We highly encourage you attend our two-part advocacy training workshop, but in the meantime here are some important resources to help you think about how you–and your board—can advance your organization and your cause by influencing legislation (and budgeting decisions), coalitions advocating for changes in public policy, and efforts to change the way the public thinks about important issues.
This month we will talk about the legal guidelines you need to be aware of when engaging in advocacy. Next month we’ll share resources on how you can become better champions for your mission in the eyes of our elected leaders.
- First, npENGAGE sets the record straight on what the IRS specifically says about 501c(3) nonprofit organizations and advocacy.
- What is the difference between advocacy and lobbying? Essentially, advocacy is educating the public and lawmakers about how the issues affect the lives of people you serve. Lobbying involves persuading lawmakers to vote a certain way on proposed legislation, including budget decisions. The National Council on Aging succinctly summarizes the difference.
- So how can you be an advocate? The Nonprofit Law Blog lists 10 advocacy activities that are generally not considered lobbying.
- If you need to stop legislation or get legislation passed, the Independent Sector lays out the rules on how much time and resources nonprofits can dedicate to influencing legislation. Note that the vast majority of nonprofits involved in advocacy never come close to those limits.
- If you do any lobbying (asking a legislator, council member or executive to take a specific position or action) fill out the half-page 501(h) election form. This simple task means your lobbying activities can be defined by a more objective “expenditures test” instead of the vague “substantial” test. Do this TODAY!
- Build A Movement encourages nonprofits to take action on policy issues that matter to your mission; two-part online course; and, online learning guides, templates and samples from the Washington Nonprofit Institute's website
- The Elusive Craft of Evaluating Advocacy, by Steven Teles and Mark Schmitt, Summer 2011 posted in the Stanford Social Innovation Review
- In Oregon, The Nonprofit Association of Oregon shares a post on their Advocacy Overview; Public Policy Alerts and Brief Archives are available upon signing up on their email list