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Must Read Content + Using Research and Analysis to Make Change

by Jennifer Gray

If you’re interested in the subjects of compelling framing to move people to action and/or using data effectively, consider attending these workshops scheduled for June 20: Frames that Work: Say This, Not That and Marketing Your Economic Contribution.

The following content from the National Council of Nonprofits has been reprinted with permission.

Advocacy In Action

Research, Analysis, Action

For multiple reasons, everyone in America needs to read the powerful op-ed that Tamara Copeland, President of the Washington [D.C.] Regional Association of Grantmakers, wrote last week: “How Philanthropy Can Work to Give All Black Men an Opportunity to SucceedChronicle of Philanthropy (March 29, 2018).

First, foremost, and above all else, it should be read for its content – the human cost of racism demands everyone’s attention. Tamara’s opening sentence provides access to additional important readings by linking to this New York Times article, Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys (March 19, 2018), which in turn links to the underlying research report: Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States, Executive Summary (The Equality of Opportunity Project, March 2018).

Beyond the content, those of us in the 501(c)(3) community reading Tamara’s piece should consider as well how her op-ed deploys research and analysis as an effective form of nonprofit advocacy. Used properly, research and analysis can be a powerful advocacy tool for substantiating/translating an issue, identifying solutions, and mobilizing action. Or, as we say here at the National Council of Nonprofits: What’s the problem? What are the solutions? Let’s get it done.

  • Substantiate/translate: Until a problem is documented, it can be dismissed too easily as being “just anecdotal” or simply someone’s beliefs or feelings. Reliable data make it difficult for thinking people to ignore the truth of facts. For instance, it’s impossible not to be startled when reading the research finding that 99 percent of black boys fare worse economically as adults than white boys, even when they grow up next to each other with parents who earn similar incomes. That said, data alone is not enough. Research data, so often dry and esoteric, usually needs to be re-packaged in ways that capture attention. As Tamara notes, the New York Times “distilled the findings in attention-grabbing graphics and words.” But even pretty pictures and understandable words won’t be enough unless the audience sees some relevance to their own lives, which is something advocates can do.
  • Identify solutions: The value-add of an advocate is to identify possible solutions and mobilize people to get it done. Tamara’s op-ed identifies corrective action steps that grantmakers can take.
  • Mobilize action: Most people associate “advocacy” with direct contact with government officials. Yet effective advocacy can be aimed at many others who can help shape sound policies. Here, Tamara saw the need to involve many others in the solution, so she wrote her piece for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, not the U.S. Senate or Governing magazine. By circulating the New York Times article in her op-ed, Tamara expanded the awareness of the impossible-to-ignore research and increased the number of potential advocates to push solutions.

Finally, after reading the research and analyzing the advocacy, we each need to take action to help solve this national crisis.

It doesn’t matter what motivates you. It could be because you are inspired by the self-evident truths expressed in our Nation’s founding document, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Or perhaps you take action because you are frustrated that 55 years after Dr. King shared his immortal dream that people will be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, that dream still has not been fully realized. Or maybe you are embarrassed about the shocking research documenting that 99 percent of black boys will fare worse as adults than their white colleagues.

What does matter is that we all must do our part in eradicating this injustice.

Read more examples of Advocacy in Action, a regular feature of Nonprofit Advocacy Matters.

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