Ultimate Guide: How to Get Started in Advocacy and Causes?

The world faces many issues — poverty, environmental degradation, child labour, animal cruelty, racial and gender discrimination, and more. And you care! You want to help, and make a positive impact.

This desire gives birth to advocacy and activism. It gathers change-makers to influence the decisions of those in power.

Here are some groups campaigning their causes worldwide:

  • Human Rights Watch – a group that defends the rights of people everywhere by investigating abuses and exposing evidence widely.
  • World Wildlife Fund – a conservation group that focuses on forests, oceans, fresh water, wildlife, food sustainability, and climate change.

But, what about you? Do you have a cause you care deeply about?

How do you make the greatest impact as one person? How do you reach other souls who care?

Know your cause and decide what you need to do

1. What issue(s) do you care about deeply?

What issue(s) do you care about deeply?

First, ask yourself what issues tug at your heartstrings. These may be things you want to make an impact on globally or locally – environmental issues, human rights, social issues, animal welfare, and more.

But, make sure that you focus on one. Advocacy takes up a lot of space in your life and time. You’d want your efforts to be focused to make an impact.

2. Know what's happening

Know what's happening

Be it local or global, know what’s happening within the cause you care about.

  • Follow the issue on the news.
  • Set up Google alerts and add the keywords related to your cause, and then select the region.
  • Follow key activists and advocacy groups on Twitter.
  • Join Facebook groups that gather fellow activists and advocates in your cause.
  • Read publications by key advocacy groups and add them to your feed aggregator (e.g. Feedly).

3. Know how you can get involved

Know how you can get involved

What are advocates and others doing about the issue you care about? What are they doing locally? Is there any way you can get involved? Are they neglecting something?

Once you know what’s being done, you’d know how to get involved – volunteering, fundraising, petitioning, and more. Perhaps there is an area that an existing advocacy group is weak at, and you can help. Or, you may need to start a totally different movement.

Make an impact

4. Be clear on what your cause is about

Be clear on what your cause is about

Fill in this advocacy plan to clarify your vision and mission.

Key Issue
  • Key issue
  • Who or what is affected by this?
  • What’s being done about the issue? Were there results?

Key issue: Local factories have been disposing of waste incorrectly for years. As a result, chemicals are leaching into groundwater and wells.

Trees in the immediate vicinity have died and the locals are getting sick from drinking water from the wells.

Letters from authorities have been sent to factory owners, who delay action due to high costs. No legal action has been taken because the local community relies on the factories for income.

Problems

Identify the top three problems flowing from the issue. These would inform you of the focus of your advocacy.

Example: Pollution from poor factory waste disposal

Problems:

  1. Factories are not disposing of waste correctly (because they claim it’s expensive)
  2. Locals are getting sick from water consumption
  3. Wildlife is dying within 5km of the factories
Audience

Who are the people who can help effect change? (i.e. politicians, influencers, and groups)

Example: Pollution from poor factory waste disposal

Audience: locals, governor, journalists, influencers

Vision

How do you see the future? What would you like to achieve five years from now?

Example: Pollution from poor factory waste disposal

Vision: To ensure all factories in the country dispose of waste correctly

Mission

How do you intend to achieve your vision?

Mission:

  • To educate people about proper factory waste disposal
  • To put in place stiff penalties for non-compliance
  • To incentivise compliance with proper waste disposal methods

5. Break down your advocacy mission into manageable goals

Break down your advocacy mission into manageable goals

Recall the problems to focus on in step 4. This is what you need to do – come up with solutions, goals, and an action plan.

Solution

What needs to happen for the key problems to be resolved?

Example: Pollution from poor factory waste disposal

Solution (Problem 1 – Get the factories to dispose of waste correctly):

Pressure factory owners to use proper waste disposal methods. It doesn’t make sense to incentivise factories to use waste disposal methods. That should have been factored into their expenses in the first place.

Goal

Set specific measurable goals for your solutions.

Example: Pollution from poor factory waste disposal

Goal (Solution for Problem 1 – Apply pressure):

Get the masses to boycott businesses linked to those factories

Action plan

What’s the action plan for each goal?

  • What key things have to be done?
  • What resources does it take to reach your goal?
  • What does it take to reach your audience?
  • How will you get funding?

Example: Pollution from poor factory waste disposal

What key things have to be done?

  • Gather evidence of improper waste disposal
  • Find out the companies that work with offending factories
  • Prepare content to spread awareness of the issue to a local and global audience — with calls to boycott offending factories and their business partners
  • Contact influencers and other advocacy groups to amplify reach

What resources does it take to reach your goal?

  • Volunteers
  • Investigative journalists (or volunteers)
  • Social media accounts
  • Influencers

6. Have a strategic roadmap

Have a strategic roadmap

Your strategic roadmap informs you of what needs to be done. Obviously, you’ll have a number of goals to work on with a limited amount of resources. You’ll need to map each goal and action plan to periods on your calendar.

7. Build a team (of volunteers and staff)

Build a team (of volunteers and staff)

Organizing advocacy campaigns and day-to-day work takes manpower and time. Start reaching out to volunteers so that you can delegate tasks and make the work easier. Also, when you have a team, everyone working for the same cause feels a sense of camaraderie and empowerment.

On top of that, some volunteers may have strategic connections to public officials, influencers, and powerful businesses. They would be able to help your advocacy take larger and quicker strides.

When picking out key members of your volunteer team, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are they passionate about the cause?
  • Do they have the background knowledge and skills to do the job?
  • Do they have work and life experiences that are relevant to the cause?
  • Do their character and lifestyle fit with your team culture?
  • Do they have strategic ties to influential people and groups?

8. Raise funds

Raise funds

No matter how passionate you are about your advocacy, or how well-planned your goals and strategies are, you still have necessary expenses to feed your volunteers, book venues for events, advertise your activities, and more.

With that, you need to raise funds.

There are many ways to raise funds for your advocacy. Choose the one that’s attainable with the resources that are available to you. Here are some ideas:

  • Organize activities where you can collect registration fees. Examples of activities are marathons, film showings, concerts, sports tournaments, and more.
  • Sell products and services. Arrange a yard sale or a raffle, rent a food truck to sell goods, or offer your skills to interested people for a fee.
  • Sign up for online fundraising. Register your cause to crowdfunding sites, or launch an online auction.
  • Request for sponsorships. Knock on doors in the community to ask for donations, or write to corporations and organizations to appeal for their financial support.

9. Spread your advocacy to everyone

Spread your advocacy to everyone

Last but not least, your advocacy becomes a success when you’re able to lobby a lot of people to support it.

For that to happen, you need to get the word out as far as you can.

Research on organizations and groups that have the same advocacy as you do, and reach out to them to see if you can collaborate with one another. Your cause becomes more impactful when you’re all working together towards it.

If you have events organized or campaigns to promote, do it on social media. With most people nowadays being online, there’s a greater chance for you to reach your target audience by making use of the platform.

Also, engage with your policymakers and leaders. As they have the power and influence over crucial decisions in your community, they can be key to a successful advocacy campaign. Getting their support will help significantly in solving the issues you want to address.

Go and Make a Change

Setting up a social advocacy is an honourable act. When you do it right, it can pave a path towards the change you want to see in the world.

What do you want to change about the world today?

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1. What issue(s) do you care about deeply?
2. Know what's happening
3. Know how you can get involved
4. Be clear on what your cause is about
5. Break down your advocacy mission into manageable goals
6. Have a strategic roadmap
7. Build a team (of volunteers and staff)
8. Raise funds
9. Spread your advocacy to everyone