Tennessee Nonprofit Network


By Ben Nemenoff
Director of Development,
Shelby Farms Park Conservancy

Nonprofits’ work extends beyond direct services. Effective nonprofits also conduct advocacy – engaging community leaders, building their cases, and influencing public policies that impact their missions and the people they serve.

That’s why I was honored to take part in the Tennessee Nonprofit Network’s Advocacy Summit and Nashville Day on the Hill, February 27-28. I was fortunate to meet with several state representatives and senators who represent Shelby County, including those whose districts include Shelby Farms Park + Shelby Farms Greenline.

I am grateful to TNN for the chance to share a few thoughts here on why advocacy is so essential for nonprofits.

1. Collaboration and Coalition Building

Effective advocacy rarely happens in isolation.

I welcomed the opportunity to convene and connect with my fellow “nonprofiteers” not only from Memphis but every corner of Tennessee. I was reminded why I was called to nonprofit service in the first place and left floored by all the wonderful (and vital) work happening in communities across Tennessee. Just as important, I was able to make new friends and allies, exchanging cell phone numbers and promises to tour each other’s operations next time we’re nearby.

Ben Nemenoff, Shelby Farms Park

By joining forces with other nonprofits working on community issues, a stronger, more unified voice emerges. Collaboration allows nonprofits to share resources, expertise, and advocacy strategies. This combined effort can significantly increase nonprofit influence on public policy decisions.

This is why statewide nonprofit associations like TNN matter. If you’re not already, get your nonprofit involved as a TNN member. (It’s free!)

2. Building Visibility and Public Support

Engaging in advocacy raises awareness about your nonprofit’s mission and the issues it addresses. For Shelby Farms Park + Greenline, that meant highlighting our work providing high-quality outdoor spaces for recreation, fitness, leisure and community directly to state legislators during Day on the Hill. It means the follow-ups we’re currently conducting, as we seek to both sustain and strengthen those relationships.

Your nonprofit’s mission may be different, but the goals of building visibility and being a messenger for your cause are the same. Through meetings with legislators and other forums, you can educate a wider audience about the challenges your nonprofit tackles and the positive impact you make, fostering more support for your cause.

3. Protecting Your Mission: Securing Resources

Nonprofits often rely on a mix of funding sources, including government grants and contracts. Advocacy helps build up and safeguard these resources. By building relationships with legislators and keeping them informed about the impact of your nonprofit, you can advocate for continued funding or even increased support for your vital work.

Explore avenues to cultivate and build relationships with legislators the same way you do with individual private donors.

Getting Started with Advocacy

Nonprofit advocacy takes many forms, from communicating with legislators to organizing community meet-and-greets to inviting legislators to tour your facility the next time they’re in town. The key is to find the approach that best aligns with your organization’s resources and mission, and just get started.

TNN offers a wealth of resources, trainings and peer support networks to help nonprofits develop their advocacy skills and strategies. The Advocacy Summit and Day on the Hill are two of these offerings. I encourage you to take advantage of them.

Remember, advocacy is an investment in your nonprofit’s future. By actively engaging with legislators and policymakers, as well as with associations like TNN, nonprofits can ensure they have the resources and support needed to fulfill their missions and create a ripple effect of positive change for the communities they serve.

What are you waiting for?

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