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What Can Advocacy Pros Learn from Caitlin Clark?

As an Iowan, I was, of course, obsessed with the Iowa women’s basketball team and superstar Caitlin Clark this season. 

I have never really been into sports (since I was MVP of my AAU13 basketball team in 1989), but I found myself scheduling around these basketball games and even knowing what channel they were on! 

It got me thinking – what can advocacy pros learn from Caitlin Clark?

Caitlin Clark's success in basketball can offer nonprofit policy advocates lessons in perseverance, teamwork, strategic planning, and resilience. Like on the court, advocates need to stay focused on their goals, work collaboratively with others, adapt their strategies to changing circumstances, and never give up, even in the face of setbacks.

Perseverance: Like basketball players who face numerous challenges and setbacks, nonprofit policy advocates encounter obstacles in their work. Learning from Caitlin Clark, advocates can understand the importance of persistence in pursuing their objectives despite difficulties or opposition.

I have been involved in decades-long campaigns, such as clear indoor air campaigns, marriage equality, reproductive health protections and expansions, and health care reform. These efforts required determination and resolve, and many advocates continue this work today. 

Teamwork: Basketball is a team sport, and success often hinges on effective collaboration and communication among team members. Similarly, policy advocacy often involves coalitions, partnerships, and alliances working together towards common goals. Advocates can learn from Clark’s ability to work within a team and leverage diverse skills and perspectives to achieve success.

In my 25 years of policy work, I have rarely seen a big policy win without a strong coalition in place.  Actually, I can’t think of one. Not one. All the abovementioned campaigns involved strong coalitions that worked together for years. 

Campaign Planning: In basketball, teams develop game plans and strategies to outmaneuver opponents and maximize their chances of winning. Similarly, nonprofit policy advocates must carefully plan their approach, identify key stakeholders, craft persuasive arguments, and strategically deploy resources to influence decision-makers and advance their agenda.

One useful tool is an Advocacy Roadmap. Snyder Strategies gets insight from your leaders, members, and other advocacy stakeholders to:​

  • Uncover the internal and external barriers that are hindering your members from engaging in advocacy and how to remove these roadblocks.

  • Reveal how your members want to be engaged in your advocacy program and discover the tools they need to be successful.

  • Identify the data you need to properly evaluate your advocacy efforts and improve your efforts for your next campaign. 

Resilience: Policy wins are rarely achieved quickly, and resilience is necessary in the advocacy space. The Hawks faced many setbacks this season, such as losing key games and teammates suffering injuries, but the best ones bounce back stronger. Likewise, advocates often encounter defeats, setbacks, and process failures, but they must remain resilient, learn from their experiences, and continue working toward their long-term objectives and policy goals. 

By applying these lessons from Caitlin Clark’s college basketball career, nonprofit policy advocates can enhance their effectiveness and increase their chances of making meaningful change in the world. 

Go Hawks (and now Indiana Fever)!


Let’s Chat! 

​If your team is struggling to build an active base of advocates you can count on, set up a quick consultation session.



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