2B an Advocate – The Voice of the Voiceless, Fighting for a Better World

2B an Advocate – The Voice of the Voiceless, Fighting for a Better World

You’ve grown up in a world of wrongs, injustices, an unfair world. Something should be done, but what? How can you, just one person, make a change?

The weapon of the advocate is the sword of the soldier, not the dagger of the assassin-Alexander Cockburn

Everywhere you go you see things that need to be changed. The local and national and world news upsets you, day to day.

But you feel powerless to influence anyone. Your sense of impotence angers and depresses you.

So many people are suffering because they aren’t being treated fairly… because they have no power. Because they have NO VOICE.

Do you want to be their voice? Do you want the power to really change the world?

Then become an Advocate!

Mother Teresa holding a child with children in the background.

As the ancient wise man said, “better to light a candle, than curse the darkness.”

What is an advocate? A person who feels exactly the way you do about things that are wrong with the world around them. A person who decided to get the tools necessary to use the system in every way possible and legal, to get the power needed to help those who can not help themselves.

First of all, Advocates need strong communication and fundraising skills, to constantly mobilize public support. Higher education, and experience, empower these skills.

Advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations are working to better their communities by directly addressing issues of public concern through service, independent action, or civic engagement. These organizations span the political spectrum of ideas and encompass every aspect of human endeavor, from symphonies to little leagues, and from homeless shelters and day care centers, to natural resource conservation advocates.

These organizations are collectively called “nonprofits,” a name that is used to describe institutions and organizations that are neither government nor business. Other names often used include the not-for-profit sector, the third sector, the independent sector, the philanthropic sector, the voluntary sector, or the social sector. Outside the United States, these organizations often are called nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or civil society organizations.

These other names emphasize the characteristics that distinguish advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations from businesses and government. Unlike businesses, these organizations do not exist to make money for owners or investors, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot charge fees or sell products that generate revenue, or that revenue must not exceed expenses.

Instead, these groups are dedicated to a specific mission that enhances the social fabric of society. Unlike government, these organizations are not able to mandate changes through legislation or regulations enforceable by law. Instead, they work toward the mission of their organization by relying on a small group of paid staff and voluntary service and financial support by large numbers of their members or the public.

advocate lawyer law scales

Advocates work in many areas— business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations; civic and social organizations; social advocacy organizations; and grantmaking and giving services. Religious organizations also have legal status as nonprofits.

Political organizations promote the interests of national, State, or local political parties and their candidates for elected public positions. Included are political groups organized to raise funds for a political party or individual candidates, such as political action committees (PACs). A variety of other similar organizations also are included in this segment of the advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations industry.

There are many types of social advocacy organizations: human rights organizations; environment, conservation, and wildlife organizations, many other social advocacy organizations.

Human rights organizations address issues, such as protecting and promoting the broad constitutional rights and civil liberties of individuals and those suffering from neglect, abuse, or exploitation. They also may promote the interests of specific groups, such as children, women, senior citizens, or persons with disabilities; work to improve relations between racial, ethnic, and cultural groups; or promote voter education and registration.

Environment, conservation, and wildlife organizations promote the preservation and protection of the environment and wildlife. They address issues such as clean air and water; conserving and developing natural resources, including land, plant, water, and energy resources; and protecting and preserving wildlife and endangered species.

Other social advocacy organizations address issues such as peace and international understanding; organize and encourage community action; or advance social causes, such as firearms safety, drunk driving prevention, and drug abuse awareness.

Grantmaking and giving services comprised about 10 percent of advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations establishments and include grantmaking foundations, voluntary health organizations, and establishments primarily engaged in raising funds for a wide range of social welfare activities, such as health, educational, scientific, and cultural activities.

Two attorneys walking up the stairs to the courthouse.

Grantmaking foundations, also called charitable trusts, award grants from trust funds based on a competitive selection process or on the preferences of the foundation managers and grantors; some fund a single entity, such as a museum or university.

There are two types of grantmaking foundations: private foundations and public foundations. Most of the funds of a private foundation come from one source—an individual, a family, or a corporation. Public foundations, in contrast, normally receive their funds from multiple sources, which may include private foundations, individuals, government agencies, and fees for services.

New information technology also is increasing the capacity of advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations to advocate their causes and to raise funds. Interactive Web sites, e-mail and electronic philanthropy, and electronically generated databases have transformed the way these organizations communicate with the public, grantmakers, and donors.

Advocates responsible for fundraising may travel frequently to meet with supporters and potential donors, often in evenings and on weekends. Fundraising can be highly stressful because the financial health of the organization depends on being successful. Advocates employed in the delivery of social services also work in very stressful environments because many of their clients are struggling with a wide range of problems related to child care, child welfare, juvenile justice, addiction, health, unemployment, and inadequate workforce skills.

Advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations had 1.2 million wage and salary jobs in 2006. About 74 percent of them were in civic and social organizations or professional and similar organizations.

Advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations establishments are found throughout the nation, but the greatest numbers of jobs are found in California and New York, the States with the greatest population.

Among professional specialty occupations that play an important role in advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations, public relations specialists handle functions such as media, community, consumer, and governmental relations; political campaigns; interest-group representation; conflict mediation; or employee and investor relations. They prepare press releases and contact people in the media who might print or broadcast their material.

Meeting with speaker at the podium.

Many public relations Advocates go on to specialize in fundraising, sometimes having the title director of development. Fundraisers find the money and other gifts needed to keep an organizations operations operating by asking for large gifts from individual donors, soliciting bequests, hosting special events, applying for grants, and launching phone and letter appeals. In small organizations, the director of development does all these things; in large ones, fundraisers specialize.

Social and human service Advocates provide direct and indirect client services to ensure that individuals in their care reach their maximum level of functioning. They assess clients’ needs, establish their eligibility for benefits, and help them obtain services such as food stamps, Medicaid, or welfare.

The types of jobs and skills required for advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations vary with the type and size of the organization. But all organizations need individuals with strong communication and fundraising skills, because they must constantly mobilize public support for their activities.

Creativity and initiative are important as many workers are responsible for a wide range of activities, such as creating new events designed to communicate and sell an organizations goals and objectives. Basic knowledge about accounting, finance, management, information systems, advertising, and marketing provide an important advantage for those trying to enter the advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations industry. In some cases, a second language may be needed for jobs that involve international activities. The highly competitive industry also needs individuals who have adequate technical skills to efficiently operate and maintain their computer systems.

As of 2006, more than 250 colleges and universities offered courses on the management of nonprofit organizations. About 70 programs offered noncredit courses in fundraising and nonprofit management and more than 50 programs offered continuing education courses.

About 119 schools offered at least one course for undergraduate credit and more than 90 were affiliated with American Humanics (an alliance of colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations preparing undergraduates for careers with youth and human service agencies).

In 2006, there were more than 90 master’s degree programs, usually in business administration or in public administration, with a focus on nonprofit or philanthropic studies.

About 160 colleges and universities had at least one course related to management of nonprofits within a graduate department. Of these programs, more than 110 offered a graduate degree with a concentration in the management of nonprofit organizations and about 40 offered one or two graduate courses, usually in financial management and generic nonprofit management.

The formal education and experience of chief executives or executive directors varies as widely as the nature of their responsibilities. There are many ways to prepare for the job of running an advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organization.

Most paid executive directors in large organizations have graduate degrees, often in business or public administration, some specifically in nonprofit management. Some executive directors start their careers in other positions, such as fundraiser or communications director. Others start on the program side of an organization, offering services directly to the public. They might be teachers, health care workers, ecologists, or another type of professional.

Accountants and auditors need a good understanding of business computer systems and some hands-on knowledge of accounting software. An accounting or finance degree with some management course work or a business administration degree with some accounting course work is a good background to have.

A master of business administration or other advanced degree may be desirable for more senior positions. The certified nonprofit accounting professional (CNAP) accreditation also provides the additional credibility needed in some larger organizations.

Social community service managers need a bachelor’s degree. They must possess knowledge of principles and procedures for personnel recruitment, selection, training, compensation and benefits, labor relations and negotiation, and personnel information systems.

Formal education almost always is necessary for advancement. In general, advancement requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree in human services, counseling, rehabilitation, social work, or a related field. There are no defined standards for entry into a public relations career.

A college degree combined with public relations experience, usually gained through an internship, is considered excellent preparation for public relations work. People who choose public relations as a career need an outgoing personality, self-confidence, an understanding of human psychology, and an enthusiasm for motivating people. Many public relations specialists advance to become directors of development or fundraisers.

Directors of development find the money and other gifts needed to keep the organizations operations thriving. For self-enrichment teachers working in the advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations industry, a college degree that encompasses education or human resources courses and general business courses is good preparation.

Opportunities for advancement as a self-enrichment teacher vary from State to State and program to program. They may advance to administrative positions, or experienced self-enrichment teachers may mentor new instructors and volunteers. Educational requirements for teacher assistants vary by State or school district and range from a high school diploma to some college training, although employers increasingly prefer applicants with some college training. Teacher assistants must have good writing skills and be able to communicate effectively with students and teachers. Advancement for teacher assistants—usually in the form of higher earnings or increased responsibility—comes primarily with experience or additional education.

Advancement to professional occupations within an organization normally requires additional formal education, such as a college degree. While most workers receive on-the-job training, executive secretaries and administrative assistants acquire skills in various ways. Training ranges from high school vocational education programs that teach office skills and keyboarding to 1-year and 2-year programs in office administration offered by business schools, vocational-technical institutes, and community colleges.

Turnover and employment growth should result in a large number of job openings. Wage and salary jobs in advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations are projected to increase 13 percent over the 2006-16 period, compared to 11 percent growth projected for all industries combined.

Employment in advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations by industry segment, 2006 and projected chang

Social and demographic shifts will continue to increase the demand for services offered by advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations and spur job growth. For example, rapid growth of the elderly population will increase the demand for home health and nursing home care. Other demographic shifts include the growing numbers of immigrants and refugees; a high divorce rate creating more single parent households; more out-of-wedlock births; and greater ethnic and cultural diversity. These shifts will increase the demand for many services such as child day care, home health and nursing home care, family counseling, foster care, relocation assistance, and substance abuse treatment and prevention.

State and local governments usually are expected to fulfill new and growing social service roles, but many lack the resources to meet the rising demands. As a result, governments will increasingly turn to advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations, utilizing their experience at offering efficient and effective social services. In other cases, governments will form joint ventures or partnerships with these organizations to operate services more effectively. Governments also are expected to contract out some services, which will continue to be a major source of employment growth in the advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations industry.

A large number of job openings should result from employment growth and turnover, partially due to the industry’s relatively low wages, as workers retire or leave the industry for other reasons. Earnings of wage and salary workers in advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations averaged $15.81 an hour, compared with $16.76 per hour for all workers in private industry in 2006. The lower earnings reflect the large proportion of entry-level, part-time jobs. Weekly earnings among civic and social organizations were significantly lower than average, $232, compared with $568 for all workers in private industry in 2006.


About 11 percent of workers in the advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations industry were union members or were covered by a union contract in 2006, less than the 13 percent rate throughout all industries.

Advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations had 1.2 million wage and salary jobs in 2006, with 74 percent in civic, social, professional and similar organizations. Advocates need strong communication and fundraising skills, to constantly mobilize public support.

So… the injustices in the world around have always bothered you?

You want your life to be dedicated to changing those injustices?

And you are eager and willing to do the work, to gain the knowledge and the tools to make a difference?

Go get the education, the degree, that equips you for advocacy! Become the voice of the voiceless!

Become an Advocate!

    For more information about career opportunities in advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations, contact:

  • American Society of Associate Executives, 1575 I St. NW., Washington, DC 20005. http://www.asaenet.org
  • Independent Sector, 1200 18th St. NW., Suite 200, Washington, DC 20036. http://www.independentsector.org
  • The Foundation Center, 79 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10003. http://fdncenter.org
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