Advocacy Training: Why Should I Attend?
We strongly believe in continued learning and leadership development and advocacy training at The Campaign Workshop. We even budget resources for our own staff to continuously learn throughout the year, ensuring they’re constantly growing in the areas that they’re interested in. The progressive space has too long leaned on the “learn on the job” model of leadership development. We’re here to tell you that this is not always the best solution. In fact, we’ve found that when our team members have been trained properly from the jump, we as team members can more effectively work together to achieve our organizational goals.
If you work at a nonprofit or advocacy organization, one great way to build your skills is by attending an advocacy training. Now, you may be wondering if this type of training is the right fit for you, which is where this blog comes in handy! In this blog, we’ve pulled together information about advocacy trainings and will delve deeper into what gets covered in an advocacy training as well as what options are out there for you. This way you can make a more informed decision about whether to attend an advocacy training in the future.
IS AN ADVOCACY TRAINING RIGHT FOR ME?
Whether you want to learn the basics to build a foundation for your organization or advocacy campaign or you are trying to keep up with ever-changing digital trends, an advocacy training is the way to get there.
When looking for an advocacy training, first you need to answer a few questions to determine what option is best for you and your needs.
1. Is this for individuals, staff, or a whole organization?
It’s important to understand the audience for an advocacy training. If you’re a staff person who wants to utilize your professional development budget to attend an advocacy training, that’s great! Do it! But if you’re a staff of 15 or more interested in getting a refresher or to learn the elements of an advocacy campaign, you may want to pursue a different option. Instead of sending 15 people to a training, you could consider bringing in a trainer to work directly with your team. Now, if you’re working at an organization hoping to train all its staff, field offices, or local chapter leaders to be more effective in accomplishing your mission, then a custom advocacy training may be your best option. At TCW, our favorite training projects are customized programs built for our clients.
2. Does a training program exist on the topic I/we need to be trained on?
Understanding what you want to learn is also key to choosing the best option for you or your organization. As mentioned, there are a number of advocacy trainings out there for a multitude of purposes: from legislative campaigns to direct action to social media to fundraising – and there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. However, our advice is to look into how the training is conducted (lecture style, hands-on activities, webinar only, etc.) to ensure it is conducive to your learning style. Also, don’t forget to read the reviews. On the other hand, if a training program for what you are looking for does not exist, the option of a custom-built training is something to be considered.
3. What is the budget I have to work with for training?
Now let’s talk budget. Often, we underestimate the value of strategic and skills training, and the deciding factor is lowest cost vs quality. Well as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Investing a couple of hundred dollars in yourself to be more impactful in your line of work should be worth its weight in gold. Or if building a custom advocacy training program is the best option in achieving your end goal, then why is it not treated the same as other budget line items?
SHOULD I CONSIDER A CUSTOMIZED TRAINING PROGRAM?
With a custom advocacy training, you are able to develop a program that focuses on your specific topics, is tailored to your staff and mission, and fits your organization’s budget. Costs for a custom training will vary based on the amount of curriculum you’ll need developed, the number of days the training will be, and the number of trainers needed for the training. You will also need to consider logistical costs, including travel and facilities for your trainees and the trainers, which can be kept low if done with enough forethought.
WHAT WILL I LEARN AT AN ADVOCACY TRAINING?
Curious about what you will learn at a advocacy training? Most programs should have a draft agenda which will allow you to see what the training curriculum is focused on. For instance, you can find our draft training agenda here. At our TCW Advocacy Training, we try to give a holistic view of all the different elements that go into creating a plan that prioritizes strategy first and tactics second. Here are a couple of the highlights:
1. Goals, Goals, Goals: One thing that is a common thread throughout many sessions is goal setting. It's important that throughout every aspect of your campaign — whether it's your organizing strategy, press strategy, or lobbying strategy — that you have a clearly defined and measurable goal. This way, you can make your campaign as successful as possible. Set your goals, measure them, and achieve them.
2. Integrate Across All Mediums: We love direct mail and digital, but we understand that just those two pieces can't be the only mediums you use during your advocacy efforts. It’s important to make sure you are integrating mediums and layering your communications so that your target audience is hearing the same message from each contact they have with your campaign.
3. Storytelling is a Powerful Thing: We are all wired for storytelling. It’s why we read books, listen to music, or watch Netflix. A story has the ability to compel people to take action on your advocacy organization’s behalf because it is much more memorable than just stats and facts. We encourage inviting your supporters to tell their stories because there’s nothing better than an authentic messenger with a captivating story.
4. Relationships are Hard: Really this is a life lesson; relationships are hard but worth it. Whether it's with allies, coalitions, legislators, or the press, it’s important to build relationships even when it's tough due to past engagements or tensions. We can communicate as much as we want via email, text, and Slack, but nothing beats true one-on-one conversations when you’re trying to build authentic relationships. It's not always easy, but in the end, it'll work for you, much like all relationships in life.
5. 100+ Campaign Tools: There are tools to help make your advocacy campaign as successful and as smooth as possible, so you should use them! We have an awesome interactive list on our website called 100+ Best Campaign Management Tools, which is a roundup of a bunch of different tools you can use; covering everything from organizing to texting tools, it runs the gambit.
WHERE CAN I FIND A TRAINING THAT IS RIGHT FOR ME?
Substantive advocacy training programs used to be very cyclical. When progressives were in power (i.e. the White House) there tended to be less resources dedicated to training work, but when progressives are under attack as they were under the Trump Administration, money for training programs tends to flow. Now there are a number of organizations that have ongoing training programs to ensure that whenever someone needs to be trained up there’s a program they can attend.
The Campaign Workshop also runs an advocacy training program at least once a year in DC and usually one other in another major city. The Training is Currently Virtual. Past locations include Austin, TX and San Francisco, CA. We know our trainings are not a perfect fit for everyone based on budget and location, but don’t worry – there are plenty of great trainings out there that can help you hone your skills and knowledge. We are committed to ensuring everyone who wants to get trained for advocacy strategy has access to great training opportunities.
Progressive Training Resource
No matter the topic – campaign management, advocacy, field, digital, labor organizing, LGBT campaigns, pro-choice campaigns, national races, down-ballot races, or environmental activism – there is a training for everyone. So check out our Progressive Training Resource page on our blog, and if you know of any others that are not listed, please let us know!
Interested in attending our Virtual Advocacy Training or Public Affairs Training? Get more information and register for our next one here!