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NCADD logo

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Importance of Advocacy

Advocacy means to speak up, to plead the case of another, or to fight for a cause. Derived from the Latin word advocare, which means “coming to the aid of someone.” It describes a wide range of expressions, actions and activities that seek to influence outcomes directly affecting the lives of the people served by the organization.

Advocacy should not be confused with lobbying. Lobbying, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service, involves attempts to influence legislation at the local, state or federal level. Advocacy is more about issues than specific legislation. Lobbying always involves advocacy, though advocacy does not always involve lobbying. Both are important tools for most non-profit organizations and our constituencies.

Government regulations and laws have a significant and powerful impact on every nonprofit organization and the people we serve.

This makes it imperative for nonprofits like NCADD to become involved with policymakers at the city, county, state and national levels who affect our organizations and constituencies. While the services we provide are critical to the various communities we serve, so is speaking out on the issues that concern those in need.

Nonprofits traditionally serve constituencies and issues that have a limited voice in the policy process. Nonprofits providing services frequently have the best, if not only, information on the social needs they exist to address.

NCADD is driven by its commitment to a broad community – all those who may be affected by the harmful consequences of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. With the stigma still attached to substance abuse and addiction, those most affected are often the most silent – we must speak on their behalf!

Reduced to its most basic level, effective nonprofit advocacy is about communication and relationships. Usually changes come about slowly, and advocates need to exercise persuasiveness, persistence and patience in representing an issue. Effective advocates are flexible and resourceful, willing to compromise, negotiate, collaborate, and prioritize to accomplish our goals.

NCADD’s advocacy work takes many forms.

While we do reach out to our elected officials directly, more frequently we aim educate the public by researching and reporting on addiction issues and problems facing those we serve, making effective use of the media through TV, radio, and newspaper coverage and inspiring others to act.

In recent years, NCADD has taken a lead role in advocating successfully for Lifeline legislation, which allows underage drinkers to call for help in a medical emergency without fear of prosecution; municipal private property ordinances, which hold underage drinkers themselves accountable when police break up house parties instead of only the owners of the homes; and clean air legislation, allowing citizens to enjoy a smoke-free environment in all public facilities and many of our local community playgrounds.

Together, we can, and must, do even more.

We are once again looking for individuals to commit to joining NCADD’s Advocacy Team.
Responsibilities primarily involve responding to select action alerts by contacting local elected officials and writing letters to the editors of local papers. It also means you will commit to not only staying informed about the issues connected to NCADD’s mission, but also spreading the word with those you know. If you are interested, contact Ezra Helfand at 732-254-3344 or via email at