Why You MUST Lobby for Your Non-profit

As we all know, the United States is experiencing some tough economic times. Most states are running significant deficits that will likely force them to cut millions — in many cases billions — of dollars in services. Because of this, non-profits will probably see a decrease in government funding in the next year or so. Some states (Louisiana comes to mind) are even looking into taxing properties owned by non-profit groups as a way to generate needed revenue.

This summer I am teaching a graduate class at Regis University on non-profit public policy/advocacy. I must say, I find the reluctance of non-profits to get involved in public policy very damaging to this sector. Public policy and advocacy should be front and center on all non-profits’ agendas. The question is not whether non-profits should get involved in public policy but how FAST. If we do not get more involved, our sector as a whole and the 1.4 million non-profits in this country will lose billions of dollars of support, which will directly impact the millions of people non-profits are helping every day.

Let’s look at some of the key reasons why we must become involved in lobbying for our causes NOW.

  1. We can make a difference in so many ways to help fulfill our mission regardless of whether it is in human services, arts and culture, health care, international affairs, etc.
  2. Lobbying helps assure that we have a strong democratic system in America. Almost every social change issue in America has been championed by non-profit organizations. The non-profit sector acts as the guarantor that our democratic way of life continues.
  3. The government allows and encourages tax exempt 501 (c) (3) organizations to get involved in lobbying for legislation, referendums, and initiatives. If you want to spend 20 percent of the first $500,000 of your budget on lobbying all you need to do is file an H Election form with the IRS.
  4. The laws will change if people change the laws.There is a legacy of people and groups who fought to pass civil rights legislation, changes in women’s rights, etc. I was intimately involved in the passage of the Community Reinvestment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. You too can get involved in making change happen at the government level.
  5. Decision-makers need our opinions and views.Senators and representatives rely on non-profit organizations to provide the testimony and expertise that helps them make intelligent decisions. Non-profit organizations are close to the grassroots and generally understand the issues best.
  6. Lobbyists can help find solutions to difficult problems. Most non-profits are very close to their issues and contingency and understand the solutions much better than politicians. Non-profits therefore need to be heard in order to effectively shape legislative initiatives.
  7. Lobbying is simple and usually means making phone calls, sending e-mails, periodically testifying, and talking to your friends and neighbors. There are a few rules that you need to adhere to. (If you want the rules of what a non-profit can legally do in terms of lobbying emailinfo@richardmale.com.
  8. Lobbying is critical to the survival of the nonprofit sector. Approximately 75 percent of all dollars coming into the non-profit sector stem from public support. We need to make sure that these dollars support the organizations that are truly committed to helping. In addition, there are constant threats to the sector from for-profit corporations and government agencies that do not want to see non-profits succeed.
  9. Lobbying is helpful to the people that we serve. Every strategy that you use as part of a public policy campaign (e.g., phone calls, e-mails, testifying, visits) will help you accomplish your mission.
  10. Lobbying will help build trust between non-profits and the key decision makers in our communities. Every time we lobby we are helping to educate and inform decision makers. This is extremely helpful in building a trusting relationship with them.