Want To Start An Advocacy Group? Here’s How.
Know what? I’m going to form a group to advocate for something. I’m not sure what the ‘something’ will be. But it will be some issue that will attract enough people with a similar concern that starting and running my little group will give me something to do.
In fact, I’m not only going to form a group that will push for this or for that, but I’m also going to write up a little ‘how to’ manual which explains how to form an advocacy group. Then I’ll sell my little manual online as a downloadable pdf for $29.95.
So, let’s get started with a preview of what I’m going to tell people who want to form an advocacy group. We’ll call it Advocacy 101. All right — here we go. The Hot Air Express is rolling down the tracks.
First you gotta figure out a cause. That’s simple. Go into Google Alerts and type in a few words like ‘evictions,’ or ‘poverty,’ or ‘freedom,’ or ‘quarantine,’ — two from the Left and two from the Right. After all, liberals don’t want anyone to be thrown out of their homes because they can’t pay their rent, and liberals feel bad about people who are poor. Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that Covid-19 lockdowns threaten freedom, ditto mandates which require infected individuals to stay indoors.
Now what you need to understand is how the media treats these words because you want to make sure that your advocacy narrative will be readily and easily understood. On the other, and this is very, very important, you don’t want to advocate an issue that is either too extreme or that gets little media play.
At the same time, you also want to make sure that the issue you are advocating isn’t so popular that your advocacy effort will disappear in the competitive swirl. For this you need to look at the monthly search terms on Google, which will tell you what issues are hot versus what issues don’t make a dent in the public mind. Try and find something which is somewhere in between the two extremes.
Okay. So now you have the issue around which you’re going to create your advocacy group. Now you need a name for the group, a tag-line to explain what the group wants to do, and most important, a catchy logo to put on your website. The logo is the most important thing of all, for reasons I’ll explain further down.
There are hundreds of online vendors who can provide all those resources, including putting them into a website complete with branded email, for less than two hundred bucks. This can all be accomplished in a couple of hours, but now things get really serious, okay?
The first and most important decision is to decide how formal and legal you want your advocacy group to be. The most legally-credible organizational structure would be to incorporate your group as a not-for-profit which can be done by some internet vendor for a couple of hundred bucks. Then you can file for a non-profit status with the IRS which will allow you to solicit tax-exempt donations, the payment gateway can be added to your website for another few bucks.
You’ll also need a bank account, and the moment you start taking in money you’ll need to spend some time keeping track of things or you’ll wind up hoping for a Presidential pardon like Steve Bannon got from Trump after Bannon swiped a million bucks from a non-profit advocacy group that was going to finish the Mexican wall.
Guess what’s going to happen as soon as your website goes up? You’ll get pitched by all kinds of internet outfits who want to sell you various kinds of crap that you can resell to the people who join your group. That’s the reason you need a good logo — the logo goes on the t-shirts, the hoodies, and the coffee mugs.
That’s it. You’re good to go. You’ve become an advocacy group even if the entire effort is run by you quarantining yourself in your living room.
Enough with the tongue-in-cheek views on advocacy groups, now let’s get real.
Last week the senior White House correspondent for Politico, Anita Kumar, reported that the Biden Administration just received a letter from “four advocacy groups” pushing for stronger efforts to reduce gun violence. In fact, these groups consist of three websites run by a total of five people, plus the Parkland kids who appeared at various public events but haven’t been active for over a year.
I have no issue with anyone who goes online and tells a digital audience what the audience may or may not want to hear. I do it myself every day on Medium, as well as on my own blog and Facebook page.
But what I’m not going to do is pretend that my hot air deserves to be reported as some kind of mass, mobilization of public opinion just because I own a website that sells a t-shirt or some other crap that nobody needs.
I’m also not going to push the idea that advocacy and the research which should be done to validate the ideas and strategies of advocacy groups are one and the same thing.
Researchers in all fields need to maintain a strict division between opinions and facts. Advocacy should be a skillful blending of both. And asking a bunch of people their opinions about a particular advocacy issue isn’t research and should never be described or promoted as such.
We need good, strong, valid advocacy but we also need good, strong, independent research which can stand on its own. The two should never be confused.