Why Should Nonprofits Engage in Advocacy?

How can advocacy be an effective strategy for nonprofits?

Engaging in advocacy can be an effective strategy for advancing a nonprofit organization’s mission and creating greater impact by:

  • Raising awareness and mobilizing support. Advocacy efforts can raise public awareness about an issue, increase understanding, and generate support for a cause. By effectively communicating your message, nonprofits can mobilize supporters, engage volunteers, attract donors, and build a broader base of stakeholders committed to the mission.
  • Addressing systemic barriers. Nonprofits often encounter systemic barriers that hinder their ability to create meaningful change. By advocating for policy changes or systemic improvements related to their causes, nonprofits can address the root causes of issues and bring about lasting change that aligns with and reaches beyond direct service provisions.
  • Influencing policies and practices. Nonprofits have an important role in advocating for their beneficiaries and communities. Advocacy is essential for catalyzing change, and it allows nonprofits to use their expertise, experience, and influence to actively address social, economic, and environmental issues affecting their constituents.
  • Enhancing sustainability. Engaging in advocacy can help nonprofits become more sustainable by shaping policies and funding priorities that align with their mission. It can also create opportunities for collaboration with other organizations, build strategic partnerships, and attract long-term resources.
  • Safeguarding the mission. By engaging in advocacy, nonprofits can help protect their mission from potential threats (i.e., misinformation) or harmful policies that may negatively impact their beneficiaries. Advocacy allows nonprofits to safeguard the values, rights, and interests of their constituents and ensure their voices are heard in decision-making processes.

It is important for nonprofits to navigate advocacy activities in alignment with their tax-exempt status and any applicable national and local laws and regulations. Learn more below.

What is the difference between advocacy and lobbying?

Advocacy and lobbying are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but lobbying is just one type of advocacy. Advocacy refers to any effort to promote or support a particular cause, idea, or policy. It can include educating on issues, building relationships with decision-makers, building coalitions, community organizing and it can include lobbying. Lobbying is one type of advocacy. Lobbying refers specifically to the act of attempting to influence the decisions made by government officials or legislators. Lobbying typically involves direct communication with policymakers or their staff, such as meeting with them in person, sending them letters or emails, or making phone calls. In other words, advocacy is a broader term that encompasses a range of activities aimed at advancing a particular issue, while lobbying is the act of contacting a legislator and asking them to vote a certain way or to have a certain take on an issue. Lobbying is the only place we have to think about rules as a nonprofit.

The North Sound ACH hosted a learning session(March 2023) with Collaborative Action Network partners and community focused on state legislative advocacy. In this session, learn more about how advocacy is defined, state guidelines for nonprofit advocacy, and ideas for moving into action. The session is led by leaders at the Nonprofit Association of Washington, as well as a panel of speakers from Network partner organizations.


Explore the following resources to learn more.

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