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Marcia Avner is a consultant whose practice includes advocacy strategy, issue campaign design, organizing, lobbying, and media training, curriculum development, and facilitation. She works with nonprofits, foundations, and academic centers on initiatives to advance advocacy.

Avner serves as a Senior Fellow at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) where she was Public Policy Director from 1996-2010. MCN is a statewide association of nonprofits with over 2000 member organizations. At MCN, Avner’s work has encompassed advocacy strategy, program design, and leadership of the Council’s policy research, analysis, training, and lobbying initiatives. She successfully led MCN and its members in campaigns to increase incentives for charitable giving, stop proposed cuts in programs and services, advance reforms in democratic systems, and pass laws to protect nonprofit tax exemptions. Avner has also developed MCN’s Minnesota Participation Project which inspires and prepares nonprofits to engage in civic practices.

Avner is also a faculty member and Coordinator of the Nonprofit Concentration in the Masters in Advocacy and Political Leadership Program (MAPL) at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. She teaches courses in the relationships between government and nonprofits, nonprofit advocacy and organizing, and the role of art in social change movements. MAPL is a program that integrates theory and practice as it prepares individuals to work in organizing, advocacy, and political leadership.

As a consultant, Avner works on a range of policy project design and implementation initiatives with nonprofits and foundations, including:  advocacy and organizing training; facilitation of planning, strategy, and campaign development; and the development of policy and advocacy related curricula and written materials for specific audiences.

The unifying thread in Avner’s work is the commitment to advancing advocacy in the nonprofit sector and the broader community.

Avner has authored The Lobbying and Advocacy Handbook for Nonprofit Organizations: Shaping Public Policy at the State and Local Level (2002), andThe Board Member’s Guide to Lobbying and Advocacy (2004) published by Fieldstone Alliance. For Northwest Area Foundation she wrote Advancing Public Policy Strategies for Poverty Reduction: An Invitation to Foundations (2009). In 2009 she also completed the advocacy chapter for the forthcoming edition of the Jossey-Bass Handbook on Nonprofit Leadership and Management. She authored the handbook Advocate for Impact: Policy Guide for State and Local United Ways for United Way Worldwide in 2010.

Prior to her work with MCN and MAPL, Avner served as Communications Director for U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, Deputy Mayor of St. Paul, Executive Director of The Minnesota Project, Assistant Commissioner of Energy for the State of Minnesota, and Legislative Director with the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group.

Avner has a BA from Carnegie Mellon University and a MA from the University of Arkansas.

Avner serves on numerous community and nonprofit boards including Wellstone Action! and the Wellstone Action Fund, the Nonprofit Information Networking Association which publishes The Nonprofit Quarterly, United Family Medicine, and Jewish Family Service. She recently completed a decade of board service with the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest.

Contact Marcia Avner


MAPL 5200 -
Advocacy and Lobbying: Strategies and Tactics
MAPL 5202 - Nonprofits and Government: The Public Private Partnership
MAPL 5308 - Impact of Art and Social Change


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