Setting the Boundaries: What You Will and Won't Do
You need to set boundaries and frameworks for your advocacy early in the piece to avoid on-the-spot decision-making, inconsistency, and accusations of bias or hypocrisy.
One way of doing this is to develop and publicise a 'charter of principles', which covers a range of things (from values to procedural issues) that will help to guide your group's decision-making process. These principles are often made public so that your organisation can be held accountable for its actions and so that you will have a reference point when a decision or action is in dispute.
Below we outline some of the things to consider when setting boundaries for your group. These should be read in conjunction with our helpsheet Getting started: Some things to consider.
Funding in the context of advocacy work is not so much about 'how' as 'who'. Who are you happy to accept money from, and who do you think it will be problematic to receive funding from? The primary concern here is independence (or, in some cases, the appearance of independence). This question should not only be answered in terms of who specifically you are or aren't happy to receive funding from, but also in terms of why. For example, you may be happy to receive government funding providing it doesn't affect your advocacy, but other groups will simply flatly refuse government money for fear of a real or perceived lack of independence. It's also important to remember that you want to keep your funding base as broad as possible, so try not to restrict too many avenues.
It's also worth considering if there are any funders that you closely align with that would be worth approaching for funding.
Visit the Funding Centre at www.fundingcentre.com.au for fundraising tips and tools.
Groups you'll engage with
This is a similar question to the one about funding, but the answer isn't always the same. Who will you engage with to further your cause? Are ideological issues a consideration, or past records? Will you engage with commercial corporations, for example? Will you engage with only certain types of corporations? What about religious groups? What about organisations that are doing good work now, but which have a tarnished past?
Your credibility could well be on the line, so you need to consider these issues carefully and draw up guidelines. Collaborations are often the key to advocacy, so it's important to have a clear idea of who you're happy to collaborate with.
Who are you prepared to criticise?
Are you in a position where you can criticise funders, or groups you're engaged with? Is this important or necessary? Are there any organisations that you don't depend on for funding or collaboration, but could harm your operations if they're criticised?
In Australia, it's almost universally assumed that advocacy will be non-violent - and fortunately, violence isn't generally necessary. However, it might be worth giving some consideration as to whether or not you'd like to state this specifically, and if so why.
Short-term or Long-term
Some organisations are formed to achieve a specific aims - stopping a development, for example, or making genetic engineering illegal. It's a good idea to give some thought at the outset to what happens when you achieve this aim. Are you intending to launch an ongoing campaign, or will you dismantle it when you're done?
Structural or Single-issue
Related to time constraints is the question of whether you decide to run a campaign about underlying structures or a single-issue campaign. Again, a decision on this early in the piece is important. Refer to this helpsheet for more information on this topic.
Who can speak for the organisation? Can the organisation speak for others?
When you're working out who speaks for the organisation, that's an issue of media marketing; see this helpsheet for more information on this topic.
It's important to articulate who your group will speak for, and why. Firstly, is this advocacy 'for' or advocacy 'with'? If you're advocating for someone or something then it's probably legitimate for you to speak on their behalf. However, many organisations choose to advocate with - and in this case you must ask not only if you can speak on their behalf but also if they can speak on yours.
Other campaigns will involve coordinating a lot of other organisations, or providing an open space. If you're playing this facilitating role, then who exactly can you speak for?
These sorts of questions can become quite emotionally charged, so make sure you're clear about them right from the beginning.