publication date: Jul 3, 2011
author/source: James Temple
Helping a nonprofit with an advocacy campaign carries the
stigma of being risky business in the corporate world. For private and public
organizations alike, the word advocacy
to incite the fear of uncontrolled chaos. Perceived risks of taking a
particular side on a social issue include polarizing the viewpoints of
employees and clients, and attracting backlash from stakeholders who disagree
with that support.
I recently read Lobbying for
, an article published in a 2009 edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review
authors discussed how government relations teams at certain US companies help nonprofits
advocate for shifts in public policy. They spoke about the need for increased
attention to social causes in the government space, but also stressed the
balancing act among the potential costs, benefits and legal sensitivities over
who can lobby or advocate, how and when.
That made me wonder whether there's a way Canadian
businesses can support advocacy. My conclusion? Yes, but it may involve
changing how we think about the word itself.
I think we've all become micro-focused on the textbook
definition of what advocacy can mean in the context of social change. What we
often forget is that we can transform the ways that advocacy is shaped in our
everyday business. Much like corporate responsibility, the integration of social
values in a business or a community is a journey, a process.
I'd like to advocate (lobby if you will) for all of us to
re-examine the word and look at some of the more practical steps that we can
take for social change by looking through the eyes of a funder and a recipient.
Funders must advocate
for those who don't have a voice within the firm
We must remember that funders have an extended network of
influence and exposure. They must go beyond advocating for a social cause and
focus their message around the work it takes for their nonprofit partners to achieve
the results they desire.
Funders should begin to advocate for something simple like
time: the extra time a grant recipient needs to think, to reflect, and to take
the right risks to innovate and expand for the sake of the social outcomes they
hope to achieve. Instead of focusing on the deadline for an accountability
report from a nonprofit, they must advocate for a change in processes so that
stagnant conversations around dollars, cents and outputs begin to change and
advocate strategically for networks
Too many times, funding proposals take root within the
passion of the cause and forget to focus on the alignment with a funder's
portfolio and its business objectives. The "ask" turns into an appeal to use
employee communications or social networks to relay a message rather than
developing a partnership with a business that meets everyone's needs.
Change doesn't happen overnight. But I'd argue that
advocating for the right conversations could begin that shift quickly. Just sit
around a table and challenge others to think differently about their approach.
Go beyond the red-tape processes and think about funding in a way that makes
things don't happen in the forum of public policy advocacy. But they are
achievable goals that funders and nonprofits can advocate for together to help
strengthen relationships and the networks that drive social change.
James Temple is the
director of corporate responsibility for PricewaterhouseCoopers
Canada and director of the PricewaterhouseCoopers
Canada Foundation. He oversees a team responsible for integrating good
social, environmental and economic values into PwC's decision-making
processes. James is a featured presenter
at international conferences, speaking on the value of developing strong
corporate-community partnerships. He co-chairs
the Association of Corporate Grantmakers
and sits on the board of directors for the Ontario
Association of Food Banks.
Contact him at 416-815-5224 or by email, or visit http://www.pwc.com/ca/corporateresponsibility.