Creating a Culture of Advocacy

This week is Culture Week at Goodwill Industries International (GII), a time when team members from around the country come together to build stronger teams, reflect, and connect.  GII’s culture and values statement are the foundation of the week and our work together.
However, change is inevitable and it is necessary to periodically revise an organization’s culture and values.  As I embark on this process with my colleagues, I keep thinking about what is means to have a culture of advocacy (this makes sense, as I lead the government relations and one of the reasons I love my work is that I get to provide people with a voice so they can influence public policy).
Local Goodwill® organizations collectively served more than 38 million people last year.  What is all of those individuals were to register for the Legislative Action Center or follow us on Twitter @GoodwillCapHill?  Think of all of the people who would be further educated about our policy agenda.  Going a step further – 128,000 people are employed by Goodwill collectively.  What kind of impact would we have if each of those employees were to contact their Member of Congress when asked?  Finally, there are 156 local Goodwill organizations around the country and together Goodwill is one of the largest nonprofit provider of workforce development and job training services in the country.  What if each local Goodwill had as strong a relationship with the lawmaker as their largest donor?  Of course, as a charitable nonprofit Goodwill doesn’t endorse candidates nor contribute to campaigns, but our calls should be answered as well. With a strong culture of advocacy, our voice and impact can be much greater on behalf of the millions of people with barriers to employment that are served.
What would take for you to have a culture of advocacy in your work place?  Do people feel empowered to speak up?  Are team members at all levels educated about the impact of public policy? Are your leadership and board members leveraging their relationships to strengthen the organization’s public policy influence – or even making introductions to policymakers?  Have you invited your lawmaker and their staff to see your organization and connect with their constituents (you employees, volunteers, supporters, and people served)?
Advocacy is a means to tell your story, give a voice to those who haven’t been heard, can inspire your employees and other stakeholders, and lets the community now that your organization is leading and managing on the issues that matter most.