Helping the Good Do Better

How a White Hat Lobbyist Advocates for Social Change


By Thomas F. Sheridan

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How to effect positive social change by the top progressive white hat lobbyist in Washington.

HELPING THE GOOD DO BETTER pulls back the curtain on the corridors of power in Washington to reveal how social change really happens. This book offers lessons from the trenches on how some of this generation’s most defining social issues-AIDS, disabilities, global poverty, cancer, human trafficking, national service, early childhood education, and social entrepreneurship — engendered landmark federal policies. Each chapter tells the story of how a particular issue was shaped by the movements and legislation at the center of public debate. Each case provides powerful lessons about how coalitions are built, strategies crafted, and powerful interests challenged in high-stakes, no-holds-barred political battles.

Doing good requires more than just providing programs and services. It requires coordination, organization, and a new, stronger emphasis on and dedication to advocacy. Participating in advocacy is no longer a luxury — it is a necessity. Visionaries and activists together with “white hat” lobbyists — people who understand the power of politics and who are able to put it to work to serve the public interest — have won some of the most transformative policy fights in recent times. The culmination of those experiences, of fighting and winning on behalf of public interest causes, is presented here in a new theory for social change. Successful campaigns and movements must possess a lobbyist’s combined approach to policy, politics, and press. Leveraging these 3 Ps, with true passion and discipline, can create results that are nothing short of awe-inspiring.

An insightful first-person guide to advocacy by a white-hat lobbyist who was in the rooms where historic social changes were made, HELPING THE GOOD DO BETTER is a direct and honest look at government in action and the behind-the-scenes players who help make progress a reality.


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I believe we are in a dark moment, perhaps one of the darkest in recent American history. The light at the end of the tunnel seems dim and distant most days. The current political landscape has left most good people, regardless of party affiliation or ideology, wondering What can I do? and Can I make a difference?

But there are flickers of light in the darkness, and they are growing, illuminating a path forward. These points of light come from us—the people of America who are answering the questions above with active and deliberate participation in the process that makes democracy powerful. Good can and does win, but it must get in the fight.

In the battles I have fought over the past three decades, when I’ve found myself losing, it was not because the opposition was better or their ideas were right—it was because good people were on the sidelines. Madeleine Albright’s recent book, Fascism: A Warning, is a sober reminder that evil only wins when good abdicates.

I am an optimist by nature. I look at the moment we live in now and hope that it is the darkness before the dawn. I can see elements of a new day in the November 2018 “blue wave” of more progressives, women, African Americans, Native Americans, Muslims, LGBT members in the House of Representatives. I see it in the unprecedented numbers of new voters registering, in the vigor of young people (shout-out to the Parkland kids), in the growing demands for a new political order, and in shifting demographics and political ideology.

My optimism arises in part because I’m assuming that if you’ve picked up this book, you want to help make the world a better place—and that’s great, because the world needs you. Our country needs you. As the old saying goes, when there’s a will, there’s a way. I’ve learned this firsthand after spending my career as a public interest lobbyist tackling some of the most pernicious problems facing American society. Through many ups and downs and with the help of many partners and collaborators, I’ve seen great successes arise from some of society’s biggest challenges—progress that wouldn’t have happened without a problem to tackle and solve. In this book I want to share with you what I’ve learned about how brave efforts can and do create great leaps forward.

I, too, have been struggling since Election Day 2016 to find the right words to share and the right strategies to recommend. From crisis arises opportunity, and from the darkest moments shine forth the brightest lights. I know this because I have lived it. This is exactly the moment for the thinking, caring, compassionate “good people” and “better angels” among us, including us, to act. I hope the actions you read about in this book clearly show you that there is an answer to “What can I do?” In each story I tell in these chapters, a person just like you asked that question and answered it with actions that have changed the world for the better.

On the ground, each and every day, your work already helps make the nation a better place. You staff food pantries in church basements. You feed the hungry. You care for the sick. You cultivate boards to help achieve your mission. You raise funds, do outreach, organize events. You make America great. You may have been doing the good work for years now, or you may have just begun. Now, you have been presented with both an opportunity and the responsibility to be the glue that holds our nation together. Applying the lessons from this book helped pass vital social impact legislation in the past—and now, it can help you seize this moment.

Today’s challenge, for the entire country, is to step up, lean in, push harder, and take action. Don’t take the path of least resistance or, worse, stay silent in hopes of better times. Doing good requires more than just programs and services. It requires coordination, organization, and a new emphasis on and dedication to advocacy. Participating in advocacy is no longer a luxury—it is a necessity. Good can’t happen if our government isn’t forced to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Good can’t happen if there is no vision, no courage, and no strategy to make our voices heard in the halls of government.

I know that for many, budgets are tight and resources scarce. I also know some of you reading may have never done this type of work before. But when history recalls how America recovered from this dark moment, I want it said that it was the people who stepped in and embodied our national motto, e pluribus unum—out of many, one. That it was the people who ensured that this remains the driving principle of America and ultimately the thing that retained and expanded her greatness.

When citizen activists have combined grassroots passion with smart political strategy, they have won some of the most transformative policy fights of our generation. In my experience these accomplishments come about when visionaries and activists team up with “white hat” lobbyists—people who understand the power of politics and who are able to put it to work to serve the public interest. For twenty-five years I’ve worked to master the art and science of winning for public interest causes. The culmination of that experience is presented here in a new theory for social change that I call the three P’s. Successful campaigns and movements must possess a lobbyist’s approach to policy, politics, and press; this is the formula for success. In my experience, leveraging the three P’s, with true passion and discipline, can create results that are nothing short of awe-inspiring. At the end of each chapter I highlight some takeaway prescriptions for the reader, and there you can see how we applied the three P’s for that particular issue.

In this book I offer lessons from the trenches on how some of this generation’s most defining social issues—AIDS, disability rights, global poverty, cancer, human trafficking, national service, and social entrepreneurship—engendered landmark federal policies. I hope to inform, inspire, and entertain you, and to illustrate how we can apply a new formula for social change to create lasting impact, whether as engaged citizens, policy makers, supporters, or allies. More important, I want you to have an unvarnished view of the work, the required compromises, the personal tolls, the skills you develop after losing, the awesome power of democracy in action, and the sustaining effort to make change last.

Helping the Good Do Better pulls back the curtain on the corridors of power in Washington to reveal how social change really happens—from grassroots activism of ordinary citizens to presidential executive orders. This is not a textbook or a white paper. It’s the story of my life’s work and that of so many others—victims, culprits, constituents, representatives, allies, and opponents—who were at the table when policies were debated, tragedies suffered, and battles won. Each chapter tells the story of how a particular issue—often peripheral in society’s eye at first—became legislation at the center of public debate, and with each one come valuable lessons on how we can win the battles we’re fighting right now. Some efforts succeeded, and some failed, but each case provides powerful takeaways on how coalitions are built, political strategies crafted, and dominant interests challenged in high-stakes, no-holds-barred political battles. Some of the friends and colleagues who worked closely with me on these issues have provided their take. Throughout the book you’ll see them giving a second view, providing their thoughts and perspectives on the stories I share.

Though the goals were different and the actors varied, I found a few things to be universal: even when a strong individual leader is present (and often one is required), every achievement is the result of collaboration. Building a strong coalition is intrinsic to success on a large scale. It requires symbiosis: each stakeholder has to recognize and understand how the partnership will benefit them and why they are a benefit to others. Second, winning requires strategy. Luck, good timing, and money all help, but an informed, strategic approach is required in order to achieve lasting effects.

People frequently act surprised when I tell them I’m a social worker. I think they assume all lobbyists are lawyers and that all social workers wear tunics and Birkenstocks. I get why folks are confused by my collection of power suits. But I’m proud of being both a social worker and a professional lobbyist—I believe my role is first and foremost that of advocate. My goals are to create change and solve human problems.

My very first job as a social worker set me on the path toward being a lobbyist. I was hired to open the first group home for developmentally disabled adults in my hometown. The first task was to request a zoning change—if you ever want to see raw, nasty political fights, go to a zoning board meeting. I’ll save the details for later, but suffice it to say that things quickly got complicated, personal, and ugly. Soon my mom was driving ten more minutes over the state line to do her shopping in New Jersey rather than at the local grocery store so she wouldn’t run into the neighbors and townspeople. That first experience said it all: there really is no change unless you do the hard work that comes with it.

No sooner had we gotten the group home open and operating than the national political mood shifted with the election of Ronald Reagan to the White House (yes, elections have consequences). Suddenly and swiftly our entire budget supporting the home was threatened—cuts to every program for people with disabilities were proposed and passed within a year after the Reagan Revolution. That moment was my second fight—organizing every family member of our group home and all the staff and friends of staff I could muster. We raised hell and brought our issue directly to our congressman’s office (he was a Republican). And we brought the press with us.

Our programs were spared, but the threats persisted. My fight to save the group home drew some attention, and I was offered a fellowship with the National Association of Social Workers in Washington, DC, and a chance to complete a master’s degree at Catholic University of America in one year. I jumped at the opportunity, as I saw a path to more advocacy and greater impact. Not that my career proceeded smoothly from there. At the age of thirty, I borrowed $10,000 to venture out on my own, doff the aforementioned white hat, and found the Sheridan Group. I told my dad I would find enough work to pay him back within six months. I kept my promise.

When I started the Sheridan Group I was trying to take what I knew and share it with more than just one single-issue group at a time. The Sheridan Group’s first client was the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which donated a used fax machine to the “office”—a spare bedroom on the third floor of my townhouse.

A lot has changed in the twenty-five years since I founded the firm, but the goal has remained the same: to create effective strategies for socially responsible public policy initiatives. Our motto is “helping the good do better.” Over the years, the Sheridan Group has become the go-to firm in the nation’s capital for coalition-building and grassroots advocacy for nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and other agents of change. I have spent my career using pragmatic politics to translate idealism into transformative public policy. It’s not just about winning the fight, but about learning how to use all of the tools of policy, politics, and press to succeed in battle, again and again.

Jeanne White fought for and won an AIDS funding bill in the name of her dying son, Ryan; Bono and Jesse Helms came together to fight poverty in Africa; religious conservatives and liberal activists teamed up to pass the most important anti-trafficking bill of a generation—these scenes from twenty-five years in Washington fighting for the voiceless offer lessons about how Washington works, why politics matters, and how to win.

I hope you’ll find these stories from the trenches to be funny, tragic, surprising, and memorable. But beyond spinning a good yarn, though I like to think I come by that skill honestly (thanks to my Irish roots), I hope you’ll use these stories to apply the lessons in your own careers and pursuits in the public interest. And though you’ll recognize some boldface names from pop culture, history, and politics, you’ll also see that sometimes the best advice comes from the most unlikely advisors.

This is the updated battle plan for those who are ready to fight the good fight: social entrepreneurs, corporate CEOs, nonprofit managers, organizers, activists, philanthropists, and bloggers. We can all do our part to make government work for the people in order to create real and lasting change. Let’s get down to business. There is more work to do.

Chapter 1

AIDS and the Ryan White

“If it’s good enough for Mother Teresa, it’s good enough for you”

April 24, 1990. The world had just watched a boy die, one of the most impassioned advocates of his generation. Ryan White had just died of AIDS, and I was in the midst of a desperate battle to pass a bill that would provide care to others who were suffering from the disease. I had invited Ryan’s mother, Jeanne, to Washington to help me gather support for the bill, and we hit the halls of Capitol Hill.

We needed to add fourteen senators as co-sponsors in order to get to the needed number of sixty so that Senator Jesse Helms, the homophobic arch-right-wing senior senator from North Carolina, wouldn’t be able to filibuster. One of our main targets for the day was Senator Joe Biden. When he came out of the Senate chamber he looked hurried, clearly in no mood for chitchat. But I ran up and quickly got in a word. Ryan White’s mother had just flown in the night before. She was standing right behind me, and she wanted to speak to him. He stopped in his tracks and immediately took her hand. This act of intimacy took Jeanne and me both by surprise. Joe Biden is, in many ways, the quintessential charismatic politician, yet he, too, has suffered a great loss. In 1972—as he prepared to be sworn in as a senator—Biden’s wife and daughter were killed in a car accident on the way home from picking out the family Christmas tree. His two sons barely survived, and Biden nursed them back to full recovery as a single father.

As I stood nearby, I heard Jeanne start her request for Biden’s support. He stopped her midsentence. “You don’t need to tell me the pain of losing a child,” he told her. “I have been there, and there is nothing more painful a parent can experience.” They both started to cry. Hell, even I started to cry. The world around us came to a complete stop. Senators came in and out, staff bustled around, but a protective bubble seemed to envelop us. Something magical was happening.

By the end of his deeply personal conversation with Jeanne, I knew that the power of Biden’s and Jeanne’s shared passion, grief, and hope would be an unstoppable force if it could be harnessed on behalf of all the parents and families who had lost someone to AIDS. There is a strange peace and deep authenticity that comes with such pain—as if there is little else in the world that can hurt so much and, thus, nothing in the world left to fear.

Grief is a powerful force, and it animated the AIDS movement. If turned inward, grief can destroy lives and create further suffering. If turned outward, however, it can heal the deepest wounds, bring together fierce enemies, and birth what some might call miracles. Perhaps that is why the height of the AIDS epidemic, which is where this story begins, was at once so tragic and so miraculous. AIDS brought fear, shame, anger, and division to this country as it arbitrarily stole friends, family members, and colleagues. Yet, AIDS created a shared suffering. It cut across race, creed, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation and introduced a degree of compassion and humility that few could have predicted. In this sense, AIDS was the great leveler of our time. Our response—as individuals and as a country—was a test of our common humanity. This chapter tells the story of how we fared in that test, what we learned, and how these lessons may help us address the challenges ahead.

*  *  *

In 1984, a thirteen-year-old hemophiliac contracted a mystifying illness from a contaminated blood treatment. Ryan White was, like most people diagnosed with AIDS, given six months or less to live—it was a death sentence. Back in his hometown in Indiana, he tried to return to school but faced enormous opposition: beyond taunts, threats, and abuse, parents and teachers organized and rallied to prevent him from attending school. At the time, there were fewer than 150 cases of pediatric AIDS in the country, and being diagnosed with the disease carried an enormous social stigma. But Ryan was undeterred. He and his family fought back against the school. As Ryan’s case gained attention, celebrities like Elton John, Michael Jackson, and Phil Donahue took up support of his legal battle. Along the way Ryan White became a national celebrity and advocate for AIDS education and research. AIDS in the 1980s was a wholly different disease than the one we know today; it was not chronically managed, widely understood, or accepted. It was lethal, highly stigmatized, and characterized by a national mood of crisis, desperation, anger, and scornful discrimination.

In 1984, I was twenty-four years old, making a whopping $15 a day working for Walter Mondale on his quest to deny Ronald Reagan a second term. I had a newly minted master’s degree in social work and, to my parents’ regret, was spending my life as a political organizer and vagabond. (A quick note for new and young change makers: when you first start out, money probably won’t be a priority, and your loved ones will likely think you are nuts.) I was actually in Ryan’s home state of Indiana working on the primary when his story broke. I remember the campaign briefly discussing this issue but clearly sidelining it for its “controversy.” My focus then was winning the Indiana primary and moving on to the other states we needed to win to claim the nomination in San Francisco that summer. I had a front seat for the history-making moment when Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman to be nominated for vice president by a major party, and then we got crushed. After a few months of looking for work, I landed happily at the Child Welfare League of America as deputy director.

Those years were among the most dramatic and formulating in my life. My job at CWLA involved work on membership campaigns, conferences, and public policy. Essentially anything that interested me or needed to be done, I got a chance to do. I was immediately drawn to a policy agenda that centered on children with disabilities thanks to my experience in my first job as a social worker, when I worked on similar issues. Disability groups were not only working on disability policy but also rapidly taking their cause to the civil rights agenda, so I was able to network and grow my contacts in diverse contexts and on diverse causes, including AIDS.

This was also the time in my life when I met my husband, Vincent Walsh. It was a chance meeting at a bar in Dupont Circle and, since I was leaving on a trip the next day, we agreed to meet up when I returned. We still don’t agree about the occasion of that first date—I say it was for lunch, Vince says for dinner, but we were married on June 21, 2014—almost twenty-eight years to the day after we first met. Coming to grips with my homosexuality was complicated. On top of all the obvious issues an Irish Catholic kid from New York would have in coming out, I added a level of complexity to it by choosing politics—and perhaps elective office someday—as a career goal. In 1986, being an openly gay man was almost certainly a career-ending declaration for someone who wanted to run for office. I did eventually come out, first to my siblings and then, a few years later, to my parents, but during this time in my life I remained publicly closeted.

Early on in my time at CWLA we were asked to lend policy and political support to create a highly specialized foster care program to care for orphaned AIDS children—the “boarder babies.” In most cases the mothers did not know they were HIV-positive, so the “death sentence” for both mother and infant came simultaneously. These babies spent all of their short lives in hospital nurseries because they lacked foster parents who were sensitized to the special needs of AIDS infants, and many families looking to adopt were afraid to take them in. The stigma of AIDS was powerful and isolating.

Before I knew it, I headed to the Hill to find support, and soon we were drafting legislation and creating a strategy to pass it. We didn’t know it then, but this bill would soon become the first positive piece of AIDS legislation to win federal support—the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act of 1988. It was a rather simple bill, just an additional amount of money state foster care agencies could use to train, support, and recruit specialized foster parents caring for children born with the HIV virus. We consciously decided to tuck this little bill into a much bigger bill where it was carried through the legislative process relatively unnoticed. Democratic senator Howard Metzenbaum from Ohio was the sponsor and Senator Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy from Massachusetts was the committee chairman who guided its passage. It was the beginning of an incredible and nearly totally accidental journey that became a major defining chapter in my life.

*  *  *

During my time at CWLA I was approached by the leaders of AIDS Action Council, an association of six AIDS service organizations (ASOs). AIDS Action had been created in 1984 to work with Congress and the administration to bring the voices of the ASOs to the policy table. They had seen the work I’d done on the Abandoned Infants Act and offered me a job as executive director. I declined for a variety of reasons; at the time I was only out to my closest friends, and taking on AIDS seemed like it would be too revealing and too political. I also didn’t think an executive director job was right for me—I didn’t want the hassle of budgets and boards. I did mention a few colleagues who I thought would be better for the job, including Jean McGuire, a friend of mine who had worked with me on disabilities. Shortly afterward I received a call from Jean; she was grateful for the recommendation, but would only take the job if I agreed to be her policy director.

Jean was someone I could count on, someone who could make this adventure tolerable—if not thrilling. And the need for more legislative pressure regarding AIDS was appallingly obvious. Still, I wasn’t sure how public I wanted to be about my involvement in AIDS activism. I was thinking of running for Congress in New York in a few years—and a young gay man working on AIDS legislation was bound to attract certain labels that could be major obstacles on such a career path.

So, I did what any conflicted Irishman would do—I asked my grandmother. After Easter dinner, I took her aside and explained my trepidation. To my surprise, she said simply, “Thomas, if working on AIDS is good enough for Mother Teresa, then it’s good enough for you.” I began at AIDS Action as director of policy and government affairs in 1988. An idealistic twenty-something, I had no idea what I was getting into. I may have had an ounce of Mother Teresa’s passion for helping the suffering, but I lacked her patience and beatific attitude completely, that’s for sure.

*  *  *

When I first joined AIDS Action there had been little federal policy for the AIDS community to celebrate. We didn’t have time to waste. Ryan White and hundreds of thousands of others were getting sicker, slipping toward death every day. But in the meantime, they were living, and fighting, and taking a stand: Ryan was featured on the cover of People magazine, was brought onstage by Elton John at a fundraiser and got his first car, a Chevrolet Cavalier given by the Indiana Independent Auto Dealers Association.

AIDS Action had an official public policy committee, but in reality, real-time decisions were made by just three people: me; Pat Christen, the executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation; and Tim Sweeney of Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York. A graduate of Stanford’s pre-med program, Pat had just returned from two years with the Peace Corps in Africa when we met at an AIDS public policy roundtable in Washington in spring 1988. At twenty-seven, she was tall, blond, strikingly beautiful, and wicked smart, as they’d say in Boston. Pat started out as a volunteer on the crisis switchboard at SFAF and became the organization’s public policy director and then its executive director in less than three years’ time. AIDS accelerated calendars and careers. Tim Sweeney was an Irish Catholic like me, with a short, slight build and a much larger personality. When we were in financial straits, Tim was able to raise money from the wealthy New York gay community faster than anyone else I knew. His loyalty and influence were incredibly helpful during the most stressful moments.

At the outset of this work Pat, Tim, Jean, and I discovered that there was little, if any, strategic thinking, political capital, or sophisticated organizing present in the AIDS community for policy. A note on political capital: if you are trying to rally interest, support or money for a cause, stop and ask yourself, Why does anyone with political power care about your issues? Do you donate money to their campaigns or interests? Do you organize voters? Are you popular with the press?


  • "Tom Sheridan is a voice for the voiceless, and a champion for transformative change. His powerful book comes at a critical time for our democracy, delivering an electrifying message of optimism, idealism, and empowerment to America."—Speaker Nancy Pelosi
  • "Stopping the Bad from Making Things Worse!!! is another title for this book. That's one of the reasons I held on to Tom Sheridan quite tightly in the early days at the ONE Campaign when we were fighting despair and deprivation in the poorest places on the planet. He is rich company."—Bono
  • "Tom Sheridan's book is as timely as it is important. He poignantly reminds us that good happens only when the good get in the fight. Tom has led important battles that have changed this country for the better. This excellent book tells those stories and, in the process, gives us a road map for making positive change in the future."—Vicki Kennedy
  • "There is much that corporate citizenship executives can learn from Helping the Good Do Better. Tom's book pulls the curtain back on how social issues, many that are important to business, get turned into policy, legislation, and law. This is of particular importance in the era of brands taking stands, the rise of employees demanding that the company's values reflect their own, and customers' purchasing preferences often determined by a company's social positions."—Jeff Hoffman, corporate citizenship, philanthropy & civic engagement leader
  • "Helping the Good Do Better is a compelling and hopeful playbook for how to make positive social change happen in a Washington where that doesn't always seem possible. This book is full of practical advice and important lessons from someone who is so often in, as the play Hamilton would put it, 'the room where it happens.' This is a powerful guide for advocates on how to fight the good fight!"—U.S. Senator Chris Coons
  • "Sheridan formed and executed a strategy that changed the world. And he's done it more than once. Who else can say that?"—Bobby Shriver, co-founder, ONE and (RED)
  • "In order to fix what is broken with Washington and our divisive politics, we need good people to get involved and stay engaged. This book is a call to action for more engagement and it reminds us about the goodness that is possible in America. Helping the Good Do Better is not only a chronicle of awesome work, it is the backbone of what will keep America great even through troubled times. Tom writes beautifully but it is his actions that truly inspire."—U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin
  • "Finally, someone has challenged the reflexive, conventional view about lobbying and power in Washington. Helping the Good Do Better is a testament to everyday Americans who, collectively wielding their passion and principles, have transformed public policy while leaving an indelible reminder that our elected officials work for the people -- not the other way around."—Kevin Madden, senior advisor to Mitt Romney's presidential campaigns
  • "You'll start reading Helping the Good Do Better because of your commitment to social change; you won't be able to put it down because of the riveting -- often funny -- stories and the pragmatic lessons from one of Washington, D.C.'s finest strategists. Tom not only takes you behind the scenes as policy gets made and movements built, but every chapter provides practical advice whether you're working in your community, your state capital, or on Capitol Hill."—Melody C. Barnes, co-director, Democracy Initiative, University of Virginia, and former director, White House Domestic Policy Council (2009-2012)
  • "The stories Thomas tells are inspiring, colorful, vast, and personal. He captures the fear of the early AIDS epidemic, the infighting among cancer groups lobbying for federal research dollars, and the joy of seeing your national service agenda embraced by the next president. Best of all, Thomas demonstrates why the fight is worth it. Thomas's career is more than a lesson: It's an inspiration."—Patti Solis Doyle, CNN contributor and presidential campaign manager
  • "Helping the Good Do Better chronicles the aspirational vision, authentic values, and tenacious strategies that led me to partner with Tom and the Sheridan Group as the main policy and advocacy consultancy for the ASBC. Our organization is committed to the 'Triple Bottom Line' of people, planet, and profit."—Hammad Atassi, CEO, American Sustainable Business Council
  • "I read Helping the Good Do Better in one sitting. Packed with vivid stories and practical tips for both citizens who care and committed change agents, Sheridan makes a compelling argument for the essential role of advocacy in any effort to improve communities. The insightful commentary, hard-won lessons, and tools contained in Helping the Good Do Better are incredibly relevant for this generation of citizen entrepreneurs asking 'What can I do?'"—Cheryl Dorsey, CEO, Echoing Green
  • "Sheridan makes a much-needed contribution with his new book. Most significantly for me, Tom offers those of us who straddle the applied and academe a better understanding of the theoretical foundations of advocacy so that it can be captured and communicated to students of government and political science everywhere."—Patrick Griffin, academic director, Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute, American University
  • "Sheridan opens an enjoyable and insightful window into his work on behalf of Americans who deserve better. Through engaging stories, he reminds us that our government has great power to do good. In our era of highly partisan politics, Sheridan boldly asserts that 'the non-profit sector needs to offer leadership that brings the American public together.'"—John Staud, PhD, executive director, ACE Program, University of Notre Dame
  • "At last, there is a true bible for how nonprofits can effect real transformative change. I was a witness to many of these stories -- from the front lines of the AIDS epidemic in Atlanta to the White House. Tom's brand of pragmatism and political savvy might occasionally ruffle feathers, but he fights to win with the clear understanding that when you fight for those who can't fight for themselves the stakes are always higher. However, these pages bring those fights into perspective with his signature honest, humorous 'Irish storytelling.' Here is a book that tells you how a good guy finally won, and taught countless advocates how to win in the process."—Sandy Thurman, White House AIDS Czar (Clinton Administration, 1997-2001)
  • "For four score and two years, I've been a witness to a generation of social change and I know what it takes to take on the big issues and win. Tom is wise, disciplined, tough, strategic, and deeply committed to American Idealism and the promise it still holds for the great task of citizenship. This book passes the baton and inspires the reader to carry on."—Former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford, author of Of Kennedy and Kings
  • "[Sheridan] combines his sharp intellect, political acumen, and impressive record of successful measures into a sage guide on how social change occurs. Overall, [his] message that even small action can have a collective impact is compelling, and the challenge is for people to 'step up, lean in, push harder, and take action' to make American government work better for the people. An empowering motivational tool for readers interested in proactive politics."—Kirkus

On Sale
Sep 20, 2022
Page Count
320 pages

Thomas F. Sheridan

About the Author

Tom Sheridan is the nation’s foremost advocate for public interest causes and social impact. His career spans more than 30 years and has touched nearly all of the transformative social issues of our time, both domestically and internationally. From the AIDS pandemic with Bono to 21st century social innovation, Tom has used his heart and his head to lead successful strategies that have changed the world. He is a social worker by profession and a rare “white hat” lobbyist by trade. Tom is married to Vince Walsh. They live in Washington, DC and Lewes, DE with their two dogs and two horses.

Learn more about this author