Building an Advocacy Leadership Team: Skills and Roles

Grassroots advocacy campaigns are built from groups of concerned individuals coming together to achieve a common goal. While successful advocacy movements rely on each and every supporter, campaigns don’t just spontaneously come together. Instead, they are guided by a strong advocacy leadership team. 

While some individuals might be born leaders, most advocacy leaders make a concentrated effort to develop their skills. For most organizations, assembling an advocacy leadership team means looking for individuals with both strong skills and adequate experience. Of course, both organizations recruiting to fill specific roles and those forming their first leadership team need to know what core skills they should be looking for before they begin. 

To help your organization gain a better understanding of what advocacy leadership looks like and recruit the right team members, this article will go over four key leadership roles and their associated skills:

  • Lead Organizer 

  • Communication Specialist 

  • Volunteer Supervisor 

  • Tech Experts

As you assess potential team members, it’s important to keep in mind not just role-specific skills, but also characteristics all team members should possess. This is because advocacy campaigns and initiatives can take months, if not years to see results. While organizations can facilitate successful leadership changes, forming an initial team that has the time and dedication to devote to your campaign will save you the effort of going through the recruitment process again. 

Lead Organizer

Your campaign’s lead organizer is tasked with overseeing your entire campaign. Large campaigns often have several smaller focused teams, and the lead organizer ensures every group is cohesively working together towards one goal. 

The lead organizer is responsible for your campaign’s core direction and thus needs to be a highly trained, responsible individual. When assessing potential lead organizers, check for the following attributes:

  • Prior experience. Lead organizers have quite a bit of responsibility and rarely can new leaders successfully step into the role without previous experience in advocacy and leadership positions.

  • Knowledge of relevant issues. Your advocacy leader needs to be knowledgeable both in issues relevant to your cause and the greater advocacy landscape in general. Resources like Muster’s nonprofit advocacy guide provide guidance for how leaders can continually educate themselves, such as staying up to date with digital thought leadership. 

  • Networking skills. As the leader of your advocacy campaign, whoever fills this role will need to be comfortable with many core networking skills, including public speaking, connecting with a variety of people at gatherings, and facilitating long-term relationships. 

As your advocacy campaign grows, consider giving individuals opportunities to develop their skills, potentially creating more future leaders. Keep an eye out for ambitious, dedicated individuals completing their work and managing others. Often the best leaders can be found internally, having experience not just with advocacy campaigns in general, but your advocacy campaigns specifically. 

Communication Specialist

Communication encompasses a wide variety of responsibilities for advocacy campaigns. Specifically, your team members tasked with handling communications will need to oversee both internal and external messaging. Larger advocacy organizations are able to divide this role into multiple specializations, but in general, your team member in charge of communication will be responsible for:

  • Marketing and message creation. While your entire organization needs to be on board with your message and may have some role in creating it, your communication specialist will be the one to actually write it down and present it to the public. Additionally, communication specialists may be tasked with creating marketing materials to promote your advocacy campaign, adjusting how your message is presented based on the audience

  • Media and press outreach. After creating messages and marketing materials, your communications team needs to publicly post them. Creating an email or social media posting schedule may sound simple on the surface, but the most effective campaigns have very deliberate strategies for what they post, where, and when it goes live. Additionally, your communications specialist will also be responsible for press outreach, interview requests, and other correspondence with third party media outlets. 

  • Internal communication and coordination. Coordinating your supporter base is a group effort that requires your communication specialist, lead organizer, and volunteer supervisors to come together. However, in most cases, the communication specialist will be responsible for drafting and sending messages to your supporters. 

Strong communication is vital, not only for attracting new supporters to your cause but also for retaining your current base. As NonProfitEasy’s guide to volunteer retention explains, effective communication is crucial for every step of the volunteer recruitment process, starting from initial goal setting to final thank yous for all their hard work. 

Volunteer Supervisor

Depending on their size, most advocacy groups consist of a central leadership team and a few staff members. However, the bulk of your campaign will be made up of volunteers. This is especially true for smaller advocacy groups, who rely on volunteers to fill roles that larger organizations might hire a full time staff member to complete. 

Your volunteer supervisor will be responsible for overseeing your volunteers’ work for both in-person and online activities. More specifically, volunteer supervisors will likely be tasked with the following responsibilities:

  • Coordinating volunteers. What does your advocacy campaign need volunteers for? How many volunteers? When will volunteers need to start and complete specific tasks? Your volunteer supervisor will work in tandem with your lead organizer and communications team to answer these questions, making sure your advocacy group recruits the right volunteers.

  • Onboarding volunteers. All of your volunteers should go through a basic onboarding session where they learn the basics of their role, as well as how to discuss your organization. Your volunteer supervisor will need to develop your onboarding program and be able to answer questions that come up during it. 

  • Retaining volunteers. Recruiting volunteers takes time and effort that could be spent advancing your campaign. By retaining volunteers, you’ll start your next campaign with an already experienced group of supporters, ready to work from day one. Your volunteer supervisor should help retention efforts by supporting volunteers, planning appreciation events, and taking volunteer feedback into consideration. 

Additionally, nonprofit and charitable advocacy groups can benefit from volunteer grants. Your volunteer supervisor should show your volunteers how to check their eligibility for a volunteer grant and help them complete the necessary forms to apply. Doing so can help your advocacy campaign earn extra monetary support. 

Tech Experts

Today, both national enterprise-level advocacy organizations and small grassroots groups use technology to advance their cause. Digital advocacy has empowered groups of all sizes to expand their outreach, drive faster communication, and get the word out about their mission in new ways. 

Advocacy and communication software is instrumental for keeping your campaign organized and facilitating key communication efforts. This means you’ll need someone on your leadership team who is proficient in the basics of your software and can assist the rest of your team if any technical issues arise. While responsibilities will vary, your tech expert will likely need to be able to:

  • Train new team members. Onboarding can be a time-consuming process, especially when it involves technical training. Your tech experts should not only be able to work your software themselves, but also help new team members learn the basics. 

  • Troubleshoot technical issues. Tech errors do happen, and your tech experts are responsible for solving them. This includes making sure your website is always online, keeping your livestream up during virtual meetings, and performing regular maintenance on your core software systems. 

  • Offer technical advice. As your advocacy organization grows, your technical needs might change. Your technical experts should stay up to date with modern advocacy software trends, allowing them to offer advice when expanding your techstack and making purchasing decisions. 

While your tech experts will be responsible for handling your software during key moments such as live events, fortunately, many advocacy software providers can also help your team through technical challenges. When purchasing software, look for providers who offer onboarding support and resources, as well as strong customer support.

Advocacy campaigns are a community effort that require the dedication of a diverse group of volunteers, donors, and leaders. While their exact responsibilities may vary based on your organization, your leadership team should consist of experienced, professional individuals with strong communication skills and knowledge of the advocacy space. When forming your leadership team, look for individuals with these attributes and a passion for advocacy. 


Corey Vaughn is Chief Marketing Officer at Muster, where he has spent the last five years driving growth through lead generation, content creation, and product education. He also works closely with nonprofits to help improve and scale their advocacy efforts through digital campaigns. Connect with him on LinkedIn for the latest in nonprofit advocacy.

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