Guest post by Meredith Dodson
For the past seventeen years, I’ve talked to people every day about the importance of engaging in advocacy, in addition to the great service work happening in communities across the country. Why? Because of people like LaNae.
I met LaNae in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2013, when she was attending the RESULTS International Conference. As a single mother making $8.25 an hour, LaNae depended on SNAP benefits (formerly Food Stamps) to put food on the table each month. While in D.C., she participated in workshops, panel discussions, and skill building, culminating in an advocacy day on Capitol Hill with other RESULTS volunteers. The goal? To convince her Congressional Representatives not to make devastating cuts to a program that had been such a lifeline for her and her seven-year-old son, Konnor.
Not long after returning home to Albuquerque, LaNae watched C-SPAN in awe as her own story was recounted on the floor of the House of Representatives. Standing before a photo of Konnor, Albuquerque Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham called on her congressional colleagues to protect SNAP.
“Before joining RESULTS,” I didn’t even know what the Congressional Record was. Now I’m in it,” LaNae said.
It took courage for LaNae to share her story and to ask her member of Congress to take action. But she did it, and Rep. Lujan Grisham was so moved by LaNae’s story she wanted to share it with others. I hope you will too.
At RESULTS, we use our voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty. We believe there is a lot of power in talking to important decision-makers about the policies that impact all our lives, because if we all raise our voices together, we can create change. Advocacy really does work.
Here is an example: I have a favorite slide I like to show in any training or presentation. I admit, I am obsessed with this visual from the Congressional Management Foundation on effective ways to communicate with members of Congress. After polling over 250 staff persons from congressional offices, they put out a report, Communicating with Congress: Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill, that affirms the impact we can have when we get involved. Personal communications with members of Congress are the most influential action a constituent can take – meaning all of us can make a difference as individuals and as a part of organizations. In fact, 97 percent of the Congressional staff surveyed said face-to-face meetings with constituents had a lot or some positive influence. As you can see, that’s a lot more than a visit from a lobbyist – if we get involved.
That’s why I’m thrilled to be joining the Alliance to End Hunger and the Alliance for Justice as a part of VolunteerMatch’s Nonprofit Insights Webinar Series. During a conversation on September 16, we will discuss what “advocacy” really means, how we will use the latest Census data to further our work, and how organizations can participate in advocacy more effectively. Since I work with a network of volunteer advocates at RESULTS, I’ll make sure we talk about how to use the time you have to make the biggest impact. I hope you’ll join us!
Nonprofit Insights: Advocacy & Service-Focused Nonprofits, Challenges and Opportunities
Wednesday September 16th, 10 a.m PT (1 p.m. ET)
- Abby Levine, Legal Director of the Bolder Advocacy initiative at Alliance for Justice
- Meredith Dodson, Director of RESULTS’ U.S. poverty campaign work
- Minerva Delgado, Director of Coalitions & Advocacy at the National Alliance to End Hunger
- Jennifer Bennett, Senior Manager of Education & Training at VolunteerMatch
About the author: Meredith Dodson is the Director of U.S. Poverty Campaigns at RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.results.org.