Top 3 Benefits of Advocacy

Advocacy is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.” For nonprofit associations, in particular, advocacy and relationships with other influential organizations is of utmost importance. You can show your advocacy by writing articles and comment letters or taking part in meetings with standard setters, giving a voice to your membership.

Advocacy demonstrates an organization’s dedication, loyalty, and passion for a cause that may be the heartbeat of its members. Advocacy provides many benefits for organizations, but here’s what I chose as the top three.

Protect Member InterestsiStock_000015030984_Large_green
There are a number of ways to protect your stakeholders’ interests, in turn creating trust. For one, sending out research surveys helps your organization get a pulse of what members need and want and help provide appropriate products and services to specific locales. This also expands your reach and opens up new markets for your organization.

In addition, you can create committees dedicated to advocating for your cause that will give your membership a voice. These committees are at the forefront of the cause that gauge stakeholder interest through meetings and voice those opinions to standard setters. This creates trust among members, and when members trust their organization, they become loyal and more engaged in the organization’s volunteer community.

Increase in Volunteer Engagement
If your organization has loyal members and is advocating for their interests, chances are that interest in becoming a volunteer will grow. IMA’s Financial Reporting Committee, Small Business Financial and Regulatory Affairs Committee, Technology Solutions and Practices Committee, and Committee on Ethics are made up of volunteer leaders who increasingly advocate for best practices in the management accounting profession through articles in Strategic Finance and IMA Online News.

The increase in member engagement will help you retain members by giving them the opportunity to have their voices heard and creating an atmosphere of unity and commitment to a common cause. Then you’ll be able to rely more on volunteers around the world to advocate for your cause.

Volunteers are essential for running a nonprofit organization, and reminding them of how valuable they are is equally as important since they are the feet on the street that keeps your organization running.

iStock_000024796735LargeBuild Partnerships and Alliances
When you connect with other organizations, you strengthen your foothold in the industry and make your voice of advocacy stronger. To create partnerships, research organizations that advocate for similar causes, have a similar membership base, and are in a similar industry.

Draw upon these alliances when writing comment letters to take advantage of the power of numbers. Representatives from large firms can all address the same issues, but the letter will be stronger if all the firms collaborate on it together. This will help your organization determine the future of your industry or cause.

Advance Your Cause
When I came on board with IMA, my position as Director of Professional Advocacy was newly created. As time went on, we realized the need for a full-time liaison between IMA’s technical committees and IMA members. So my position evolved to fill a need in the marketplace, and I’m proud of the committees we’ve created to increase our advocacy on behalf of IMA membership.

All nonprofit organizations should create advocacy groups to advance their cause. Providing opportunities to give input will give your members a voice in the industry. And working with partner organizations and loyal members-turned-volunteers strengthens your advocacy voice around the globe.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA

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Inside Insider Networking

The benefits of networking with peers outside your organization are many, but making connections with those who have similar interests and work at similar companies is only the first step in building a network. Now think internally: How can you leverage the inside network of your current company? Your coworkers are just as valuable to have in your network. This may sound obvious, but many of us (including me) don’t step outside the comfort of our own work teams often enough.

What Is Inside Networking?
Inside networking is when you build connections with your coworkers to create value within your company, which in turn can help you advance your career. Many professionals turn to outside contacts for research and advice, but connecting with people who know your company from within can be beneficial in many ways. You can gain insight into projects that other departments are working on, advice on projects you’re working on, and knowledge about a specific product or service you might have questions about.

iStock_000002214189_LargeNot only will you learn more about your company’s products and services, but you’ll also open lines of communication between departments. Use this to your advantage to work cross-functionally. In talking about your day-to-day job, you might realize that a tool that someone else is using might also help in your work. In turn, this might help you learn new analytic skills, for example.

Another benefit to connecting with your coworkers is learning about what they actually do. A job title might be misleading, or the job description might have changed silently. Knowing about others’ day-to-day work is helpful if you need assistance with a specific project, ultimately smoothing company processes.

How Do You Start?
Try to connect with people at all levels of your company, but you can start by getting to know the people who work closest to you and in departments around you. If you usually eat lunch at your desk, ask a coworker or a group of coworkers to eat with you. During a meeting, sit at a table with people you’ve never met or talked to before to get to know them and learn about their perspectives.

At IMA Headquarters, we have a café space where we eat lunch and hold meetings. Staff take advantage of this open space to participate in interdepartmental mingling and getting to know their colleagues. This fosters the feeling of unity and becoming a tight-knit team.

Don’t be intimidated to talk to your superiors. If they don’t walk around the office often or make many public appearances, request a face-to-face meeting to get noticed. This may lead to a nomination to join a leadership committee or even to a promotion. Taking the initiative to connect with people on the chain of command will highlight your personality attributes and can help you grow.

growing plant, isolated on white

A Benefit For You and Your Company
Inside networking can help you grow both personally and professionally as you expand your network, develop stronger communication and team skills, and plan your future. It will also be a benefit to your organization as you become a more valuable employee with cross-functional connections. For some, inside networking may seem daunting because stepping out of their comfort zone to network with colleagues is something new, but taking that next step can pay off greatly for you in the future.

How are you leveraging your inner network? Do you connect with people in your company who you don’t see often?

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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