ACT! Instructions

The following information will be helpful as you complete the Advocacy Capacity Tool (ACT!):

Identify areas for strengthening

Please identify about three indicators of capacity you want to strengthen based on the results and your advocacy goals and objectives.  You may also want to choose a time when you will return to determine your progress in the areas you have chosen to strengthen. The survey will give you an option to comment on the indicators and timing that you choose.  Below are questions to assist you in prioritizing areas for improvement.

  • Ask yourself: What is needed for what our organization wants to accomplish? What is our niche? What’s going to get us more impact in the short term and long term?
  • Consider where you already have capacity on which to build. There might be some areas that are important, but it would take a bigger investment than you can make to build your capacity in that area.
  • Consider where you currently rely on partners.  Do your partners adequately fill that need?  Are they better positioned to provide this capacity? If not, should you look for additional partners or should you build your own capacity in this area?
  • Consider that indicators and measures under the last Section (Organizational Operations to Sustain Advocacy) may not seem vital to your advocacy work in the short run, but can make the difference in the organization’s continuing engagement in advocacy, health, and ultimate survival.
  • Consider prioritizing within Sections. For example, if the organization is strong in Media Relations, but less strong with Advocacy Partners and Coalitions or Influencing Decision Makers, which area in Conducting Advocacy should you focus on building first?
  • Consider prioritizing by measures within indicators.  For example, if the organization is weak in the Media Relations indicator, which measures under Media Relations should you focus on building first?

Analyze results

After completing the ACT!, you will receive the following information:

  1. Your average scores for each of the 18 indicators
  2. Your average score for each of the four sections
  3. The number of times you checked “Rely on Partners” by section

Scores are a reflection of advocacy capacity, not of the quality of the advocacy work.  The scores for use of partners should be factored into analyzing the results.

Almost all organizations will have some areas in which they rate more highly than in others, and areas in which they rely on partners. An overall low organizational score indicates that there are a lot of things to put in place in order to broaden, deepen, and sustain the advocacy work, and/or that there a lot of capacities gained from other groups.  Where organizations decide to primarily rely on partners for certain areas, the organizational score is expected to be lower in those areas.

An overall high score for the organization means that it has many of its own skills and resources needed for advocacy success.

Below you will find questions to help you interpret your results and think through how the results can help you prioritize efforts to build your advocacy capacity.

Questions for analyzing results

For the indicators in which you have the highest scores:

  • Why are you strong in this area?
    • Because you have invested in it?
    • Because current staff have strong capacity?
    • Because it’s simply been your organization’s tradition or habit?
  • How have you built your capacity in these areas and how has it benefitted you?
  • Are there other ways you might take advantage of this strength?
  • Is this area critical to future advocacy work? If so, what do you need to do to sustain your capacity in this area?

For the indicators in which you have the lowest scores – think about the following:

  • Why are your scores lower in this area?
    • Because you have not considered it before?
    • Because you are primarily relying on partners (not a bad thing!)?
    • Because it’s less critical to the success of your advocacy work?
    • Because you have not had the resources to invest in building this capacity?
    • Because others in your community (whether geographic or issue-area) are doing this work?
  • Will strengthening capacity in this area help accomplish your current advocacy goals and objectives? If so, how? Which areas are most important to strengthen to reach those goals?
  • Is this area critical to your future advocacy work?
  • Is it strategic to invest in this area? If so, which areas should you focus on improving?
  • Should you work more closely with partners in this area?
  • What would it take to build your capacity in this area?

When considering the extent to which you rely on partners, consider the following:

  • What are your partners’ strengths in the areas in which you rely upon them?
  • Do your organization’s priorities and those of its partner(s) work well together?
  • Should you consider building your organization’s own capacity in the areas for which it currently relies on partners?
  • Are there other groups with whom your organization should partner?

Access and contribute resources to help strengthen advocacy capacity

Alliance for Justice is also gathering resources which the ACT! can link to in the future to help users strengthen their organizations’ advocacy capacity.  If you would like to recommend any, call Shannon Williams at 866-NP-LOBBY or e-mail

Revisit all or part of the ACT

  • Return to ACT to revisit the areas that you chose to strengthen in the time you designated for the return—for example, three months, six months, one year later or more—and complete ACT in those areas.  Determine whether you have met your goals.
  • It is recommended that you complete the entire ACT again periodically.