Advocacy in the Modern Era

Even though it wasn’t originally referred to as “advocacy,” the concept goes way back—to, at the very least, the mid-18th century. At the time, a British Parliamentarian named John Wilkes, a champion of individualism and free expression, publicly advocated for reform on a number of issues, among them the right to vote and religious tolerance. Years before the Revolutionary War began, he even supported and inspired the American colonists aspiring to independence.   

But it wasn’t until the 1960s, here in the U.S., that the term “advocacy” began to gain traction. Which makes sense. It was the decade when the civil, women’s and anti-war movements, among many others, took root. And now, more than 50 years later, an argument could be made that “advocacy” is an overused term.  

But it’s also more useful and, with help from technology, effective than ever—not just in the halls of legislature, but at the local, state and regional levels, in non- and for-profit communities. And it’s at the core of what CiviClick does for many clients. 

But what, exactly, is advocacy in the modern era? We have an answer to that question.

A Definition (or Two) and Advocacy’s Early Days

Advocacy,” according to Merriam-Webster, is “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal; the act or process of advocating something.” OK, so what does “advocate” mean? “[T]o support or argue for (a cause, policy, etc.); to plead in favor of.” This makes sense, as the French word for “lawyer” is “avocat.” And legal advocacy goes back to ancient times, in Rome and Greece.

While the term’s exact origin is tough to nail down, in the mid-1960s a man named Paul Davidoff, a New York City activist and urban planner, penned an article in which he promoted “advocacy planning.” He felt that city government, represented by NYC’s planning commission, should not have the only and final say in how the neighborhoods of underrepresented residents are built and/or altered. The people themselves, he insisted, must have a voice in the process, with support from advocates.

“The advocate planner,” he wrote, would provide information, analyze trends and predict future conditions. “In addition,… he would be a proponent of specific substantive solutions.”

What followed, from the ’60s through the ’90s, was a succession of movements during which communities, supported by advocacy specialists, affected significant changes in a wide range of areas, from anti-nukes to education to veterans’ rights. Then, starting in the ’90s, advocacy was ratcheted up—first via email, then the internet, and, finally, social media. Today, we call it digital advocacy. And it enables just about anyone to advocate relatively easily at some level.

No matter what the means, however, there are a few basic reasons why advocacy is critical to reform.   

Why Advocacy is So Important

Whatever the movement may be, advocacy fosters communities of people who’ve come together to promote their cause in a number of ways, which include:

  • Empowering people and giving them a voice. On their own, people may be hesitant to advocate for issues near and dear to them. But backed by a support network, they’re more likely to speak out publicly. This attracts the attention of the media, politicians, and, in some cases, high-profile figures who can help spotlight the cause and, eventually, bring about change.
  • Influencing policies and educating potential allies. Provided with a platform, advocacy communities make lawmakers aware of previously little-known issues and, through networking, demonstrate ways in which new legislation can positively impact society. They can also educate potential allies—and, in many cases, the general public—about hardships and injustices specific groups face.
  • Promoting participation and problem-solving. Because advocacy at its best is a collaborative effort, advocates and their supporters find ways to solve problems together, through diligence and coordinated planning. Organizing protests, lobbying politicians, and engaging in digital advocacy, to name just a few tasks, require skills that ensure the smooth facilitation of advocacy efforts.
  • Highlighting available resources and services. Rarely does advocacy occur in a vacuum. Well-coordinated efforts make use of already available resources and services. They could be financial resources, the expertise of like-minded organizations, or governmental services. Advocacy enables people to utilize tools that were previously thought unattainable.
  • Fostering respect for a cause. In many cases, advocacy spotlights causes once thought to have little to no widespread relevance. The growth of environmentalist movements over the past century is the most obvious example. Fostering respect often helps propel an advocacy effort forward, enabling advocates and people in power to find common ground and solve problems civilly.

What Advocacy Looks (and Should Look) Like

Speaking of moving forward, where does advocacy’s history leave us today? What does advocacy look like, and what should it look like, in the modern era?

From 30,000 feet, it appears as if advocacy plays two roles: as a support system for those trying to affect change and a potential catalyst for that change. But, ironically, this view is shortsighted. More than ever, the people directly affected by adverse policies have the means at their disposal to do more than just participate in the rules-changing process. They can also proactively shape the lives they want to live.

It’s our job as advocacy professionals to help them. Collectively, we should question whether the fundamental assumptions about advocacy serve people, organizations and businesses as well as they should. For example, while advocacy certainly empowers the individual, should it do so at the risk of alienating like-minded people or organizations that could help individuals achieve their goals?

We must find ways to enable people to express their full selves while, at the same time, involving others—like trade associations, fellow nonprofits and government agencies—who might be able to help them. We also need to transform short-term victories into the realization of long-term goals, so that people are empowered far into the future. Again, the ongoing battle against climate change comes to mind. 


The bottom line is that, as we see from history, advocacy is ever-evolving, regardless of fancy new tools or methodologies. Positive change is best achieved through continual dialogue, collaboration, and a commitment to ensuring that the people suffering the most are heard from.

At CiviClick, we remain ever vigilant and always look forward to working with clients who appreciate the value of support services and the wisdom of advocacy experts across many different sectors, each with one goal in mind: to make positive change a reality.

Legislative Advocacy

Legislative Advocacy is becoming more talked about and more important for business owners. Advocacy is the term used to describe activities that are done to influence a decision-maker. This can be anything from forming networks to lobbying to litigation. It’s a way for us as individuals, groups, organizations, or businesses to be heard in hopes of changing the decision-maker’s mind in a particular direction. The goal of advocacy is to have an impact on the outcome. Since businesses have become the most trusted institutions today, CEO’s are encouraged to discuss public policies in accordance with the annual reports. It has been proven that consumers are more likely to care about a business that shows a standing in their beliefs. 

Companies and Advocacy

A few corporate companies have taken advocacy into their company morals. For example, NAMI advocates on behalf of individuals with mental illness and their families. They advocated the Affordable Care Act in 2017 by using the grassroots technique. The Texas Realtors took advocacy day to a virtual action month. IHRSA generated over 60,000 emails to Congress to raise awareness for their campaign. Although these companies sound like their approaches were different, they are all examples of effective means of legislative advocacy. But the question remains: why is public advocacy important to business owners?

Legislative Advocacy

Legislative advocacy is essential for a few different reasons as a business owner. Because advocacy bridges the gap between our decision-makers and the people who vote, it’s our way of having a say, even if it feels like it was not heard. State legislators, members of Congress, and city council members are our everyday decision-makers. Since these people are public figures, their supporters and nonsupporters are noticed. Therefore, advocacy has a better chance of being heard. As a business owner, becoming actively involved can potentially help raise enough awareness to protect what you believe in. The policies that are or are not enforced can sometimes make or break a business. Different types of public advocacy exist today, so a business owner may want to be aware of the different approaches to advocate effectively.

Types Of Legislative Advocacy

The various types of legislative advocacy range from grassroots to media campaigns to activism. Let’s briefly put these in perspective by starting with lobbying. Lobbying occurs when someone communicates directly to members of Congress or a government official in hopes of influencing their decision. Usual lobbying tactics involve in-person meetings, written communication, or something as simple as a phone call. A bigger part of lobbying occurs in advising. Advising is educating the decision maker on your specific topic in hopes of persuading them into what you believe is correct. Advising also occurs in social media campaigns. Social media campaigns occur when a media outlet is used to raise awareness on a specific issue or topic in hopes of raising urgency to the public. If successful, other like-minded businesses can have the opportunity to band together to make their opinion heard louder. Two more common media outlets are usually a newspaper or website ad. However, because social media allows users, groups, or businesses to connect with people, share information, and organize events, this has become an increasingly popular choice for campaigning beliefs. Grassroots advocacy is the opposite and requires a more hands-on approach. This approach requires citizens to come together to take action. Now this may occur by a simple method such as writing to Congress, passing a petition, or participating in a protest. As previously mentioned, NAMI used the grassroots approach when the Affordable Care Act came about in 2017. They emailed their advocates and directed their recipients to visit their online action center. As a result, they motivated 1,066 advocates to participate in a Hill Day. IHRSA used an email campaign for key policy issues and generated over 60,000 emails to Congress. Then you have activism. Activism also plays a part in grassroots advocacy. Because grassroots advocacy includes protests, activism gets attached. Activism occurs when awareness is raised in one of two methods, protests or demonstrations. Demonstrations are usually the lesser of the two, as they usually involve people holding signs on the sidewalk. However, it can shift to a higher approach, like someone handcuffing themselves to a tree or permanent object. We have previously seen corporate companies like Uber, Chick-fil-A, and Hobby Lobby advocate using activism. Although advocating may seem like a simple process, it requires some dedicated time and attention.

Advocating may seem like a simple process to some, but it does require specific steps to advocate effectively. The first step is to complete your research, so you can then decide which approach will be best to get your message across effectively. Identify the issue and know your facts. Missing this step can hinder the campaign rather quickly. It’s important to listen to people around you, especially those you are trying to support. Engaging in the community is a great way to help with this and should be part of your advocating strategy. Make sure to build relationships with all people. And lastly, don’t give up. Remember, an effective advocate has to stay strong for what they believe in but in a professional, caring matter. Be assertive but not aggressive.  


As a recap, legislative advocacy is important for both individuals all the way to business owners. Legislative advocacy is often used to show support or criticize a particular class’s policies like education, healthcare, or environmental regulations. Advocacy is the act of trying to influence the person or group that makes the decisions whether to pass or not to pass a new law or regulation. The policy part of legislative advocacy refers to the rules or principles that guide the decision-making process and its actions. One can advocate using the grassroots approach, lobbying, media campaigns, advising, or activism. However, if you advocate, remember to follow the steps needed and keep your tactic assertive but not aggressive. Allow your business to be heard, but not in a negative way!

The Benefits of Utilizing Grassroots Advocacy Software

If you are a government relations professional, then you know how important it is to build relationships with individuals and groups in order to effectively advocate for your cause. This is where grassroots advocacy software comes into play. It offers a powerful solution to help build stronger relationships with constituents and more effectively mobilize supporters. Let’s take a closer look at how this software can help you achieve your goals.

Gaining Insights Through Automation

One of the primary benefits of utilizing grassroots advocacy software is that it helps you gain insights through automation. You can automate tasks such as tracking emails, creating surveys, and gathering feedback. This allows you to quickly identify potential issues and trends among your supporters so that you can develop strategies to address them accordingly. Additionally, this software allows you to quickly understand the sentiment amongst your supporters so that you can tailor messaging and campaigns around their needs more effectively. By understanding what matters most to your supporters, you can create targeted campaigns that will resonate more deeply with them and increase engagement.

Organizing Your Data

Another benefit of using grassroots advocacy software is that it can help you organize all of your data in one place so that it’s easier for you to access and analyze. This makes it much simpler for government relations professionals to track engagement levels, measure success rates, and monitor trends over time – all within one platform! Plus, this software provides dashboards so that users can easily view key metrics at a glance without having to sift through mountains of data manually. This makes it much easier for government relations professionals to make informed decisions based on real-time data rather than relying on intuition alone.

Connecting With Supporters

Finally, utilizing grassroots advocacy software gives government relations professionals the ability to connect with their supporters directly through email campaigns or social media posts. This makes it much easier for organizations to reach out directly with updates and information about their cause – ensuring that their advocates stay informed and engaged in the process! Additionally, these platforms provide detailed analytics so that organizations can better understand who they are reaching out too as well as how successful each campaign has been overall.


Overall, there are many advantages to utilizing grassroots advocacy software for government relations professionals – from gaining insights through automation to connecting with supporters directly via email or social media campaigns. This type of platform provides users with detailed analytics so that they have access to real-time data which they can use when making strategic decisions regarding their organization’s advocacy efforts. Ultimately, leveraging this type of technology helps ensure that organizations maximize their resources while still having access to the information needed in order to make informed decisions quickly and accurately every time!

How to Engage Your Supporters Effectively

As a Government Relations Professional, one of your primary responsibilities is engaging your supporters. This means maintaining contact with both current and potential allies and encouraging them to work together to achieve the desired outcome. But how exactly do you engage your supporters? Here, we’ll discuss three ways to ensure you are reaching out in an effective way.

Be Transparent About Your Goals

Honesty and transparency are key when it comes to engaging your supporters. You must be upfront about what you hope to accomplish with their assistance. It is also important that you communicate regularly with your supporters so they know exactly where things stand and what their role will be in advancing the agenda. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and can work together towards achieving the desired outcome.

Utilize Technology

There are several different types of technology available that can help you engage your supporters more effectively. For instance, social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can be great tools for connecting with potential allies on a personal level. Additionally, there are many software programs, like CiviClick, that are designed specifically for managing supporter relationships, allowing you to keep track of who supports which goals and how they can best contribute to those efforts.

Encourage Participation

Lastly, it is essential that you encourage participation among your supporters. This may mean having regular meetings or events where people can come together to discuss ideas or brainstorm strategies for achieving success. You should also create opportunities for people to get involved in specific projects or initiatives related to the cause at hand. By providing these outlets for involvement, you show your supporters that their input is valued and appreciated — which will make them even more likely to stay engaged in the long run!


Engaging supporters effectively requires time, effort, and dedication — but it is worth it in the end! By being transparent about your goals, utilizing technology such as social media platforms or software programs designed specifically for managing supporter relationships, and encouraging participation from all involved parties, you can ensure that every supporter feels heard and appreciated throughout the process — ultimately leading to a successful outcome! As a Government Relations Professional, these tips will help ensure that your efforts reach maximum efficiency when engaging your supporters!