At the BoardSource National Leadership Forum this fall (where I spoke on using design thinking to enhance your organization’s impact), BoardSource and allied organizations across the nonprofit sector rolled out a new campaign to encourage nonprofit board members to “Stand for Your Mission.” 

Public advocacy for the organization is one of board members’ most critical roles.  Too often this role is filled haphazardly, if at all.  BoardSource and colleagues aim to change that – specifically by encouraging nonprofits to be at the table when public policy decisions are made.

Public policy, from the municipal to the national level, has a huge impact on nonprofit effectiveness.  Policy decisions based on ignorance, indifference, or bias can undo years of earnest effort toward the mission and make further progress much more difficult.  BoardSource and colleagues argue, “Our missions demand that we have an impact on those decisions before they are made.”

BoardSource recognizes that boards will find themselves all along the continuum of preparedness for advocacy, from being complete novices to having a sophisticated, integrated advocacy agenda.  Their five-step Discussion Guide for Boards begins at the beginning: 

  • Step One is ensuring that the full board is in agreement about the organization’s vision for the future and means of achieving it. 
  • Step Two is digging deep to thoroughly understand the social and political ecosystem within which your organization functions.
  • Step Three requires rigorously reassessing the big-picture opportunities and threats that can strongly affect your effectiveness. 
  • Step Four means taking a close look at the board’s ability to advocate effectively by examining members’ social networks and expertise, developing a policy strategy that spells out board members’ roles, and recruiting new members with necessary connections and abilities.
  • Step Five is integrating advocacy into the board’s culture, so that it’s a regular topic of exploration, discussion, and informed action. 
Your board will take up this process where it needs to.  What every board needs is to ensure that they are the organization’s most effective advocates.  How does your board rate as advocates?  I hope you’ll let me know.

Learn more at



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