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Learn the importance of developing and maintaining an advocacy strategy to guide and support your work over the long term.

 

  • Looking at the long term

  • Planning for the long term

  • Preparing for the long term

  • Committing to the long term

In nearly all the previous sections of this long chapter on direct action, we've mentioned the need for maintaining an advocacy effort over the long term.
Any action or policy, even one that's embedded in a law or government regulation, can be changed, diluted, or eliminated in the future because of inattention or a determined opponent's action. Although the need to address your issue may have been accepted as one that is as important as the need for public safety or public education, the tide of public opinion could turn tomorrow, and you could find that your support has drifted away.
Unfortunately, as short as the attention span of the public sometimes is, that of legislators and other policy makers is often even shorter - for many, no longer than the time between elections. Furthermore, sympathetic policy makers themselves often disappear, either through voluntary retirement or political defeat, and may be replaced by people who know nothing about you or your issue. Once again, support that you thought solid can vanish.
The only way to make sure that your issue doesn't fall off the radar screen - and to make sure that policy makers, funders, and the public understand what is needed, and why - is to keep at advocacy indefinitely. Long-term advocacy is both similar to and different from advocacy for a specific and immediate purpose. Advocacy for the long term involves planning and organization on a different scale, and an understanding that the context of your issue - and therefore the substance of your advocacy - will change as circumstances and the world change.
In this section, we'll depart from our familiar what?-why?-who?-when?-how? format to discuss long-term advocacy - how to look at it, plan for it, prepare yourself to engage in it, and commit to it.

Looking at the long term

Let's say that you've engaged in a successful advocacy effort to gain recognition and funding for the homelessness issue in your community. Local and state officials have pledged to open a 15-bed family shelter, and to hire an outreach worker to bring homeless people into a support network. Does that mean your advocacy work is over?
Not by a long shot. Fifteen beds are hardly adequate for all the homeless families in the community, for one thing. For another, what about the vastly greater number of homeless individuals, who have no family or other ties of any kind? And what about the issue of homelessness itself? Is there a plan to address that, through financing affordable housing, seeking help and community support for the homeless mentally ill, and dealing with the other issues that created a homeless population in the first place? Furthermore, what will happen if money gets tight - will the shelter be threatened with closing, the outreach worker laid off?
The reality is that your successful campaign has only started the process of addressing homelessness. There's still a long way to go, and it's going to take time and a continuing, unrelenting effort even to keep what you've gained, let alone to take the next step, or to eliminate homelessness as a social issue in your community. As an advocate, you have to take the long view...but what, exactly, does that entail?

 

Vision: seeing the whole.

Looking at the long term means having an ultimate goal, and a series of lesser goals along the way, the achievement of each of which will bring you closer to your destination. Reaching that ultimate goal is a journey that's as important as the destination. The long view is the view of that whole journey - of the length of it, the twists and turns, and the steps you have to take to reach the end.

Your vision for homelessness, for instance, might be to eliminate it entirely in your community. As a realist, you know you can't do that right away - it's too big a task, and the community is unlikely to be ready to take on the level of commitment necessary to accomplish it. (Remember how hard you had to work just to get those 15 beds and an outreach worker.)

Rather, your next step might be a comparatively simple and specific one: adding one more outreach worker, or 10 or 20 shelter beds for individuals. Future steps might include a push for a small number of units of affordable housing, recruiting community mentors, making it easier for homeless people to gain access to services, etc. Each step is one toward that ultimate goal, but provides a benefit in itself as well.

 

Flexibility: an understanding that circumstances, needs, etc. will change over time, and that your advocacy may have to change in response to them.

You've already changed things by gaining the establishment of a family shelter and an outreach program. As a result, homelessness in the community may become a "hot-button" issue, and there may be far more funding available than you ever expected. Conversely, the number of homeless people in the community might still increase, or conditions might get worse for those without families.

Any of these circumstances demands that you adapt to a new situation. Taking the long view means being flexible, knowing that change is inevitable, and being willing to change direction when that's appropriate.

 

Constant vigilance: maintaining your gains.

Often, changes are negative. Your issue may take a back seat to something that seems more important to policy makers at the time. Or they may think they've done enough, and that the issue is resolved. Whatever the reason, you may have to put out an enormous effort just to keep the gains you've made.

As an advocate, you should always be alert to signs that the wind is shifting, and ready to act to keep that from happening. While there will be times when you'll have to respond to something that's already happened - a funding cut, a change in policy that hurts those whose welfare you're concerned about - the best way to stave off trouble is to act before it happens. If you keep your eyes open, you won't be taken by surprise.

 

Patience

taking it slow. Most change is incremental - small step by small step - and takes longer than you expect it to. You have to continue your advocacy even when it seems that nothing is happening. It's often very difficult to tell just when and why an issue seeps into public consciousness, or becomes important to policy makers. They may be reacting to something they heard from you a year ago. Just keep at it - you never know when you'll have an impact.

Perseverance

keeping at it indefinitely. Just like the Energizer Bunny, you have to keep going and going and going... According to Woody Allen, 80% of success is showing up, and that's really what we're talking about here. You have to see advocacy as something that never stops. Politicians won't forget you if you contact them regularly, especially if you're offering information, rather than asking for something. The same is true for the media, or for that matter, for that employer who knows he'll have to deal with you if he abuses migrant workers, or continues to maintain an unsafe workplace. You have to be there, every day, for as long as it takes - that's what makes lasting change.

A comprehensive view of advocacy as a long and complex process is important both to managing that process, and to keeping you going for the long term. Knowing that each victory is a step closer to the ultimate goal, and that each defeat is only a temporary setback makes it easier to sleep at night...and to persevere.
Even reaching the ultimate goal doesn't mark the end of advocacy. New goals may arise, and, just as with earlier gains, the final goal has to be maintained. If you allow yourself to think that you don't have to continue to remind policy makers and funders that your issue is important, or that the work your constituency does is both socially and economically crucial, you'll find yourself facing funding cuts and a lack of interest. In Boston, in the mid-to-late 90's, an anti-violence campaign reduced the youth homicide rate enormously. At one point, the city went more than a year without a youth-violence-related murder. Since everyone thought the problem was solved, much of the energy and attention that had gone into the campaign was diverted elsewhere...and the murder rate went right back up. Advocacy isn't a one-time thing - it's forever.

Planning for the long term

So how does all this translate into a long-term advocacy effort? For openers, you need a plan to guide you. The plan won't be written in stone - after all, you have to maintain flexibility - but it should give you both some general and some specific direction, and keep you moving toward your ultimate goal.
 
A long-term plan starts, as implied above, with a vision. And a vision starts not with one person, but with many. The long-term vision for your effort may not be obvious, or there may be differences of opinion among stakeholders (those involved in or affected by the issue in question) about what it should be. It's worth it to take the time to involve as many stakeholders or stakeholder groups as possible in working out your vision for the issue. A shared vision will go a long way toward keeping people committed to an effort that may go on for many years.
A participatory process - one in which everyone who might be involved in or affected by the effort participates as an equal partner - is an important element in creating a shared vision. Hashing out differences and coming to agreement about the endpoint and the goals of an advocacy effort may be difficult, but it will pay huge dividends in the long run.
Your vision will help you to identify a goal or goals to be reached over the long term, and those goals will, in turn, imply shorter-term objectives that will lead you to them. Being able to see the whole pattern over a long period will make it possible to keep your effort on track, and, ultimately, to achieve your overall advocacy goals.

 

Here are some important elements in developing a vision and strategies for carrying it out:

Consider the issue in context.

What role does it play in the community? In society as a whole? Given that context, what will you have to change in order to reach the ultimate resolution you envision?

To return to homelessness, for instance, some of the questions you might examine are:
 
  • What is its history in the community? Have there been efforts to address it, and how successful were they? What have community attitudes toward homelessness been?
  • What are some of the factors that might be causing it, and can they be addressed? (You probably can't do much about national or international economic trends, for example.)
  • How do people in the community feel about the issue? Are they sympathetic? Angry? Frightened?
  • Are there community assets or resources that could be turned toward addressing homelessness?
The answers to these and similar questions will help you chart your course for both the short and long term. They'll tell you both what is possible now, and what will have to change for you to realize your ultimate vision.

 

Anticipate trends and attitudes.

Looking at your issue in its historic context should also give you a picture of where it's going - in the public consciousness, in the ways it's addressed, etc. Again, using homelessness as an example, some questions you might ask:

  • What are the community, state, and national trends in the way citizens and policy makers feel about and deal with homelessness?
  • What are funders concentrating on, and in what direction are they moving? Services for the homeless mentally ill? Shelter beds? Affordable housing?
  • How can you position yourself in the forefront of the trends you see? Can you use that position to lead policy makers, funders, and public opinion in the directions that you think they should be heading in order to eliminate homelessness?
  • Where do you want things to go? It's important to remember that history and events aren't the only forces driving issues - your advocacy can be a driving force as well.
Anticipating trends and attitudes will help you understand what to concentrate on. If you believe, for instance, that eliminating homelessness depends ultimately on supporting and educating homeless people about their choices, and linking them to life skills and job training, you may need to start by trying to change the attitudes of funders and policy makers. By predicting where thinking about the issue is headed, you can aim your efforts where they can have the greatest effect.
 
Like so much advocacy, this type of anticipation isn't a one-time thing. It's a constant: you should continually monitor public attitudes, images in the media, newspaper and magazine articles, policy maker's statements, and funders' requests for proposals (RFPs) to determine what you have to contend with, who your allies might be, and what your logical next steps are.

 

Develop short- and long-term objectives and strategies.

Considering context and anticipating trends and attitudes are both aimed at understanding the issue and its place in society as well as you can. Setting objectives and strategizing is the work of putting your knowledge and your goals together. It's mapping out a route to your long-term goals that includes the stops you'll have to make along the way.

It would be unrealistic to assume that you could start an advocacy effort today, and - to continue the use of our example - end homelessness forever in three months or a year. Instead, you'd plot out a long-term strategy, identifying the short-term objectives you'd need to reach on the way to your ultimate goal.
 
You'd also understand that, as with a long-distance drive, your route might have to change. Road construction, a short cut, a new source of funding, a change in official policy - any of these might temporarily send you off in an unexpected direction. But your long-term goal - San Francisco, Paris, eliminating homelessness in your community - would remain unchanged.
 
Some suggestions for developing objectives and strategies:
 
  • Pick short-term objectives that you're fairly certain can be reached in a reasonable amount of time. A series of modest successes will do a great deal to keep your allies and constituents motivated for the long term, philosophical about an occasional defeat, and willing to put out extra effort when there's a larger gain at stake.
  • For each of your objectives, develop an action plan that includes a timeline for its accomplishment. Then follow it, making adjustments as they become necessary.
  • Make sure your long-term goal can actually be achieved. As noted above, if the root cause of homelessness in your community is tied to the global economy, you're unlikely to be able to affect it.
Some goals may be worth pursuing regardless of whether they seem realistic or not. Permanent world peace has never come close to realization, but many people strive toward it, in the hope that their work will provide a base for that of others who may be successful, two or three or ten generations from now. If your issue is similar, you may choose to see "long-term" as longer than one, or perhaps many, individual lifetimes. All objectives in this situation will then be "short-term," even those that may take decades to achieve.
Efforts like these are difficult to sustain, but they're not futile. Each generation learns a little bit more, and gets a little closer to the goal. These kinds of efforts have resulted, in the U.S., in a greater measure of equality for minorities and women, and, on a worldwide basis, in the creation of several bodies that have attempted to mediate among nations. The latest of these, the United Nations, may or may not ultimately be truly successful - but it has so far been more successful than its predecessors, and will provide a higher starting point for whatever comes next.
  • Be proactive. Don't wait for the government or someone else to come up with a program to advocate for, or a bad suggestion to react against. Make your own proposals at each step of your long-term effort.

Preparing for the long term

You've envisioned the long-term prospects for your issue, you've developed a strategic plan - now you need to prepare to do the work. That means preparing yourself by getting organized; preparing your allies and other supporters by making clear that you're embarked on a long-term advocacy effort, and helping to provide motivation for it; and preparing the public and policy makers by using the media and other channels.

 

Prepare yourself by getting organized

Getting organized can have different definitions in different situations. If you're already an organization, or part of one, you might want to review and refine your organizational structure. If you're part of a loosely organized grass roots group, it's time to add more structure to your effort, and to become a formal organization. If you're an individual, or part of a very small group, you may want to try to form a larger coalition as a base for long-term advocacy.

If you're embarking on a long-term advocacy campaign, one that may last for years, you're going to need a clear structure - i.e., a formal organization - to sustain it. Organizations come with their own set of problems - deciding whether there will be paid staff, finding money to pay them, finding appropriate space, recruiting a board, etc. - but the structure they provide can be the necessary ingredient in a successful effort. Grass roots groups often resist forming an "official" organization, in the fear that they will lose their community focus. The reality, however, is that they can build the community focus into any organization they create, while without a coordinated and coordinating structure, they are likely to lose all focus.
Whatever your circumstances, organization - in the literal sense of being able to keep track of what you're doing, making sure phone calls are answered and things get done on time, being able to alert your constituency when quick action is necessary, not losing or forgetting to pay bills, etc. - is an absolute key to long-term advocacy. The larger your effort, the longer it's likely to take, the more organized you have to be.
 
Some of the areas to pay attention to:
  • Overall coordination. Someone or some small group has to coordinate the effort. A coordinator can assure that the group speaks with one voice, that the message is clear, that statements or actions come at the appropriate times, and that everyone involved knows what she has to do and when. A coordinator can also function as a clearinghouse for information, which leads to the next important area.
  • Communication. It is absolutely crucial that any advocacy effort have a central communication point. That point is usually the coordinator, but could be some other individual or group, as long as everyone is clear that all communication needs to flow through the center. In this way, you'll know any statement issued by your group has been considered and approved, that information you receive or give out is accurate (or at least that someone has thought about it, and believes it to be accurate) and timely, and that everyone is contacted quickly when there's a need for action. Effective advocacy efforts function in many different ways, but none without reliable communication.
  • Day-to-day management. Even if all your materials and labor are donated, someone has to find donors and volunteers, and coordinate their time. If a local business is delivering to you all the paper you'll ever need, someone has to be there to receive it at the right time, and has to store it somewhere. Volunteers won't last long if no one knows what they are supposed to do. Paid staff require supervision, coordination, and logistical support - and need to be paid on time, as do bills. If you're raising money from the community, that takes an orchestrated effort. If there's money passing through your organization, it has to be carefully recorded and tracked. Whether you're a large organization, a small grass roots group, or even an individual who only occasionally calls on the help of others, you can't avoid management issues.

Prepare and motivate allies and other supporters.

To sustain advocacy over the long term, it's important that everyone involved understand the nature of a long-term effort. Engaging in a participatory planning process, as described above, can help a great deal - if the people you depend on are part of the planning, they'll have a very clear picture of how long the effort might take, and what the intermediate steps are. In addition, they'll feel they own the effort, and be more likely to stay with it.

Some other ways to keep your troops motivated:
  • Expect setbacks...but create success. You won't reach every benchmark, or convince policy makers that you're right every time. But if you to pick your battles and initiatives carefully, you'll be successful more often than not. That will help to keep allies working when something doesn't go well, because there's always the expectation that the next try will go better - after all, most of them have in the past.
  • Maintain your enthusiasm. If you can continue to be optimistic and forward-looking even when things aren't going well, it will help to keep those around you thinking that way also.
  • Be liberal with praise. People remain motivated when they know the work they do is valuable - they need to hear that they're doing a good job. It's up to you to tell them that constantly, and to praise them - individually and collectively, publicly and privately - for their efforts and their dedication.
Celebration of success goes along with praise as an agent that bonds people to the effort and keeps their fires stoked for the next push. A party or other recognition of success - either when you've reached a particular goal, or, sometimes, just to mark the fact that you've all been working hard - can bring people together and do much to prevent burnout, that ever-present threat to advocacy.

Prepare the public and policy makers.

Here's where having a good strategic plan can really help to guide your efforts. At every success, you have to make clear that this is only a step. Statements like "We won't rest until homelessness is history in this community," help to remind the public and policy makers that there's a long term goal at stake. The opening of the new shelter or program doesn't mean that the task is done - it's only one step in a long process.

The next step is in fact laid out in your strategic plan...and you can prepare the community for taking it. "Now that we have enough shelter beds to keep most homeless people from freezing to death in the winter, it's time to talk about affordable housing in this community." By keeping the issue in front of the community, you present it as a given - something the community will want to deal with as a matter of course. Say it enough (and persuade the media to say it enough), and it becomes true.
 
Policy makers are also responsive to repetition, especially when it's backed up by research. If you have a legislative champion, or if you're just trying to bring legislators or other policy makers on board, stating your vision regularly can help them start thinking in the same terms. Let your policy-making friends - legislative allies, aides, and others - in on your long-term goals and the guiding vision of your effort. After a while, it will seem second nature for them, as it does for you, to look at the long term as well as the next step.
 
The major avenue for getting your vision and message out to the public and policy makers is, of course, the use of the media. If you can get even one major media outlet on your side for the long term, you'll have gone a long way toward influencing public opinion and policy.
 
Another important channel is computer-based, encompassing e-mail and the Internet. Through websites, listservs, and e-mail lists, you can not only keep in touch with your allies and stimulate action, but you can also remind them why they're doing this work, and refresh their memory about the vision that guides it.

Committing to the long term

Commitment to long-term advocacy takes, as we have discussed, persistence, optimism, planning, and organization. It also takes resources of various kinds, the drive to continue to take action over a long period, constant reexamination and adjustment of your plan, and constant maintenance of both past gains and your effort as a whole.

 

Resources 

Committing to a long-term effort means that you need resources to sustain an effort for what may be decades, or lifetimes. The commodities that you generally can't do without, at least to some extent, are people, money, and time.

 

People

An advocacy effort is all about people, but people take time and energy (and often money). Depending on the circumstances, you may need researchers, media contacts, public spokespersons, outreach workers, fundraisers, grant writers, phone callers, people to do the "grunt work" - stuffing envelopes, cleaning the office, answering the phone, tacking up posters, filing, fetching and carrying, etc. - and, as explained above, a coordinator to pull it all together.

If you depend on volunteers, you have to find people who can do what you need done, and then hope they'll stick around for a while. Volunteers' lives change (marriage, babies, new jobs, illness), and, often on short notice, they're not there anymore. What that means in the long run is that outreach, recruitment, and training for new volunteers has to go on almost constantly. Furthermore, volunteers have to be coordinated and supervised, new volunteers have to be integrated into the operation, and everyone has to be kept informed.
 
If you rely mostly on paid staff, you have to recruit and hire well to find the people with the necessary skills, dedication, and "fit" for the organization. Once you've hired them, you have to train, coordinate, and supervise them, solve problems among them, keep them happy enough to stay and do good work, and find the money to pay them.
 
For a long-term advocacy effort, you have to make a special attempt to find staff, whether volunteer or paid, who have the passion for the issue that will compel them to stay with it for as long as it takes. Continuity is an important factor in successful long-term advocacy, and continuity comes from people.

 

Money

Money will probably be necessary at least at some points in your long-term effort, and may be a constant issue. If you have even one staff person, you have to pay her. You'll need some supplies (paper, printer cartridges, etc.) to get the word out, a phone system (or at least a line or two), a computer and Internet service. You may have to pay rent for an office, pay for printing and/or media ads, transportation, and other "incidentals."

Even if much of the materials and labor for your effort is donated, what's left can add up to many thousands of dollars, pesos, pounds, or Euros - money that you'll have to raise from donations, grants, or other sources. Many larger advocacy organizations either employ a full-time fundraiser (or fundraising staff), or hire a fundraising organization to raise money for them. In smaller organizations, including most community-based and grass roots groups, fundraising may be part of everyone's job description, or may be largely the job of the Board. In either case, the community (or state or nation) - through donations, funding organizations, and other sources - has to be willing and able to supply what's needed.
The key to sustaining funding is diversification. While you should certainly seek and accept large donations, it's a good idea to build a funding base from many sources, so that the loss of any one doesn't cripple your effort.

Time

Two kinds of time come into play here. First, and more simply, people have to have (and give) the time to make the effort successful. Staff and volunteers have to provide enough hours to make any action effective, and have to be willing to stay with the effort over the long term - years, or even decades - to see their work bear fruit.

The second time issue concerns the aims of your advocacy. Is a long-term effort the appropriate way to address your cause? In some cases - eliminating racism, for instance, which could easily take a generation or more - it may be the only way. In others - addressing the health problems caused by an environmental disaster - it may make more sense to put all your advocacy efforts into a shorter-term, all-out push to resolve the situation and remove people from harm.
 
Your time resources - whether in the form of time that people are willing to spend or the time that you have to resolve an issue before its consequences become too serious to contemplate - have to be adequate for the campaign you're planning.

 

Drive to continue the effort

The ultimate success of a long-term advocacy effort depends on the willingness of those involved to keep at it, often with no visible result, over a long period of time. That willingness comes from their personal commitment, but it also comes from the shared vision that was generated as part of the planning, and the ability of the leadership - you - to continue to articulate that vision and renew the passion that drew people to the cause in the first place.
The word passion is not used lightly here. Real commitment to a cause - and that's generally a characteristic of persistent advocates and advocacy organizations - comes from a passionate belief in its usefulness or practical necessity or justice or moral rightness. In general, advocates are people who care deeply about what happens in the world, and are willing to put their money where their mouths are to improve conditions or right wrongs. That passion supplies the drive we're talking about here, and is a quality you should be looking for in volunteers and staff, and a quality that should be nurtured and maintained in anyone involved with your effort.
One way to continue to reinforce the vision is to make sure that there is always a specific action for people to focus on. If you're following the guidelines in this section, you have a long-range strategic plan that includes intermediate steps. You should always be working toward one of these steps, so that your advocacy always has a short-term (and realizable) as well as a long-term focus. It may be hard for people to see progress toward a distant and all-encompassing goal, but it's easy to see a success in, or at least a struggle toward, a smaller and more reachable one.
Your plan should be constantly in play, and revisited at least annually for readjustment (see below). At the same time, you should make a plan for the coming year that fits into the larger plan. The annual plan may already be part of your strategy, something you've been looking forward to for a while. Or it may be a new strategy that grew out of new events or possibilities. Whatever the case, an annual plan serves to keep the focus on what's happening now, as well as what might happen in the future, and to keep people from getting frustrated at how far away the ultimate goal seems to be.

Reevaluation and adjustment of the plan

A strategic plan is only a document, a guide for action. It must be used in order to have any effect. Thus, your plan, as it says in the box above, should be constantly in play. That includes regular - at least yearly - monitoring of what you're doing. Are you following the plan? If not, why not? If so, is what you're doing effective? If not, what needs to be changed to make it effective?
There are four chapters of the Tool Box - 36, 37, 38, and 39, a total of 31 sections - devoted to evaluation of programs and initiatives. You don't have to do a full evaluation every time you look at your effort; if you're small or strapped for resources, you may never do one. You can, however, ask the kinds of questions suggested above, and use reactions from stakeholders and others in the community, as well as your own impressions, to get reasonably accurate answers.
Just as a plan is no good unless it's carried out, monitoring isn't worth much unless it leads to appropriate adjustments. If your monitoring seems to show that what you're doing is effective and leading in the direction you want to go, then there's little to be adjusted...for now. If there's a problem - your message isn't getting out, a group you've seen as an ally opposes you on cultural grounds, your message is heard but has no impact, you're advocating for a policy change that has unintended negative consequences, etc. - your monitoring should tell you that, and give you some direction about how to change what you're doing in response to it.
 
Consistent and regular monitoring of your advocacy's action and direction will also give you the chance to change direction when new information becomes available. There may be research that shows that what you were planning to work toward is less effective in bringing about your long-term goal than another course of action, or that it would make more sense to aim your advocacy at a different target. Being able to take advantage of such information can only increase the power of your message.

 

Maintenance of past gains and of the effort as a whole

Finally, a long-term effort takes constant attention and care. As discussed above, any gains you make can be temporary if you don't work to sustain them. Volunteers and staff need support and encouragement all the time, not just occasionally. You have to keep up your contact with policy makers, donors, and other supporters continually, not just when you need something from them. You should be distributing any new information that you get to all the folks who have reason to care about your efforts.
 
Advocacy is a long-term commitment by definition. Even after you've reached what you think of as your final goal, you're not finished. There may be another goal beyond that to work toward. The task of maintaining what you've won may be full-time - turn and walk away, and all your gains could be lost. Either way, your work as an advocate is never really done.

In Summary

Advocacy is a long-term process. While you may make specific gains, the chances are that your long-term vision is just that: a vision of a community or a world in the future, with changes that will take a long time to accomplish. Thus, your advocacy effort has to keep its eyes on the ultimate goal, while working to accomplish intermediate steps that lead to that goal.
 
A long-term effort rests on several elements:
  • A vision that looks at the whole road ahead, both the intermediate achievements and the ultimate goal.
  • The flexibility to change short-term goals and objectives in response to changes in circumstances and needs, while still keeping hold of the vision.
  • The vigilance to maintain gains and address threats and opposition.
  • The patience to keep at it when it may seem little is happening.
  • The perseverance to keep focused for the long term, and to work to turn your vision into reality.
A long-term effort takes a strategic plan that covers both short- and long-term advocacy goals and objectives. Planning, which includes the development of the vision mentioned above, should be participatory, involving all stakeholders from the beginning. Good planning includes considering your issue in its social, political, economic, and historical context; anticipating trends and attitudes among the public, policy makers, and funders; and developing both short- and long-term strategies and objectives for your effort - short-term goals that can be reached, creating success, an achievable long-term goal, and a proactive stance toward generating solutions.
 
Preparation on a more basic level is also vital. You have to prepare yourself or your group for a long-term effort by increasing your level of organization (perhaps to the point, if you haven't done so already, of creating a formal organizational structure); prepare your allies, supporters, and constituents by involving them in planning, feeding their enthusiasm with yours, praising and celebrating them and their accomplishments, and keeping them focused on the vision; and prepare the public and policy makers through networking and judicious use of the media.
 
Commitment to a long-term effort means committing to find and maintain resources of people, money, and time (all related) adequate to the scope of your advocacy. It means fostering and nurturing among staff, volunteers, allies, and supporters the drive to continue to work toward a long-term vision. It means regularly monitoring and adjusting both your plan and your strategies and goals and objectives in response to real-world changes. And it means working indefinitely to maintain your gains and move forward with new ones. In short, it means never giving up until your vision is realized, and then continuing to maintain that realization.
 
None of this is easy, but the rewards can be great, and can define dedication to the good of the community.
 

Online Resources

Basic Elements of Successful Advocacy is a guide provided by the New York State Coalition for the Aging, Inc.

The Democracy Center. "Strategy Development: Key Questions for Developing an Advocacy Strategy," by Jim Shultz, Democracy Center director.

Ensuring Success for the Long Run is an article by the Institute for Sustainable Communities discussing sustaining yourself and your campaign throughout the advocacy process.

A Guide to being a Successful Advocate is a legislative guide with practical advice to create a lasting effect through advocacy work.

The Human Rights Connection. Lots of information on advocacy and advocacy planning, including a short piece on setting long-term and short-term goals and objectives, and a number of interesting case studies.

Strategic Advocacy for Lasting Results is a toolkit focused on creating an advocacy campaign with lasting results.

Successful Stories and Advocacy Case Studies has a variety of stories of successful advocacy campaigns with lasting effects. 

The UNICEF Advocacy Toolkit  is an extensive resource for creating long-term advocacy strategies.

What Makes an Effective Advocacy Organization is a guide that discusses both the short-term and long-term needs for an advocacy campaign.

Print Resources

Meredith, C., & Dunham.C. (1999) Real Clout. Boston: The Access Project.