experience will be able to more accurately explain what the role entails and what kinds of people are best suited for it. 

4. Get inspired by past campaigns. 

While you should keep an eye on current trends and the future of advocacy campaigns, you can also learn how to succeed by looking to past campaigns. Successful campaigns can provide a blueprint for activities and strategies that your organization might benefit from implementing. For example, if you’re planning to host a 5K fundraising event, you can gain insight into how to succeed by looking into previous campaigns’ 5K management practices. 

Cornershop Creative’s guide to nonprofit advocacy offers a few more examples of specific advice you can gain from studying past campaigns:

  • Social media outreach. Everyday advocacy campaigns explore new and creative ways to engage their supporters online. Study different approaches that have worked in the past for each platform you intend to reach out to supporters on. 
  • Educational materials. How are other campaigns educating their supporters? What mediums are they using and how are they getting their message across in those materials? Study past fliers, pamphlets, online campaign pages, informational PDFs, and more to learn how successful campaigns discuss their key message so it motivates supporters to join their cause. 
  • Volunteer management strategies. For advocacy campaign managers, you want to be sure you are using your volunteers as effectively as possible. Research how past advocacy leaders have mobilized, trained, recruited, and managed their volunteers to learn how you can improve your leadership style. 

You can discover past campaigns by researching movements from one or two years ago on advocacy blogs and new sites. Some strategies from past campaigns have even been written about in detail to help current campaign organizers understand why they succeeded. 

Becoming a strong advocate for your cause requires consistent dedication and research. Stay on top of current advocacy trends to identify new strategies you can apply to your campaign. Plus, don’t neglect other key advocacy skills such as leadership, communication, and teamwork as you build your advocacy toolkit. Good luck!

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