Like peanut butter, toast and jam, these are three words that fit, and flow, beautifully together. For nonprofits advocacy is paramount to fulling our missions and visions about what we want — and need — to make possible for our communities. Advocacy builds community and can bring many powerful forces together. These forces can include building new strong personal relationships; creating connections to businesses in your community that have resources which can support your great work; develop a way to learn more about the large array of tools and supplies your city’s tool trailer can lend you for a day of volunteer service; or showcase the perfect venue for you to host a community garden farmers market at a local senior center. Truthfully, the possibilities are endless. Advocacy is first and foremost about building relationships, getting to know people, sharing experiences and sharing your collective visions for the future you want for your neighborhoods. It is both enjoyable and rewarding.
As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently stated, “A nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his [and her] society.”
In the last few months, two significant reports released a pretty somber picture for the great state of Arizona. Perhaps, sobering enough, to jolt us into action. First we have the new U.S. Census Bureau report showing 1.4 million Arizonans live in households under the federal poverty level. 1 in 5 Arizonans live in poverty. Arizona now has the 2nd highest rate of poverty in the nation. On the heels of the Census Bureau study comes the much-anticipated report, Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation which showcases key trends in civic participation. The study examines critical indicators for civic health including service and volunteer rates, participation in groups such as neighborhood associations, and political action including registering to vote and voting. Again, Arizona ranked near the bottom– however knowing this –we only have one way to go and that’s up! Collectively, as a community, we can all take notice and do something; do ONE thing. Our future is at stake. As we enter the week of Thanksgiving, the week where we give thanks and gratitude, let’s give some thanks and a little love to our community.
Every single one of us has the power to do something!
And with the amazing people and community organizations we have in this great State we can so much. Collectively, as a community, we can, and like must do something. Our future is at stake!
SEVEN SIMPLE THINGS YOU, YOUR ORGANIZATION, AND YOUR VOLUNTEERS CAN DO IN THE NEXT MONTH (WHY NOT START TODAY):
- Donate just one can of food to the community food bank.
- Set up a food drive at your organization or place of worship (and donate lots of cans!) Invite all the businesses, schools and residents to take part. And, if doing this before the holidays seems to much, plan it for February or March. Our food banks need food all year around, not just during the holidays.
- Host an open house for your neighbors, business owners, local elected leaders, volunteers, board members and the community (please invite me, I would love to attend!)
- Host a Sunday Party for all the community members, elected officials (and their staffs) and business owners to cheer on the Suns, Cardinals, or this summer, the Diamondbacks.
- Team build/volunteer to serve a meal at a shelter or take part in a neighborhood clean up at a local park.
- Invite the children in your community to come make a Thanksgiving card to bring home to their families.
- Invite the community to come make cards for our soldiers oversees; they would love the holiday cheer. (or considering doing this for Valentines Day!)
As citied in the Civic Health report, voluntary associations were created as the primary engine for American democracy, allowing citizens to form bridges between communities, the business sector and their governments. However, if sometimes when we watch civic life in action, sometimes it would hard to imagine volunteerism, neighborhood service, business development, and political action are all threads in one beautiful interwoven red, white and blue cloth. I can’t think of a better reason to invite everyone to join in to get to know each other, do something for the community and just have fun.
Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about?