What to do when you get more time

Congress can be hard to predict. They often use deadlines like the debt ceiling or the start of a new fiscal to spur action on tough to pass legislation, so advocates often use these deadlines as a way to frame the conversation. But, this month reminds us that forces outside of Congressional control can change the priorities on the legislative calendar.

When the administration announced they would be rescinding DACA, handing a monumental task to Congress, and hurricane relief motivated Congress to to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling at the beginning of the month, the conversations nonprofit advocates were preparing for this September suddenly had their timing shift.

(We will talk more about that in depth in next webinar on September 28th. Be sure to register now.)

While the priorities and the conversations around them have not changed, the time line has. So now, with these deadlines moved back until December, what can nonprofits do with more time?

When Congress acts around deadlines all the time, it can make advocates feel like they are always operating in crisis mode or constantly playing defense. That is daunting and emotionally draining. Now that the immediate crisis has been resolved, it can be tempting for advocates to retreat, bracing for the next deadline. But with this little time we have been afforded, advocates have the opportunity to build strong foundations for advocacy.

So now, that we have a chance to take a beat, we can reground ourselves in some good, long term strategies.

Remember that we are partners – build and strengthen relationships.

Nonprofits are in a unique position to champion public policy positions that align with our values and missions. That means working in partnership with members of Congress, communities, and other stakeholders. Deepening your relationship, and positioning you and your organization as an expert means that you can work proactively to create solutions in partnership.

Plan beyond this current moment, and develop a message that is rooted in your values, and moves towards partnership.

When advocates are in crisis mode, it feels like all we can do is speak from a place, and deliver a message of “no, no, no”, so when we have time to craft a message, we should consider how to frame a message that reflects values and contributes to our long term goals.Messaging that sees beyond the immediate policy crisis, that emphasizes values and solutions are important because they form a culture of interconnectedness and investment in the communities we serve.

While it may feel as though we have just kicked the can down the road, remember we have the opportunity to lay groundwork that will build positive momentum for partnerships that focus on working together to find solutions that invest in communities.