Why Corporations Fear Advocacy

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How nonprofits can help

Helping a non profit with an advocacy campaign carries the stigma of being risky business in the corporate world. For private and public organizations alike, the word advocacy tends to incite the fear of uncontrolled chaos. Perceived risks of taking a particular side on a social issue include polarizing the viewpoints of employees and clients, and attracting backlash from stakeholders who disagree with that support.

I recently read Lobbying for Social Good, an article published in a 2009 edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The authors discussed how government relations teams at certain US companies help nonprofits advocate for shifts in public policy. They spoke about the need for increased attention to social causes in the government space, but also stressed the balancing act among the potential costs, benefits and legal sensitivities over who can lobby or advocate, how and when.

That made me wonder whether there’s a way Canadian businesses can support advocacy. My conclusion? Yes, but it may involve changing how we think about the word itself.

The article first appeared in the June 2011 issue of Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy magazine and we republished it here with permission.