Strengthening nonprofits’ ability to empower community advocacy
// By Jacqueline Brennan
Nonprofits are great at delivering services, and at advocating on behalf of those they serve. But, when it comes to encouraging advocacy by community residents, well, that’s another story.
“2020 will be a big year, a huge year in terms of shaping our democracy. We have the presidential election and census both happening next year. It’s an opportunity for nonprofits to help elevate the voices of the people we serve, and use the election and census as community and civic engagement opportunities, says Lindsay Torrico, senior director of policy and advocacy at United Way Worldwide. Lindsay is also among the six finalists vying for the 2019 NGen Leadership Award, presented annually to a changemaker age 40 or younger who has demonstrated transformative impact and collaborative leadership in addressing a critical societal need.
“The fact is, nonprofits are well positioned to help people become active and engaged members of their communities, but they often don’t know how to do that,” Lindsay says. She’ll focus on how to “provide nonprofit organizations with the guidance and tools to engage individuals in advocacy and civic engagement” during her Upswell workshop “How to Be the Expert in the 2020 Elections,”
The workshop will offer changemakers insights that will enable them to better use their expertise to help voters, donors, and volunteers understand the issues that directly impact their missions.
“Everybody is talking about the presidential election, the candidates, the issues. We’ve got to make our work relevant to what’s going on today. If we’re not meeting people where they are at, and aren’t in those conversations, it’s a missed opportunity for us to engage individuals in being part of the change. Particularly for younger people and for the donors that we engage with, this provides opportunities for them to meaningfully connect to what’s happening in the country and the world around them.”
Lindsay wants to leverage the tools of organizations that are supporting and assisting nonprofits in nonpartisan civic engagement work, and highlight the best practices for nonprofits engaging in advocacy.
While she hopes her workshop will encourage organizations to lean toward, and not away from speaking up during the election season, Lindsay’s looking for new ideas, too.
“I know there are a lot of really, smart, innovative ideas happening on the ground that I don’t know about, so I’m hoping to learn, as well, and about two things in particular. First, how nonprofits are finding ways to integrate messaging about voting and census engagement in their community services – it could be at a food drive or free tax prep event.
“And if there are best practices for engaging young people and women – whether it’s advocacy training or engaging in voter registration drives – I’m really interested in how nonprofits are engaging those segments in civic engagement and advocacy work.”
Lindsay’s workshop is one of several opportunities to see her and her fellow NGen Award finalists in action at Upswell, as all of them will all be presenting or speaking during our three days in Chicago. They’ll also be at our Leadership Awards Reception—happening Thursday, November 14—where we’ll announce the winner of the 2019 award!
How to Be the Expert in the 2020 Elections is happening Thursday, November 14 from 2:30 – 3:45pm.