Here is a sobering fact. According to Lobbying for Good, nonprofit organizations spent $222 million on federal lobbying between 1998 and 2004. This compares to a record $2.6 BILLION spent by U.S. companies in 2006 ALONE.
Assuming that most corporate lobbying does not advance social justice issues, like ensuring that more kids have access to great public schools, public lands are preserved and protected, and all seniors have access to Medicaid, this is a REALLY sad state of affairs.
As nonprofits, we have to step up our advocacy game. We also have to work with our corporate partners to encourage them to do more "lobbying for good."
Many nonprofits are confused about the rules and regulations around advocating for structural change. There is also a lot of confusion around the DIFFERENCE between advocacy and lobbying.
According to Alliance for Justice, "Advocacy is defined as any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others...Lobbying is only one kind of advocacy."
In practice this means that nonprofits CAN:
- educate constituents and legislators;
- organize; and,
- conduct and disseminate research to inform the public about critical issues.
Finally, and this may surprise you, but 501(c)(3) nonprofits CAN also engage in a LIMITED amount of lobbying.
For more information on the difference between lobbying and advocacy and to better understand the advocacy rules and regulations for nonprofits check out Alliance for Justice.
To make significant change on intractable issues like homelessness, immigration reform, access to family planning, environmental protections and more, nonprofits must fire on all cylinders. This means doing direct service in addition to engaging in advocacy. And, the good news is that the Internet makes grassroots advocacy even more accessible.
Use your power to make structural change in the world. Read the rules and then go for it. Lobby for good!