Frequently Asked Questions
Advocacy Capacity Tool (ACT!)

Who should complete the ACT!?

This is a self-assessment tool that can be filled out by any organization engaged in or wanting to engage in advocacy. Sometimes evaluators work with organizations to fill out the tool. It can also be used by funders who are engaged in advocacy themselves or who are identifying the advocacy capacities of grantees or potential grantees. Within an organization, board, staff, and key volunteers can complete ACT! either together or individually. When only one or two people in a group complete ACT!, results can be shared throughout the organization. Alliance for Justice will not share your identifying information. See our privacy policy.

What can the ACT! be used for?

Nonprofit organizations can use ACT! to:

  • Identify areas of capacity to strengthen in order to accomplish the organization’s advocacy goals.
  • Help develop a plan for building advocacy capacity.
  • Track capacity building progress with automatic comparisons of first and second times uses.
  • Help determine the organization’s role in advocacy efforts and identify where to seek partners.
  • Provide groups with a baseline assessment to use in conversations with funders about strategic investments in your capacity.
  • Spark discussion about advocacy within the organization.

Funders can use ACT! to:

  • Inform their understanding of a grant proposal.
  • Determine the strengths and resources of current grantees and what else is needed to accomplish the foundation’s goals.
  • Track grantees’ progress in building advocacy capacity.
  • Identify potential grantees’ advocacy capacities.
  • Spark discussion about advocacy within the foundation.
  • Inform the foundation’s own advocacy practice.

What is the relevance of the indicators and measures?

Specific indicators or measures will vary in their relevance to each organization. Some will be more or less important for a particular group’s advocacy work depending on:

  • The type of advocacy work in which an organization is engaged.
  • The size of the organization (staff and budget).
  • Where the organization is in its life cycle.
  • Where an organization is in the development of its advocacy work.

Due to the unique nature of advocacy work, an organization could be very strong in all of the ACT! indicators, and still have few advocacy wins because of what’s occurring in the external environment. Or an organization might have overall limited capacity, but have numerous advocacy wins because of strategic use of partnerships or just plain luck. However, when groups build those capacities most critical to their advocacy goals and objectives, they will be more likely to be effective and to sustain efforts.

What rating scale does the ACT! use?

The ACT! uses a four-point scale:

  • 4 = Very Strong/Always
  • 3 = Moderately Strong/Usually
  • 2 = Somewhat Strong/Sometimes
  • 1 = Not Strong/Rarely/Never

Different individuals might define each rating differently. For example, one person might think the organization is somewhat strong in one area, while someone else thinks it is very strong. Discussing these different perceptions can help everyone gain a shared understanding of the group’s capacity. When comparing one organization to another, it’s also important to keep in mind the subjective nature of the rating scale. One organization might consistently rate itself high while a similar organization consistently rates itself low. Honest ratings of organizational capacities will contribute to gaining the most benefit from the ACT!.

When should “Rely on Partners” be selected?

After most of the questions in Section 2 and all of Section 3, you will be asked the extent to which you “Rely on Partners” for that indicator. You should use this question to assess the extent to which your organization has capacity in a given area because of other individuals or groups. It’s normal for organizations to score higher in some areas than in others. When organizations rely on partners for certain areas, the organization scores for the indicators are usually low. The questions below will help you think about where the organization relies on partners.

  • What is the strength of your partner(s) in this area? Do you know?
  • Do the organization’s priorities and those of its partner(s) work well together?
  • Should you consider building your organization’s capacity in the areas for which it currently relies on partners?
  • Are there other groups with whom you should be partnering?

How are the “Basic” and “Advanced” measures used?

For each of the 18 indicators of the ACT!, organizations will complete four “Basic” assessments and have the option of completing one to three additional “Advanced” measures. Organizations more experienced with advocacy should complete the “Advanced” measures as well as the “Basic” ones. Analysis of results will be based only on responses to the “Basic” questions.