Welcome tO


Why we are different

This Certificate builds on the success of Center for Nonprofits’ other leadership certificates with their combined alumni of over 1,200 individuals.

The curricula is based on key competencies identified through conversations with legislative and advocacy professionals, as well as nonprofit executives with experience in the field.

The Certificate in Nonprofit Advocacy equips participants with the practical and tactical skills and  knowledge for representing their organizations before the legislature, state agencies, and other  policymakers from the municipal level to state and federal levels as well. The interactive sessions are planted in the methodology of adult learning and provide both factual and anecdotal evidence  from a variety of experts in the field. By completing this certificate, participants will be able to: 

  • NIdentify the essential aspects of advocacy work
  • NBe firmly familiar with the legislative process and how to move work forward within the system
  • NIdentify and utilize key terms, describe processes, and leverage knowledge to start advocacy work in their own organizations
  • NDevelop an understanding of how to navigate partnerships, stakeholders and decision makers


Early Bird


Standard Tuition


*Eligible for AmeriCorps education award funds and Hazlewood Act tuition exemption program


The session will be held online via Zoom. Participants are expected to attend and actively engage in every session. Before you register, please be sure you can commit to participating in each session.

Course Outline

The certificate coursework will take both a macro and micro look at all aspects of advocacy in a way  that will allow participants to not only learn the foundational pieces of advocacy, but also to have  specific opportunities for practical application, practice, and support to “road test” concepts and  information in a timely manner. Thirteen sessions over the course of 26 weeks, this course is  designed for nonprofit executive staff and board members interested in strengthening their advocacy efforts and providing a “101” style primer on how to best represent your organization  before policymakers. Spearheaded by legislative and nonprofit veteran Jennifer Ransom, students  will hear from a variety of guest lecturers from the field. Courses will cover the following topics: 

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Class One: Orientation & Defining Advocacy- Past, Present, Future

Orientation: Logistics and Expectations
Barry Silverberg, Executive Director, Nonprofit Austin
Coordinator, Nonprofit Austin

Jennifer Ransom, CNLM This class will explore the fundamental aspects of advocacy from both a historic and modern-day  lens. Participants will be asked to explore their “why” in terms of wanting to explore advocacy work and how they think of advocacy work matters. We will specifically define advocacy versus lobbying, and establish where the line exists between the two, by discussing the difference between 501c3  and 501c6. Students will: 

  • Develop their organization’s legislative agenda  
  • Identify legislative advocates 
  • Brainstorm key relationships  
Class Two: Show Me Don’t Tell Me: Your Story Is Your Strategy

Jenifer Sarver & Dave Shaw
(Suggested reading: Story Selling by Tom Hopkins book) Participants will learn about the importance of storytelling and interest-based story telling in order to reach the legislative audience in a  meaningful way. Each participant will be given 4 minutes to practice this skill in class. Students will:

  • Draft their elevator pitch with an advocacy focus 
  • Practice pitching their organization and advocacy cause 
  • Brainstorm key messengers to disseminate their organization’s story 
Class Three: Understanding Advocacy Language and Communication – Say What?

Natalie Roetzel  Ossenfort
Just like any organizational culture, there are acronyms, lingo, language and ways for which  information moves about like fuel. If you don’t know the language you can’t navigate the  governmental landscape. Not only will participants learn the language, they will practice it! Students will: 

  • Identify key acronyms for agencies related to their industry 
  • Practice role-playing a legislative meeting with a staff person or legislator
  • Draft a template letter asking for support on a particular issue 
Class Four: How a Bill Becomes a Law – The Legislative Process

Julie Linn
Participants will travel back to civics class where they will be refreshed, or perhaps enlightened  about the nuts and bolts of how a bill becomes a law, the construct of government – going inside  the “dome” and an overview of what that means for them as private citizens. Students will: 

  • Be able to describe the bicameral process that makes up the life cycle of a bill Understand the difference between the State House and the State Senate, and the US  Congress
  • Draft a basic piece of legislation with a bill analysis 
Class Five: Show Me the Money – Creating Public-Private Partnerships

Instructor, TBD
Participants will learn the do’s and don’t of cultivating, setting expectations, boundaries for  partnerships and the concept of private/public partnerships in order to tap into state funding for  their organizations. Students will: 

  • Identify a funding need in their organization 
  • Examine existing budget line items that align with their organization’s mission Brainstorm creative PPP (Public-Private Partnership) proposal 

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Class Six: Who’s Who? Stakeholders and Decision Makers

Lara Laneri Keel
Participants will learn the who’s who of the Capitol, the role of staffers and other key individuals  and the strategies necessary to be heard, known, and how to make true impact over time. Likewise, participants will understand the importance of building strong boards, committees, and advisors  who wield influence with decision makers. Students will: 

  • Examine their existing board of directors/advisory board to identify key players with  influential connections 
  • Learn how to find the appropriate staff person in legislative offices 
  • Be able to name their elected officials and know their party affiliation, legislative priorities,  special interests, and district territory 
Class Seven: Advocacy is Development – It’s all about relationships

Jennifer Ransom, CNLM
Development goes beyond dollars and cents – how to apply your fundraising know-how to building  and sustaining relationships for the long term. Students will: 

  • Create a moves management model for cultivating connections inside the Capitol
  • Identify opportunities to show legislators/legislative staff your program/organization
  • Brainstorm ways to connect with legislators during the interim and in the district 
Class Eight: Legit and Legal – Details Matter

Ed Shack
Participants will learn about what can and cannot occur as it relates to fundraising and nonprofits in  the advocacy space and how to best leverage this information to create sustainable work and shift  the trajectory of their organizations. Participants will also understand the clear differences  between lobbying and advocacy, how that looks in terms of federal tax codes and how to position  the organization to best benefit. Students will: 

  • Learn what they can and can’t do as it relates to spending money on legislators
  • Learn how to complete their “H-election” for advocacy expenditures
  • Identify just how much of their budget they will be able to allocate to advocacy work
Class Nine: Help Me Help You – Providing Context and Content to Elected Officials

Florence  Shapiro 
Elected officials can’t be expected to know everything about everyone’s issues and priorities. Participants will learn the importance of education and outreach, stewardship, and ambassador cultivation. Students will: 

  • Create a one-pager on their issues, with concise messaging and background
  • Brainstorm ways to show elected officials how and why your issue is pertinent to him/her  and constituents
  • Hear firsthand from a former State Senator and Mayor how to be responsive to legislators’  needs when they are advocating for your cause – providing talking points, grassroots  support, expert witnesses 
Class Ten: Perception is Reality – Managing the Public Image

Terri Broussard Williams
In politics, perception is reality. Participants will understand how their organization and its issues  play with the persona, priorities, and public image of elected officials. Additionally, participants will  explore ways they can help boost the public image of elected officials in new spheres of influence  and geographic areas, establishing opportunities for them to become ambassadors or connectors  on your organization’s behalf. Students will: 

  • Learn how to package their message – from outward appearance to written materials
  • Brainstorm opportunities for elected officials to represent your organization as an  ambassador 
Class Eleven: All Politics are Local – Making it personal in their backyard

Kirk Watson
Participants will establish how to position themselves and their issues in elected officials’ local  communities. This class will explore the importance of drilling down to the local level, not only  educating elected officials of the direct impact your organization has in their district but arming  them with information that is relevant and timely. Also of importance is knowing and leveraging  influencers back home who have the elected officials’’ ear. Student will: 

  • Hear firsthand from a former State Senator and Mayor the importance of your involvement  in your local community 
  • Examine your organization’s advocacy needs from a 30,000 foot view, then drill down to  how they can be affected at the regional, county, and municipal level 

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Class Twelve: Extra Extra! Read All About It – Current issues and personalities

Jason Sabo
Participants will have an open discussion around the events of the day and current politicos,  including officeholders as well as influencers. Students will: 

  • Leave being well-versed on the current legislative environment  
  • Be able to ask questions about particular legislators and politicos 
  • Have an understanding of which officeholders with whom they need to align their  organization in order to claim a space in the current political environment 
Class Thirteen: Don’t Lobby Me in the Loo – Final Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts of all Time

Joy Hughes  Rauls
As a culmination of this course, participants will hear from seasoned professionals in this area  sharing their personal do’s and don’ts to successful advocacy. Everything from not approaching  staff in the restroom, to how to grease the wheels of government to fast track a meeting request.  Students will: 

  • Hear firsthand from a former Senate chief of staff from her experiences – the good, the bad,  and the ugly! 
  • Ask anything that is lingering by the end of the course 
  • Learn best practices for how to affect change, effectively