Legislators help nonprofits to hone their advocacy skills
Oct 16, 2015
Norwalk, CT October 13, 2015 — Over 100 individuals representing more than 60 Fairfield County nonprofits
attend Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence “Advocacy Day” event in Trumbull, CT help nonprofits to hone their advocacy skills.
Effective advocacy can be an essential component of a nonprofit’s strategy for success.
Nonprofits should work to ensure that policymakers in local, state and national levels know
about their work, and understand what role they play in improving the community.
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence, in
collaboration with the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits, held their first “Advocacy Day”
on October 8, 2015 at the Trumbull Marriott, to help nonprofits build their advocacy skills.
Attendees included over 100 individuals – from Executive Director level and staff, to board
members and volunteers, representing more than 60 Fairfield County nonprofits.
Legislators provide insights with nonprofits for better advocacy
“We created Advocacy Day because to create sustainable improvements in our communities,
partnering with the public sector is critical. Advocacy Day gave our nonprofit partners a chance
to understand the legislative process and learn first hand from our elected officials how to work
effectively with them.” said Juanita James, President and CEO of Fairfield County’s Community
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff set the stage for this engaging skill-building, storytelling and
peer learning half day program. In his opening remarks, he reinforced the need for nonprofits to
advocate for their organizations and reminded everyone in the room – “Don’t assume that
because you’ve been around for decades that people know what you do.”
Attendees participated in various Skill-Building Breakout Sessions including “Civics 101—
Understanding the Legislative Process”, presented by Jeff Shaw from
CT Association of Nonprofits; “Lobbying & Political Campaign Activities for Nonprofits”,
presented by Maurice Segall of Pro Bono Partnership; and “Deconstructing the CT State Budget”,
presented by Senator Beth Bye, Chair of the Appropriations Committee.
“Advocacy is critically important because policies and decisions are being made in Hartford that
may impact your organization and the people you serve.” said Shaw during the “Civics 101” session. To provide attendees with a clear understanding of the Connecticut legislative process,
Shaw shared details on how to navigate the legislative process and identify key legislators to
advance a nonprofits’ work. Helping policymakers find specific solutions to persistent problems
is one of the many benefits of advocacy.
During Segall’s session on “Lobbying and Political Campaign Activities for Nonprofits”, the
focus was set on providing critical information to ensure that nonprofits engaged in advocacy
activities stay within the law.
Senator Bye addressed issues regarding CT State Budget – “If you are just asking for the
appropriation from your state representative, that might not be enough. You have to have the
state departments on your side too.…2016 is a huge year. Re-education is needed when key
people leave and new legislature comes in. Be aware of who ends up where.”
Nonprofits share their advocacy success stories
Following the Breakout Sessions, a Success Story Panel, moderated by Juanita James, President
& CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, covered a range of topics, from
“Engaging Your Board in Advocacy Work” to “Your Bill Passed; Now What?”. The panelists
included Diane Sierpina of Tow Foundation; Nate Snow of Teach For America; Abby Anderson
of CT Juvenile Justice Alliance; Lucas Codognolla of CT Students for a Dream; and Don Strait
of CT Fund for the Environment.
Advocacy involves storytelling in a meaningful way. “We tend to get caught up in data. You
need to match facts with the right story. How am I connecting to the relationship and the
emotional appeal of that decision maker? … Connect with humanity and emotions.” said Snow
while discussing the art of crafting compelling messaging for nonprofits.
Engaging the Board of Directors as advocates for the nonprofts they serve is another avenue for
advocacy. “Invite them to meet your clients. They need to put a face on the issue because then
they can tell that story to others. They are a different messenger than you.” said Sierpina.
Wrapping up the event, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey shared insights on how nonprofits can
work effectively with their state legislative delegations to improve the communities they serve.
The collaborative nature of this event provided attendees with networking opportunities with
other nonprofits and legislators; local insights and action ideas to take their advocacy to the next
level. Social media was a buzz about the day’s events, especially among Twitter users who fit the
purpose of the event neatly into a single hashtag – “#speakupfairfieldcounty”.
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation promotes philanthropy as a means to create
change in Fairfield County, focusing on innovative and collaborative solutions to critical issues
impacting the community. Individuals, families, corporations and organizations can establish
charitable funds or contribute to existing funds. The Community Foundation is in compliance
with the Council on Foundations’ national standards, and has awarded over $185 million in
grants to nonprofits in Fairfield County and beyond. For more information, visit