Article In Brief:
- The Problem: Nonprofits are not advocating for the issues that concern their mission and are therefore missing out on an opportunity to have a bigger impact.
- The Context: Nonprofits steer clear of lobbying for many reasons having to do with knowledge, experience, and stigma. For example, many nonprofit leaders don’t know that lobbying is 100% legal for nonprofits.
- The Solution: The author presents four steps nonprofits can take now to get smarter about lobbying: accept the importance of lobbying, get the facts, meet with officials, and join a trade association.
When it comes to lobbying, 501(c)(3) nonprofits fall into two categories: those that do and those that don’t.
Most don’t, for reasons that are mostly off-base. Often, nonprofits steer clear of lobbying because:
- Nonprofit leaders don’t know that it is 100% legal.
- They aren’t familiar with the easy-to-understand legal rules that govern nonprofit lobbying activity.
- The word “lobbying” has a cringeworthy connotation. This is in spite of its purpose, which is to influence the hearts and minds of elected officials about laws that affect our organizations and communities.
- People mistakenly believe it will require a lot of time and money.
- Folks have no clue how to do it.
But there’s another, even vaguer, reason many nonprofits don’t lobby. I’ve heard it time and again: “lobbying doesn’t fit within our mission.” Every time I hear a nonprofit leader say this, I have to take a breath. Because the reality is that laws are passed every day that have enormous consequences for our organizations and for the well-being of the people we serve. Read more.