Tools to Help FBOs Leverage Their Unique Influence
By Bob Noziglia, CCIH Advocacy Advisor
According to the Pew Research Center, 80 to 90 percent of people living in emerging economies say religion is an important part of their daily lives. That is a demonstration of the significant amount of trust people place in their faith leaders. The opportunity to educate and galvanize those faith leaders to support global health programs is what makes faith-based organizations (FBO) special.
CCIH wants to help our membership think about your greatest differentiator from other organizations: your relationship with people of faith. One of the greatest strengths of the CCIH membership is the trust you have with the communities you serve because you represent and are a part of the community. As mentioned in a previous blog about advocacy, one of the lessons we learned from focus groups was a desire for CCIH members to have the tools to engage faith leaders to talk about global health issues. We hope the tools in this toolkit will provide helpful tips and suggestions to do just that.
Two of the tools we developed can help faith leaders and other advocates express their concern about issues and support for addressing them. The advocacy issue sheet guidance will help FBOs put together a tool to prepare advocates with facts and figures to discuss an issue they care about; and the opinion piece guidance will help advocates put their thoughts together effectively for a media outlet.
Do faith leaders need to be experts to advocate?
Too often faith leaders are simply expected to say that global health programs fulfill a moral obligation to help the poor and tend to the sick. When religious leaders are then asked to become involved in advocacy and talk to policy makers, they might turn down the opportunities because they feel like they need to be policy experts.
This can lead to some faith leaders not being comfortable discussing very impactful global health initiatives, and we can potentially lose great champions. We’ve seen some faith leaders whose church may provide funding to FBOs but do not know exactly how or why the money is being used – only that it is helping members of the community.
By sharing information on health issues, we can make faith leaders more comfortable discussing global health topics and publicly support these life-saving programs. We don’t need faith leaders to be subject matter experts; that is where programmatic and advocacy staff are able to shine. What we need is faith leaders to lend their voices in support of life-affirming initiatives and leverage the trust the community has in them.
Influence is the confluence of access, trust, and repetition. A source of influence that is nearly universal is the word a of faith leader. As many CCIH members have seen, faith leaders have a powerful voice that is trusted by the community, and by the government that represents that community. When faith leaders are engaged and informed, they are eager to assist in these programs, such as distributing insecticide-treated nets to their congregants or give their blessing to healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy programs.
Given faith leaders are often affiliated with hospitals, clinics, or organizations makes them natural voices to highlight how important these initiatives are to communities.
Many faith leaders are already familiar with CCIH members, and some may even be in charge of providing church money to fund these organizations. However, they may not be familiar with the results achieved, or at least not in a way that allows them to be comfortable talking about it to an audience. By sharing slightly more information with them, and letting them know they are not expected to become subject matter experts, only to discuss in general terms why this issue is important to them. That is how we can reach and galvanize government officials to also view these life-saving investments as more than simple charity.