Advocacy groups, are we out of touch?

By Alana Hardison

I often wonder if I am doing enough to help my loved ones and community. But lately I have been wondering if established organizations are doing enough to help individuals. Have advocacy groups become so “big picture” that we are ignoring the immediate needs of those we aim to support? Have we evolved with the times and made changes that empower our youth to get involved? Have we made it too difficult to get involved? 

When individuals reach out with a need, it is imperative that we try to connect them with resources specific to their situation. Establishing relationships with other advocacy groups and relying on mutual aid puts the individual first. It seems as though we are more concerned with legislation, power, and money opposed to listening to individual concern. We should never be satisfied with telling someone we can’t help them. There is always someone that can help. Finding the help needed should always be any advocacy group’s priority.

After the George Floyd murder, I was compelled to join whatever groups I could in order to enact the change I wanted to see for my children. I felt as though many established organizations did not have new member information readily available. Nor did they waive membership fees despite many people losing income due to the pandemic. I really had to seek out the groups actively participating in education, social service, and police reform. If there ever was a moment for advocacy organizations to open their doors freely to a new generation energized to fight for equity and equality, the summer of 2020 was the time. 

In order to stay abreast of culture shifts, technological changes, and individual need, we must make our groups accessible to the youth. Gatekeeping of power must be a thing of the past. The younger generations are smart, innovative, and have the fortitude to continue what the elders have established. We must be willing to teach and learn from one another. While experience brings wisdom, a new set of eyes brings transformation. 

While I understand vetting new members, have we made it too difficult to get involved? Whether it be membership fees or the manner in which new members apply, is it easily accessible to the community? Advocacy groups thrive when membership is high and the power of the masses is able to influence positive change.    

These challenges may seem like easy fixes, but many nonprofit organizations are held to standards that make it difficult for them to be accessible. Organizations are categorized based on tax status. The stipulations for how money is spent and political activity influence the work advocacy groups are able accomplish. Once nonprofits attract large investors, they have to consider the interests and perspectives of the ruling class or risk losing funding. Others have written about the “non-profit industrial complex,” which describes the financial and political dependence of nonprofit institutions on powerful interests, which may result in surveillance and management over political movements.

The guidelines for non-profit organizations cripples the progressive movement that may have been a priority at the onset of these groups. Too afraid to ruffle feathers, these organizations begin to align themselves with keeping the status quo. It is imperative that we assess our mission statements, welcome change, and make tangible differences that align with the progressive movement.

The only thing guaranteed in life is change. And we must be willing to change with the needs of the community we aim to support. We should let the younger generations lead, while supporting  and guiding their vision for the future.

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