In my last blog posting I mentioned reading BoardSource’s 2015 Leading with Intent. The report is a comprehensive review of nonprofit board practices, policies and performance and builds on data that BoardSource has collected and analyzed for over 20 years.

One of the takeaways for me was that board members need to raise their collective voices as committed and informed champions for their missions. Engaging actively in advocacy is essential for making a positive impact beyond service delivery. BoardSource’s report noted that:

  • Roughly one-third of boards stay abreast of public policy issues that affect their organizations and their field.
  • Less than one-third of organizations have developed formal statements or policies to guide their advocacy and public policy work.
  • Less than one-third of board members are apprised of or participate in their organization’s advocacy activities.

This past Saturday, I participated in a board retreat for the wonderful organization that I’m proud to be a part of, the Downtown Women’s Center. We explored:

  • What our advocacy efforts look like now
  • Our hierarchy of important issues
  • How advocacy can advance our mission going forward
  • What we should consider as we develop more formalized policies and an advocacy platform

It was a fascinating and lively session that left both board members and the senior leadership team feeling energized. It was also perfectly timed, as we’re about to start working on our new strategic plan. Determining the role and scope of advocacy in the next few years will be a crucial component of this process.

“Ultimately, all high-impact organizations bridge the divide between service and advocacy. They become good at both. And the more they serve and advocate, the more they achieve impact. A nonprofit’s grassroots work helps inform its policy advocacy, making legislation more relevant. And advocacy at the national level can help a nonprofit replicate its model, gain credibility and acquire funding for expansion.”

Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod, authors of Forces for Good.

About Donella Wilson (partner at GHJ)

Donella has over 17 years of public accounting experience providing audit, accounting and special project services. She is a frequent guest lecturer and conference speaker on nonprofit financial management and governance issues, and as an Adjunct Professor, has taught Nonprofit Financial Management at USC’s School of Public Policy, Planning and Development.

Wilson Donella halfbody

Donella Wilson

Donella Wilson, CPA, leads GHJ’s Nonprofit Practice and is also President and Chief Philanthropy Officer of GHJ Foundation, GHJ’s vehicle for purposeful and proactive giving to the community. A leader in both the nonprofit and accounting communities, Donella was named a finalist in the 2021 Los…Learn More