CSOs’ advocacy and lobbying activities should add value to ensure that both the public and public authorities understand and support their cause, gaining strength and credibility.

The goals of advocacy and lobbying are similar, but the processes are different. Advocacy is attempting to cause political action, using methods such as civil education and public campaigns, with the aim to influence decision makers. Lobbying refers to influencing the government and its leaders.

Advocacy describes a method or approach used to: change policies and practices; reform institutions; alter power relations; change attitudes and behaviors; give project work a broader impact. A Lobby is a group, organization or association engaged in trying to influence legislators or other public officials in favour of a specific cause. Lobbying is limited to describing direct attempts to influence policy makers, public officials or other decision makers through personal interviews and persuasion. However, some people use the term inter-changeably with advocacy and for them it covers all attempts to influence directly or indirectly any policy, practice or government activity, and includes any attempt to influence legislators, their staff, civil servants, and members of regulatory agencies.

Why use advocacy?

  • To achieve widespread, sustainable change
  • to create a bigger impact than is possible with grassroots programmes alone
  • to try to make programme impacts more sustainable
  • to defend communities and programmes from adverse policy changes
  • to strengthen civil society and expand democratic space by:
    • encouraging consultation and the participation of citizens in all levels of policy-making
    • building and strengthening cooperation between NGOs and other civil groups
    • establishing through interactions with decision-makers the legitimacy and credibility of civil groups

Top Tips for Successful lobbying

Lobbying tactics can be applied to pressure authorities to act in a certain way and usually involves a CSO spokesperson (or persons) persuading key decision makers to take a certain position on an issue. Lobbying requires access to the right people, skill in persuasion, and the information and arguments to back it up. Effective networks and partnerships are often required for successful lobbying, as strength is necessary.

CSOs use information dissemination and community campaigns as lobbying tactics by co-opting local citizens to put pressure on decision makers. Petitions and letter-writing campaigns are commonly used tools.

The following are some tips for successful lobbying:

1. Prepare the ground

  • Be clear what you want
  • Know the views of the people to be lobbied
  •  What’s in it for them – why should they change their views

2. Develop your messages

  • Be simple and explicit
  • What is the issue
  • What do you want them to do about it
  • Use examples that will engage their interest
  • Prepare a short brief – large type

3. Use negotiating techniques

  • Listen actively – don’t interrupt, demonstrate empathy
  • Ask questions
  • Keep to time – brief is best; don’t get distracted, stick to your plan

4. Build relationships:  the messenger can be as important as the message

  • Being a credible and reliable source of information makes people listen
  • Consider involving someone who is directly effected by the issue
  • Be friendly, use social skills
  • Keep in regular contact
  • Always finish a meeting by suggesting another one would be useful


See also How to organise an advocacy campaign


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