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Tools You Can Use

Stakeholder Analysis Tool:
How to Understand, Influence, and Mobilize Your Constituents

The Lobbying and Advocacy Handbook for Nonprofit Organizations

How to Conduct a Stakeholder Analysis
    1. Identify your stakeholders
    2. Set priorities

Additional Resources


From Vince Hyman, former Publishing Director, Fieldstone Alliance:

Your nonprofit is "owned" by your stakeholders—your clients, the community you serve, your volunteers, and host of others. Do you know what they think? Do you know the best ways to motivate them when you need their support? A stakeholder analysis will help get you there.

This issue of Tools You Can Use is excerpted and adapted from our book, The Lobbying and Advocacy Handbook for Nonprofit Organizations: Shaping Public Policy at the State and Local Level by Marcia Avner of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Marcia lobbies on behalf of the nonprofit sector within the state of Minnesota. She is a formidable advocate for nonprofits, and we are fortunate to have captured her experience and wisdom in this book. Her success is also an inspiration for all of us in the sector.

The fact is, many nonprofits exist to serve under-represented, often disenfranchised people. These people lack access to power, and due to this lack, their interests are first on the budget chopping block. Nonprofits have the power to amplify their quiet voices, put the heat on legislators, and fight to be sure the most vulnerable are not overlooked. Given its power, advocacy should be a standard practice for most nonprofits, alongside strategic planning, fundraising, and similar skills—but it is often overlooked.

The Stakeholder Analysis tool is one of many great tools in Marcia's book. It has become widely used not just by people involved in lobbying, but by any group wishing to understand, influence, and mobilize its constituents. Here it is.

How to Conduct a Stakeholder Analysis

1. Identify your stakeholders
Stakeholders are all the people who have an interest in your organization's success at achieving its mission. In public policy work, stakeholders include the people who care about your effectiveness in passing or stopping legislative proposals. In a stakeholder analysis, you identify the specific segments of the general public who care about your organization's work and public policy agenda. For each of your public policy goals, you may have different stakeholders.

Begin your analysis by stating your organization's mission and one public policy goal that you will advance to meet your mission. Then brainstorm all the people or groups who might be affected by or care about that goal. These stakeholders will include the following.

People and groups that will benefit from the proposed law. These may include your customers or clients, other people who struggle with the problem you are attempting to solve, groups and individuals who support the intended beneficiaries of the proposed law, and people in other states or countries who will base their efforts to change laws on the precedents that you set. You need to get these stakeholders involved in your effort so they can tell their own stories, persuade decision makers that the problem you have named is real, and emphasize that the proposed solution will help.

People and groups that will benefit from your organization's success. These stakeholders include board, staff, donors, and funders who support your work; allied organizations that rely on your services; and similar organizations that want to follow your model. This group of stakeholders is likely to rally behind you because they are loyal. You will need them to use their power as constituents, experts, and informed citizens to help make your case to decision makers.

People and groups that influence opinion and make decisions. These stakeholders include the people whose support you need in order to convince elected officials to adopt your position: community leaders, political leaders, and members of the media; the elected officials who will vote on your proposal; and the executive branch leaders who will support, oppose, or veto your proposal. These influences and decision makers are the ultimate targets of your efforts, because they shape the policy dialogue and make policy decisions.

For each group of stakeholders, you will need to determine

  1. Which issue they care about
  2. Why they care
  3. What they can do
  4. What you want them to do
  5. How to present your key messages so that you persuade them to join your cause
  6. How you will reach them, educate them, and keep them up-to-date on your issues and arguments
  7. How you will mobilize them to act strategically at critical times

2. Set priorities
X-Y Grid DiagramAfter you have determined your stakeholders and the kinds of activities necessary to educate and motivate them, you need to set priorities; rarely will you have enough resources or time to reach all your stakeholders. Placing your stakeholders on an x-y grid such as the one to the right can help you decide which ones you had best concentrate your energies on. Rank them by influence (on the vertical axis) and ease of accessibility (on the horizontal access). Concentrate your actions toward the upper left of the grid—but don't forget that many voices with "low influence" can become very influential when combined.

Decide which stakeholder groups are priorities, based on how much they can influence the people who will be making decisions about your legislative proposals. Focus your time, energy, and resources on these stakeholders. Build your efforts to educate and mobilize supporters around the insights gained from this stakeholder analysis.

Additional Resources
Cover of The Lobbying and Advocacy Handbook for Nonprofit Organizations This tool is reprinted from The Lobbying and Advocacy Handbook for Nonprofit Organizations by Marcia Avner. Here are other helpful resources on nonprofit lobbying and advocacy:

  • Alliance for Justice, The Alliance for Justice offers detailed information online and through a wide variety of publications and training events on nonprofit political activity with an emphasis on laws that govern nonprofit lobbying and activity in election cycles.
  • Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest, Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest provides guidelines specific to nonprofits on why and how to lobby, materials on laws that govern nonprofit lobbying, a list of nonprofit lobbying resource people in over eighteen states, written and audio visual training materials, training guides and curricula, training, and support.
  • Independent Sector, Independent Sector is an association of national voluntary organizations and foundations whose membership includes a wide variety of causes and concerns. It is also a leading organization on federal policy issues affecting charitable giving, advocacy, and nonprofit operations. Contact them for information about issues affecting the nonprofit sector and for information resources.
  • National Council of Nonprofit Associations (NCNA), Contact NCNA to find out if your state has an association of nonprofits and how you can access information and training.
  • OMB Watch, OMB Watch focuses on a number of issues important to nonprofit organizations, including federal budget and government performance issues; regulatory and government accountability; information for democracy and community; nonprofit advocacy; and nonprofit policy and technology. OMB Watch is the host of a multifaceted web portal and resource center for learning about nonprofit advocacy and communicating with elected officials. Contact OMB Watch for information on any of these topics, including advocacy.
  • Wellstone Action, Wellstone Action is a national center for training and leadership development for the progressive movement. Founded in January 2003, Wellstone Action's mission is to honor the legacy of Paul and Sheila Wellstone by continuing their work through training, educating, mobilizing and organizing a vast network of progressive individuals and organizations. Their goal is to help activists win on issues and elect progressive candidates.


Vince Hyman
Publishing Director
Fieldstone Alliance

March 15, 2006


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