Running an education advocacy campaign means juggling dozens of urgent tasks every single day. What if you had a trusted partner who could take things off your plate so you and your team could focus on what matters most to your mission?

“That’s the value of 50CAN,” says Amanda Aragon, who joined our network and launched NewMexicoKidsCAN in January 2018 after completing the 50CAN Education Advocacy Fellowship.

Amanda was a seasoned advocate by then, having worked as director of strategic outreach for the New Mexico Public Education Department. She wanted to start a nonprofit that  advocated on behalf of kids from a different vantage point and knew there was a need for change. But she also knew she couldn’t do it on her own.

We recently surveyed our network of leaders, including Amanda, to find out why they joined the 50CAN network. Here’s what they said:

  • Easy and meaningful access to a diverse group of peers and their expertise. It’s like having a whole team of star players you can turn to—folks who have done work like yours, failed and succeeded in meaningful ways you can learn from and developed wisdom that can push your nonprofit forward.
  • Technical, legal and financial support that frees up time and space to do the work. Our advocates have enough essential details to track. We provide peace of mind on the side of operations, so they can charge forward in their campaigns without worrying about the particulars that don’t have to do with kids.
  • Getting to maintain autonomy in day-to-day operations. When we say “locally led, nationally supported,” we mean it. National services are designed to create more opportunities for campaign leaders to design projects that speak their community’s very needs.

Easy and meaningful access to a diverse group of peers and their expertise

“I value being part of a community of people fighting for equity and excellence in education from the ground up,” says Atnre Alleyne, who brought DelawareCAN to The First State in 2017.

Atnre is an advocacy heavy-hitter: ambitious, relentless and known in The First State for his apparently inexhaustible well of motivation when it comes to advocating for great public school policy. Like Amanda, Atnre served in his state’s education department. By the time he enrolled in a 50CAN leadership workshop, he had co-founded a nonprofit in Delaware with demonstrated success putting underserved young adults on the path to elite college success.

In a recent article, Small Business says it’s complex to start a nonprofit in part because it’s harder than most people expect and requires expertise in a wide range of subjects. Beyond the nitty-gritty details, we know from campaigns for social change throughout history—and the lessons of day-to-day life—that people work better together.

“Our network itself is powerful—a truly diverse group of highly-talented, mission-aligned advocates who are sharing information and ideas and sharpen each other’s work,” Atnre says. “I can learn from Georgia or Hawaii—wherever our advocates are changing the game for kids.”

For Yannell Selman, longtime community organizer and executive director of P.S. 305 in Miami, it isn’t merely the network of leaders but also the diversity of perspective within the network; she joined the 50CAN network in spring 2018. “It’s very bipartisan in a way that surprised me,” she says. “The cross-aisle work is one of the reasons I feel so proud being part of 50CAN.”

Technical, legal and financial support that frees up time and space to do the work

Research shows that young nonprofits fail relative to their size in part because  they struggle train a workforce to support them; and to handle regulatory compliance.  

“It might not sound exciting,” Amanda says, “but no matter how hard the work gets or how difficult the landscape is, I don’t have to worry about whether or not I can take care of basic things like payroll. It frees up my mind to focus on what’s happening at the Capitol.”

“50CAN has raised the stakes for us, and it’s made us a significantly more professional organization,” Yannell says. “We used to be always struggling. Now we have support, and we’re better because of it. We’re much more serious, and at the local level, there’s a feeling of greater credibility.”

Getting to maintain autonomy in day-to-day operations

In Delaware, Atnre flexes his autonomy, as well, not just setting his policy goals based on what is best for his state, but leveraging his local expertise to close specific gaps around information and education.

“From the beginning, 50CAN has walked the walk regarding its theory of local leadership,” Atnre says. “It’s not top heavy: I can get support but they respect local context, but it’s also not hard to reach your manager or other people. Plus we’re resourceful—and we know how to use partnerships.”

We choose to advocate for change despite the inherent challenges—because the road to a brighter future is won through endurance, commitment and coalition. If it were easy, I doubt we’d see exceptional leaders like Amanda, Yannell or Atnre rising to the call.

Our philosophy at 50CAN is: let advocates do the work they’re here to do. We’ll handle the rest. The result? A network of accessible peers nationwide, experts to handle the nitty-gritty and the freedom to get the job done.

Vallay Varro was a founding state executive director. She now serves as the president of 50CAN.


Recent Posts

More posts from Miscellaneous

See All Posts