Periodically, we’ll be profiling people who don’t have public policy in their title, but choose to use their knowledge and experience in the sector to advocate around issues that matter to them or their organizations.
This month, we caught up with Mareeha Niaz, associate at Independent Sector. While her day job primarily includes supporting IS’s programmatic work such as our ethics and accountability, racial equity, and leadership development programs, in December 2017, she joined Independent Sector’s public policy staff on Capitol Hill.
AG: Why did you decide to advocate on behalf of an issue?
MN: Our internal policy & advocacy group does a fantastic job of broadcasting this ‘advocating from every seat’ motto – stressing that regardless of how involved you are in our policy work, we should all be advocates and recognize and lift up the policy and advocacy lens within our work. I believe that makes advocating on behalf of a specific issue both a real and easy concept to get behind. Plus, I have always been fascinated by international relations and domestic policy. Engagement and change on either level is dependent upon self-awareness and ownership of your personal advocacy power and responsibility – and of course, staying informed.
AG: How did you feel the first time you visited a Congressional office? Did anything surprise you?
MN: It was such a fun and informative experience! I expected the process and introductions to be more formal and daunting then they ultimately were. Yes, the building and environment felt about as powerful as I expected, but I know that is all relative to your perspective on government.
I was surprised by how young so many staffers in the halls and offices were – I was pretty blown away by that. When you watch a press conference or Congressional debate, the age range and gender spread is pretty uninspiring, so the age diversity there was encouraging and surprising.
AG: Have you taken action on any issues as an individual citizen and why do you think that’s important?
MN: I have used our superb Action Center to send letters to my lawmakers. The whole process of sending an email takes two minutes. It was a breeze. Do it now!
Also, I have attended marches in Washington, DC, signed a variety of petitions on other platforms, and of course donated money.
I sometimes think that I am not up to speed on what’s happening in the advocacy world, which leads to my own inaction. But now that I was able to attend meetings on Capitol Hill, I feel even more committed to be more active in 2018. At any given moment, someone or some organization is having a pivotal policy fight where advocacy can really help.
AG: Why should other nonprofit employees advocate?
MN: You already engage with advocacy is some form or fashion. The more aware and reflective you are about it, the greater your impact will be.
Super proud of our @IndSector colleagues Ryan & Mareeha for advocating on behalf of nonprofits across the country in their first hill meetings yesterday! #taxreform #KeepJohnsonAmendment pic.twitter.com/Jn1OoR1502
— Brenna Stroup (@BrennaStroup) December 6, 2017
Stay tuned for more resources and helpful tips to get you more engaged in advocacy.