The Importance of Being Political

The Importance of Being Political

As should be readily apparent, it is election season here in the United States. This can be a busy time for some nonprofits trying to fold advocacy efforts into the election cycle, while others try to sustain fundraising efforts in the face of increased political donations. But regardless of how your job role changes during election cycles, it is important to take a moment to recognize the role of your nonprofit when it comes to politics. The decisions and discussions happening in the political sphere are having an effect in the community of your nonprofit – but how do you balance discussing these concerns without crossing the political lines?

Some political issues and policy shifts are perfect matches for nonprofit discussions – the passing in California of SB1172, or the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, are recent examples of policy changes made by politicians that have an effect in the nonprofit landscape and, more importantly, in local communities. If you are a nonprofit interested in gender policies and equal rights, how could you not comment on this news?

It’s important to consider before making any public statements, either on your website, blog, email communications, social media, or more traditional outlets, to think of how these ideas fit in with communication strategy and content already in place. Is jumping into these conversations beyond the scope of the work you’re already doing in the community? Do the policies and implications involved deal directly with your work? If not, what part of your mission and cause relates to this discussion that warrants putting your official stance on this issue?

With that said, don’t shy away from controversy because you are afraid of the backlash or consequences. Take a moment to think about your fears of discussing the political issues that impact your organization and community. What are you most afraid of – is it losing a major donor? Is it upsetting board members? Is it launching a discussion you don’t know how to handle? Are these consequences so great that you don’t see the possible benefits? You have control over your media and your message – take advantage of conversations already happening and show why your organization is important in moving this discussion forward. By commenting thoughtfully on relevant issues, you can illustrate the broader impact of your organization to potential donors, volunteers, and members of your community, which can lead to greater growth in the future.

We absolutely appreciate the importance of staying within your brand, but commenting on politics doesn’t mean breaking from your conventions. Think of this in a different way – as a person, you have opinions on political topics that do not contradict with your public or professional persona. While there is always the risk of offending someone, think of the value possible in encouraging dialogue and discussions based on subjects that are prevalent and important to those involved in your organization. Additionally, while moderating reactions is not always easy, if there are people passionate about the same things as your organization, wouldn’t you rather have the opportunity to engage with them in your environment?

So where should you draw the line between your cause, your public stance, and the political world both exist in? It truly depends on your organization, but it is impossible to avoid the impact these decisions and actions could have on your organization and your community. So take a stance – and show others how you’re helping pave the way for a better community.

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