12 Advocacy Myths That Hurt Your Organization

by Tobias Cebulash (He/Him)

Advocacy Myths

The 12 Most Damaging Advocacy Myths:  How to Break Bad Advocacy Campaign Habits

With advocacy campaign season in full swing, it's time to clear the air on some common advocacy myths about what will and won't hurt your advocacy group.

You don’t need an explicit advocacy strategy
Your advocacy campaign will grow and change over time, but that just means having a firm advocacy strategy to guide your campaign is all the more important. Take the time to carefully pinpoint your exact goals and examine what the landscape currently looks like, and determine precisely what sort of legislative successes will get you to where you want to be. The effort up front in building an explicit advocacy strategy will pay off in the long run. 

Only the rich can meet their elected official 
Go ask your legislator to meet you for a cup of coffee and talk about your issue. Most legislators will simply say yes, or they might offer some alternative to discuss your concerns. You don't have to be a big shot to take that step—just bring a bit of moxie and a basic pitch.

Advocacy campaigns don't matter
This advocacy myth will challenge you throughout your campaign. Always remember that if your issue matters to you, your advocacy efforts matter to your entire community. The campaigns we are building will allow us to shore up support to achieve broad and impactful organizational goals. Now more than ever, advocacy campaigns are creating the change our communities need. 

All you need is a good lobbyist
A good lobbyist can make a big difference for your advocacy campaign. A lobbyist can open doors and define targets, but believing they can do everything actually sets them—and you—up to fail. Build a strong grassroots campaign to back up your efforts on legislation and you’ll see more success on both sides. 

If you call too often, your legislator will vote against you
Not likely. If you don't call or advocate, you’re in a lot more jeopardy than if you do. Remember, your legislator wants to hear from their community. Communication makes everyone’s job easier—both yours and your legislator’s.

The legislation takes care of itself
Legislation is like a plant—no matter how good the seed (idea) is, if you don't nurture and water it, the plant will die. Always follow up on the progress you’ve already made, and plan your next steps in line with your overall advocacy strategy. Even when you’ve gotten key legislators on board, keep up your efforts to see your desired legislation through to the end. 

Nobody cares about what voters think
Knowing how their voters think is a big deal to elected officials. Showing them that their voters care about your issue is very important and can mean the difference between support or opposition.

Grasstops advocates are hard to find
Start by looking at the elected official or officials you are targeting. What are their backgrounds? What boards are they on? Where did they go to school? Who are they married to? Who are their donors? These questions will help you identify the key grass tops advocates who can most directly impact your advocacy campaign. 

Your team is on the same page
Often, a team might be on the same page about the “why” but not the “how.” Your members don't know your priorities unless you tell them. It’s not fair to your advocates and members to assume they are advocacy experts—or even experts on your issue—when they may not be. Tell them what actions matter most to you and what they can do to help achieve overall goals. 

Your team can just “learn on the job”
When your team members have been trained properly from the jump, you’ll notice that you can far more effectively work together to achieve organizational goals. Advocacy training options vary widely, and there are sure to be opportunities that will give your team a huge boost with just a small, up-front investment. Even internal training can help identify experience gaps early, and guide your advocacy strategy development.
Advocates are different than donors
This advocacy myth is the opposite of the truth in many cases. Advocates and donors are very often the same folks, or in other cases, new advocates end up being a potential group of donors you have not tapped yet. Never be afraid to ask people to get more involved—they may be itching to help, but waiting for the invitation.

You can't build an organization through advocacy 
Many folks are afraid of advocacy. They think that their current donors will run away when they start doing advocacy. We have seen the reverse happen—by doing advocacy, you give your donors and members a chance to speak about the issue they love and get other folks to buy in.

Have a favorite advocacy myth? Share it here.