Saturday, May 7, 2011

Can You Lobby for Good?

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.  
Nonprofits CAN also register citizens to vote - an important activity your organization may want to pursue - as we head into the 2012 election cycle.

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!




Mazarine said...

Dear Jocelyn,

Thank you for talking about nonprofit advocacy! While I live in Austin, which is a hotbed of advocacy for all sorts of causes, I don't see enough nonprofits getting involved in the legislature. Organizing events that get the attention of electeds. I am going to link your post in my post on May 16th. It has some ideas about how to start to engage in advocacy. 1. invite electeds to your event.

Love to hear more ideas from you! If we don't advocate for our rights, they will take them from us!



Spill said...

Organization spends to much on did it end up to this

nonprofit help said...

I had no idea nonprofits were able to lobby. Thanks for this very useful info. I think nonprofits need to come together for the greater good.

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