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Chapter 25. Changing Policies >
Section 5. Changing Policies to Increase Funding for Communi... >
Changing Policies to Increase Funding for Community Health and Development Initiatives
Contributed by Jenette Nagy
Edited by Phil Rabinowitz and Tim Brownlee
What do we mean by "policies?"
Why should you try to change policies?
How do you change policies to increase funding for initiatives?
How much lobbying can you do?
Trying to raise the money needed to run a not-for-profit organization is hard work. Writing grant proposals, making deadlines, completing the paper work necessary to qualify for a grant -- all of these can be a terrific headache for anyone on the best of days, and that's the good news. Because of course, the punch line is, you only get the privilege of these late night frustrations if there is funding available and if you qualify for it.
What happens when that money just isn't there? That is, what do you do when your organization goes to look for resources, and finds that there aren't grants available for your cause, or, for whatever reason, you don't qualify for them? Or maybe you 've been working with a specific funding agency that suits your group’s needs and mission perfectly -- but they don't give renewal grants. Or maybe you have found that money is available in your community, but for such small amounts an organization would need to receive 50 of them to continue running for the next year.
The bad news is that all of those are realistic situations for almost any organization trying to continue its work over a long period of time. The good news is that an effective organization -- no matter how small -- does have options to help maintain that funding. In fact, such an organization has a lot of options. Some organizations charge dues; others look for individual donors from the community; still others stage fundraisers that cover the range of possibilities from raffles to golf tournaments to expensive dinners. All of these topics are discussed extensively in other portions of the Tool Box.
While all of these possibilities are worthwhile and useful for most organizations, with the exception of dues, they are all one-time events. You earn the money -- and then, if you need more money next year, you have to go through the whole process again. Wouldn't it be ideal to have a relatively sure funding source you can count on, year in and year out?
One way to obtain this regular funding is to have resources for your organization written into the budgets of other organizations, so that you get a set amount every year. To get this money, your organization will need to change the policies of organizations (public and private) that could support you. Your organization might want to change the policies of an organization to do one of two things:
- Convince an organization to change its policies to help fund your organization. For example, an organization working to stop teen drinking might try to convince the school board that the organization should receive some of the local education monies.
- Convince an organization to change its funding policies in general. Often times, this is a task undertaken by an older, more 'mature' organization with a good deal of experience. For example, you might convince the Board of Directors of a private foundation to offer grants to cover the operating expenses -- the nitty-gritty, every day pencil and paper expenses that just aren't "sexy" enough for Boards to want to fund. (Typically, it's easier to get money for "flashier" projects.) Or you might want to convince an organization that only gives short, one-time-only grants to fund organizations for longer periods of time.
In the next few pages, we'll first explain a little more about what we mean by policies. Next, we'll offer a few more reasons that your organization might want to try to change the policies of potential funders, in case you aren't already sold on the idea. Finally, we'll go step-by-step through the work of changing policies, from your original research to the long-term "keepin' on" that will be a necessary part of your work.
It's important to note that in this section, we are talking specifically about advocating to change policies to standardize and increase funding and other resources for your organization. This funding might come from any source -- the local government, public or private foundations, even a local business. A similar topic which might be of interest to your organization is public advocacy -- that is, the art of furthering your organization's cause with governmental bodies such as legislatures. This topic is discussed in Chapter 33, Section 10: General Rules for Organizing for Legislative Advocacy.
Before we go any farther, a word of warning is probably appropriate: this section is not one where we're talking about overnight results. If you are looking for tomorrow's funding, your time right now might be better spent in other sections of the Community Tool Box. Rather, this section is to get you started thinking about a constant stream of funding to support your organization for years to come.
And so, while your organization might occasionally find itself needing to respond to proposed legislation with lightning speed, influencing decision-makers to develop the policies your organization finds necessary or effective is something that your organization should generally consider part of its work for life.
What do we mean by "policies?"
In this section, we are talking about changing both public and private funding policies that affect nonprofit groups.
Public policies are laws or regulations that are enacted at the local, state, or federal level. Trying to change these policies is generally known as advocating for your cause, or in some cases, lobbying. Examples of attempts to change public policies include:
- Federal changes. In the 1999-2000 legislative session, the U.S. Congress considered legislation that would let individuals and families who claim the standard deduction (most people) deduct half of their annual charitable contributions over $500 each year. This legislation would be a great way to encourage people to give more -- one study found that charitable giving would increase by more than three billion dollars each year if this bill became law.
- State-wide changes. A state legislature votes to partially fund a new state-wide program to train volunteers as legal advocates for children who have been abused.
- Local changes. A School Board votes to underwrite the cost of a staff member to work with students to reduce the number of teen pregnancies in the community.
Policies governing private giving include donation guidelines developed by private foundations, corporations, or other organizations that might influence your organization. Trying to influence private giving might include things such as:
- Convincing a local corporation to match dollar for dollar the amount its employees give to the United Way.
- Convincing a foundation that currently focuses on child welfare to expand their focus to include adult education.
- Persuading a local foundation to change some or all of its grants from two years to four years, giving new organizations more time to get their feet on the ground.
While there are many differences between trying to change public laws or regulations and changing the course of a private foundation, there are many similarities as well. This is particularly true when you are trying to make changes on a local level, and is the reason we're tackling both of these subjects in this section.
Why should you try to change policies?
If the idea of a steady, reliable flow of dollars into your organization hasn't convinced you that trying to change policies is a good idea, consider the following additional advantages:
- To offer decision-makers the expertise they need. People who hold any power, whether they are legislators or serve in a private capacity, simply can't be experts in every field. There is a pretty good chance that they aren't completely knowledgeable on the topic that interests your organization. They rely on people like you who do know all of the facts to give them the information they need. If you don't provide it, it's very likely that their interests (and their dollars!) will go where other people tell them to take them.
- To be an active participant in our democracy. This is especially true when you are trying to change governmental policies, from those of the local school Board to that of the federal government.
- To gain respect for your organization. If you can convince some agency -- a corporation, a foundation, or a legislative body -- that your organization is worthy of regular funding year in and year out, that gives your group more credibility in the eyes of other people. People might think, for example, that an organization being partially (but regularly!) funded by a major corporation has surely already proved their worth, or they wouldn't get that funding. That type of respectability may even get you additional funding from other sources in the long run.
How do you change policies to increase funding for initiatives?
The steps involved in changing policies can be broken down into four categories:
In a moment, we'll look at each of these one by one. However, it's important to realize that the progression won't always be linear. That is, this is not a case in which you will first research, then prepare, then execute, and so on. Instead, many of the steps below will go on concurrently; some, such as many of the steps involved in research, will need to be done over and over again. Members of your group will need to sit down and come up with your own timeline -- a plan that works well for your organization and its needs.
Ready? Let's go!
Phase 1: Do your research.
There is no substitute for being well prepared!! This part -- the "grunt work" -- is probably the most important step in effectively changing any policy. There is a lot you will need to know. The earlier you begin, and the more thoroughly you do your research, the better your chances are of getting the support you need.
If you short-change the time you spend on research, you are, in a very real sense, short-changing your organization's future.
1. Learn who might support your organization. What are the organizations that could fund you, if they so choose; and who makes the funding decisions for those organizations? Major categories of potential funding agencies include:
- Major corporations
- Public agencies
- Legislative bodies (congresses, city councils)
- Public foundations
- Private foundations
- Local businesses
- School Boards
- Other not-for-profit organizations
You might begin by making a master list of organizations that could fund you. During this early brainstorming phase, it makes sense to be as broad and inclusive as possible. Ask other not-for-profit groups where their funding comes from, and if they have additional suggestions. Even if you think an organization probably won't fund you, go ahead and write them down anyway. Later in your deliberations, you might realize you have an "in" with that organization that wasn't immediately apparent.
Next, beside each of those organizations' names, write down who has the ability to make decisions on whether or not to support you. Some examples of people who often have the power to make decisions about whether and how to fund your organization include:
- Owners/CEOs/Company presidents/Agency Directors
- Elected officials
- Non-elected government officials
- Boards of Directors
Learn who these people are, and also what makes them tick. Create a master list of people at all levels (e.g. local, state, national) with their names, positions, contact information, voting record (in the case of elected officials), personal history, and interests. For many public officials and heads of large corporations, their office provides biographical information. You also may want to ask their staff members about each individual's charitable and philanthropic interests.
Finally, in a third column, write down the people who have the ability to influence the decision-makers that you just listed. (For example, if the people you wish to influence are legislators, are there particular constituencies or donors who are particularly important to them?)
Others who might influence these decision-makers include:
- Property owners
- Members of the press
See Tool #1: Chart of Potential Funders in the Tools portion of this Tool Box section for a blank chart that you can fill out with all of this information. If you are doing this as a large group, you might want to brainstorm fast and furiously, using poster paper and markers so that everyone can see the ideas that were already suggested and "piggyback" their ideas onto your own.
2. Decide which corporations, policies, and individuals your organization will target. Depending on the needs of your organization and the local possibilities, your targets will vary tremendously. Members of your organization should draw up a "short list" of whom you wish to target to do what. Rank potential targets in order of those whose giving policies to your organization will likely be easiest to change to those who will be most difficult. Factors such as individual relationships, the magnitude of the change desired, and whether or not the organization is local and has a positive history of giving will all come into play in deciding how easily change might occur.
Then, rank all of the organizations a second time in terms of which organizations offer the most significant potential gains. Looking at these two factors together, your organization should be able to develop a short list -- possibly about 5 to 10 organizations you would like to target, based on how easy you expect change to be, along with how helpful that change is.
How many organizations' policies you want to work to change will also be based on how much time and effort your organization can put into changing policies. If your organization has enough manpower, you might decide to target two or three organizations simultaneously. For example, a literacy group might decide to:
- Request that the state legislature include it when assigning continuing education funds
- Lobby a foundation that offered it a start-up grant to begin offering renewal grants
- Ask a local bus company to offer free passage to teachers and students in its program, thus taking care of a major portion of its transportation budget
These three possibilities represent different levels of difficulty, but all represent a change in policies to help ensure the sustainability of your organization.
3. Understand how the policies of the organization you are targeting are changed. If you want to convince a private family foundation to modify its policies, for example, speaking to the Board might do little good if funding policies are actually decided by an individual family member. Many foundations and corporations have giving policies that outline this information.
If you wish to receive public funding, you will need to acquaint yourself with a general understanding of the process by which a bill becomes a law.
If you are interested in public monies, you will want to pay particular attention to the budget process, because many not-for-profit organizations receive a lot of support from local, state and federal grants and contracts. You can learn about these processes at the following websites:
For an explanation of what happens in the real world (and not just on paper), you might also want to check out the Primer at the end of Chapter 33, Section 10: General Rules for Organizing for Legislative Advocacy.
4. Understand the laws that will affect your work. This step is particularly important if you wish to lobby government officials to pass specific proposals. Luckily, you don't have to be an attorney to learn the legal opportunities and limits of charities' participation in the public policy process. A brief explanation of lobbying limits is given at the end of this section; you might also want to discuss your plans with a lawyer, and/or read more about these limits on Independent Sector's website.
5. Review the relationship between your organization and the organization you wish to support you. If no formal relationship exists, this step might be as easy as, "We are both based in the city of Raleigh." On the other end of the spectrum, if the organization whose policies you wish to change is a government body that already supports you, you might have a much more complex relationship.
One way to thoroughly explore this relationship is to have a small group of your members (including, at a minimum, your executive director and Board chair) work together to develop a comprehensive list of the ways government, at all levels, affects your organization's ability to provide services. For example, your group will want to answer questions such as:
- How do various laws and regulations affect the way we provide services to the community?
- What are the rules associated with grants and contracts?
- How do these rules affect our ability to educate and provide information to government agency staff and elected officials?
- What do we stand to lose from our lobbying if things go awry?
6. Get to know the staff of the person(s) you wish to influence. Without a doubt, one of the best ways to get someone to change her mind is to get to know her, have a good working or personal relationship, and be able to clearly and convincingly lay out your case. However, don't let that fact blind you to other modes of influence. Oftentimes, a member of a legislator's or Board member's staff is the most knowledgeable person in that person's office about your issues. She may also have much more time to get to know you and understand your ideas.
In the case of a government official, find out which staff person works on your issue and get to know him. In many cases, a state legislator will have one staff member or none at all, while members of Congress have many. Send them your information packet, and meet with them as appropriate.
7. Find allies in your cause. Remember: there is always strength in numbers. Many times, coalitions earn respect where smaller organizations have failed. Having allies gives you a potent combination of quality and quantity: A hundred or a thousand voices asking for something is certainly more convincing than ten or twenty. What's more, the more allies you have, the greater the chance that someone (or many people) among them will have a certain personal connection with the person or organization you are trying to further.
There are many different ways you might go about trying to find allies with whom to work. Some things you might do include:
- Contact your state association of nonprofits or an umbrella organization that represents your cause to gather recent information about your issues and ways you might get involved. Visit the National Council of Nonprofits to locate your state association. Visit Independent Sector: Our Members to identify a national organization with related public policy goals.
- Make a list of other charities in your region that provide similar services. Contact them to find out if they are interested in working with you to change polices that will affect your organizations. You might also find out if they are involved in any coalitions and how you can get information about joining.
You might also want to look at Chapter 30, Section 4: Recognizing Allies for more ideas.
Key point: Changing major policies is not a solo activity. People and organizations must work together to gather enough public support for changes to be made.
Phase 2: Prepare your organization.
1. Gear up for your advocacy work. For most of your policy changing work, you'll want to make sure you have available for your work, at a minimum:
- A telephone
- Fax machine
- Internet and email capability
For very small or local goals (for example, working with a small business for regular in-kind donations) you might get by with just a phone. However, all three will definitely be expected of your organization when you are working on any larger undertaking.
2. Take stock of your human resources. Make a list of key people who work for, volunteer for, or are served by your organization. Out of all of these people, draw up a shorter list of people you believe would be willing to help in your efforts.
As with almost anything else in life, it will be helpful if the people you have listed represent a very diverse group of individuals. In particular, encourage people who are served by your organization to tell their stories of how your organization has helped them. Multiple perspectives will strengthen your case, and help to lead to the outcome you are hoping for.
3. Make sure everyone understands your work. If you are trying to change the policies of the government, a funder, or anyone else, don't do it behind closed doors. Make sure everyone in your organization knows what is going on. For example, you might want to make it a topic at a Board meeting or write an article about it in your organization's newsletter.
When explaining your work to members of your organization, be sure that all of the members of your organization understand how the policies you are trying to change are currently affecting your mission. For example, if you are trying to convince a foundation to lengthen the time period of the grant it gives, you might explain that, "Currently, the Jones Foundation, which has generously provided a large share of our budget for the past six years, asks grantees to reapply annually for its monies. However, because developing the renewal grants is such detailed work -- taking about 150 hours a year -- it takes time away from our mission of providing free health care for the impoverished members of our community. If we can convince the Jones Foundation to offer some grants with a renewal period only every four years, we will have more time to provide the health and education desperately needed in our community."
If you are trying to bring about new policies, make sure their benefits are well understood by members. For example, an organization working to prevent youth from smoking might explain to its members that, "Currently, our organization is on the fringes of the school system here in town. Many people in town, especially parents, don't even know we exist yet. Asking the school board to provide support for our initiative by providing us with office space in the local high school, along with a small stipend, could bring us many advantages. Certainly, the financial assistance will help us remain sustainable. But what's more, by allying ourselves with the school system, we have the chance to be better known in the community, especially among the members who need to know about us. Also, being perceived as linked to the school offers us more legitimacy than we have on our own."
4. Develop a clear, agreed-upon definition for your organization. "That's silly," you might think, "we know who we are." But it's important that everyone in the organization sees your work in exactly the same light, so you will be consistent in your explanation of who you are and what you stand for. If you haven't done so already, now is probably a good time to develop a mission statement -- a mission statement that clearly defines who you are, what you do, why you do it, and what your unique niche in the community is. What's more, it should do so clearly and succinctly, so that your message is understandable for both advocates and those with whom they 're advocating. That way, no matter who asks about (or tells about) your organization, everyone will hear the same thing.
To help develop your mission statement, see Chapter 8, Section 2: Proclaiming your Dream: Developing Vision and Mission Statements.
5. Develop useful data. You will want to gather information on two things: the scope of the problem and how great a job your organization is doing -- or could be doing with the proper support. In both cases, a combination of quantitative and qualitative information is your best bet to be able to demonstrate the "whole picture" to decision makers and also the general community.
Collecting qualitative information might mean writing about a local success story that demonstrates the good work of your organization; or by telling the story of someone in your community who needs your help. If your program has been helped in the past by the organization whose funding policies you wish to change, talk about that, too. Showing appreciation and goodwill -- not to mention giving that organization positive press coverage -- are important tools in reaching your goal.
The quantitative portion might include facts on how many people are affected by the problem your organization works on, and how many people your organization helps. For example, you might write, "There are approximately 2,000 homeless people in our community. Each night, 450 of them sleep at our shelter." If your organization has undergone a formal evaluation of its efforts, be sure to include that information as well.
You might want to use this information in articles right away (see the next point), but even if you have no immediate use for the information, it is still likely to be useful in the near future. Have it on hand and ready to go as needed.
6. Increase your visibility. If policymakers and others know who you are without your having to tell them, it's a step towards credibility and respect before you even start your work. Being active and visible in the community will help your organization gain the respect it needs. Be out and about -- have booths at local fairs, write editorials in the local paper -- in short, do everything you can to make sure that people know who you are. Many other suggestions of ways to increase public knowledge of your presence are suggested in Chapter 6: Promoting Interest in Community Issues.
Phase 3: Get to work.
With the background work suggested above well underway, it's time to get at the heart of your advocacy work. The Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest suggests the following overview to keep in mind when you are working with public officials. It can probably be generalized to use when trying to change the policies of any organization, public or private.
- Be brief
- Be clear
- Be accurate
- Be persuasive
- Be timely
- Be persistent
- Be grateful
Try to keep all of these suggestions in mind as you go through the steps of your work.
1. Develop an action plan with measurable goals and objectives. Just having a long -term goal (For example, "We want the foundation to begin offering grants to fund the day-to-day workings of our office.") probably isn't enough. Instead, you will need to break down your work into short-term objectives as well. Short-term goals and objectives can help keep energy high with small wins -- the longer your project continues on, the more important these will be. Also, your organization will need to develop strategies to achieve your goals and a timeline to carry them out. All of this will help you move along in a logical progression towards the ends you are working for.
Action planning is discussed in much more detail in Chapter 8: Developing a Strategic Plan.
2. Build relationships with the people you wish to influence. Above, we talked about the importance of building relationships with the staffs of those people you want to influence. That's a necessary first step, and one of the reasons for doing so is that it can pave the way in getting to know those people themselves. However, it is not meant to be a replacement for getting to know those people as well. Instead, the two points work together hand in hand. Some ideas to keep in mind while building your relationships with the people with the power to help your organization include:
- Get to know these people before you need them. Introduce yourself, let them know a little about your organization -- but if possible (without wasting their time), try not to make your first meeting with such a person a request.
- Meet with one of your elected officials or a key staff person to inform them of the policies your organization supports and to learn how your organization may work cooperatively with them to achieve your goals. You might want to ask one of your board members to attend the meeting with you as well, to lend greater credibility to your organization..
3. Become a source of reliable information. Create a packet of information about your organization including its mission and services and your agenda along with letters to all of the key decision makers whose decisions impact your cause and their staffs. Send the packets with a note that you will follow up to schedule an informational meeting to discuss their position with regard to your public policy priorities. Your packet will serve as a helpful informational tool for many audiences. Be careful, however, not to overwhelm policymakers with information. Outline the key facts for them, maybe in a one-page fact sheet. If you are sending a lot of information, point them towards the key pages in the packet (for example, you might write, "For a summary of the issues we’re concerned about, please see page XX.")
4. If you are working to influence legislators, build a public policy presence.
There are many ways to do so, including:
- Attend a coalition meeting of other charities working on similar public policy issues. Your presence will send a strong signal that your organization cares about the issues.
- Meet face to face. Meet with your state legislators or Members of Congress at their local offices to advocate on behalf of, or in opposition to, legislation that would affect your cause. There is no form of communication as powerful as meeting in person.
- Use the telephone. Make telephone calls to your elected officials about pending legislation, regulations, or other priority public policy matters, or to describe how a change in law would affect your programs and constituents. Urge your members and volunteers to do the same.
- Write a letter. Recent surveys show that a well-written letter from a constituent is one of the most influential ways of communicating with a legislator. Be sure to include how your members, community and those you serve would be affected by a proposed change in the law. Send a copy to the legislator's staff and to the chair of your public policy committee. Chapter 33, Section 1: Writing Letters to Elected Officials offers some examples of what a letter might look like.
Not so long ago, many legislators disregarded e-mail, but that may no longer be true. E-mail has become, in the last few years, such a universally-used form of communication that most legislators and their staffs look at it in the same way they look at letters and phone calls. A visit to your legislator’s website will probably tell you whether an e-mail will be appropriate or not. When in doubt, back up your e-mail with a paper letter.
- Testify. Your organization has expertise that is needed by legislators before they make decisions about the budget, regulations over programs, or new laws. Find out when the appropriate committees in your state legislature are holding hearings on subjects related to your mission and ask for permission to provide testimony in -- person. See Chapter 33, Section 6: Using Personal Testimony for help on how you might do so.
- Provide a tour of your programs for one of your elected officials or for any policymaker you wish to influence. Be sure to have a Board member on site to show their support.
5. Initiate grassroots support. Send an action alert via e-mail to your volunteers, donors, members, and constituents urging them to contact their elected representatives about your cause; write an article in your local paper or newsletter; or hold a press conference, ideally on-site, involving members of the target population, and with good visuals to attract TV crews.
6. Give credit when credit is due. Finally, when your efforts have been successful, don't ever forget to be appreciative. At a minimum, write a letter of congratulations to anyone when they act in a helpful way to further your cause. For larger changes, you might consider going so far as holding a press conference. Failing to thank properly those who have changed policies in a way that will help your group is an excellent way to set up failure for your next efforts.
Also, be sure to remember to thank all those who volunteered time and money to help your public policy efforts.
Before you hold a press conference or thank anyone publicly, unless the answer is 100% obvious, check with the person you’re thanking to make sure it’s OK. Some public figures might prefer to help behind the scenes; some private ones might prefer to remain anonymous. Don’t take the chance of embarrassing someone who’s helped you.
Phase 4: Maintain and increase your advocacy efforts.
Finally, your organization needs to be ready to continue your efforts -- not just for a month or two, but forever. Lobbying to change policies takes time; and once policies have changed, they can always be changed back. Be ready to make this a regular part of your work, and to continue with it throughout the lifetime of your organization. For example, "Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest" suggests that your organization dedicate three hours a week to advocacy work with public officials alone. Chapter 33, Section 20: Advocacy Over and For the Long Term discusses more ways to maintain your advocacy efforts.
How much lobbying can you do?
When you get into the topic of advocating for changes with elected officials, you are plunging into the treacherous waters of lobbying. Here, the laws get a little "hairy" as to what you can and cannot do. What follows is meant to be an overview to give the reader a broad understanding of how much lobbying is legal. We strongly suggest you consult with legal counsel when considering the specifics of your own situation.
What do we mean by lobbying?
Lobbying, as defined as related to the use of federal funds, is:
- Any attempt to influence the introduction, enactment, or modification of federal or state legislation either directly or through grassroots communications.
- "Legislative liaison" activities, such as attending hearings and analyzing the effects of legislation, when done in support of or in "knowing preparation" for a lobbying activity.
- Any attempt to influence elections, referenda, initiatives or similar procedures as well as contributions to influence the outcome of elections.
Nonprofits may NOT receive grants from private organizations specifically for lobbying; however, general grant money CAN be used for lobbying. Community foundations' money for lobbying is also okay.
How much lobbying can you legally do?
If you are an informal organization with no legal status:
The bottom line is -- a lot. Since lobbying limits are on money, if you are an informal organization without any money, that does not have certain tax-exempt status, you can essentially do as much as you want. That is, if you have no tax-exempt or other special status that involves public money or sponsorship, you ought to be able to do whatever you want as long as it's legal. If you're paying a lobbyist (even if you are doing so as a private citizen), he has to register as such, for instance, and you obviously can't bribe anyone.
If you are a 501(c)(3) organization:
Since being a designated 501(c)(3) organization gives you special tax status (and thus, special governmental status), lobbying must be "insubstantial." Now, what this means is not perfectly clear; courts have had varying opinions on just what "insubstantial " means in the past. However, limiting lobbying to about 5 percent of your organization's annual budget is usually said to be safe.
There is a loophole, however. As a 501(c)(3) organization, you can "elect" to spend more money on lobbying activity. An organization "elects" by having your Board vote to do so, and then completing and mailing IRS Form 5768. Specifically this allows your organization to spend:
- 20 percent of your first $500,000
- 15 percent of second $500,000
- And so on; you may spend up to a total of one million dollars on your lobbying activities
- However, only 25 percent of this may be spent on "grassroots" lobbying.
If you are a 501(c)(4) organization:
Restrictions are much more lenient. Janne Gallagher writes on the OMBWatch website that "nonprofits exempt under section 501(c)(4)...can engage in some electoral activities, so long as they obey federal and state election laws and electioneering is not their primary activity."
However, contributions to the organization aren't tax-deductible. It's possible to set up a linked organization, through which your 501(c)(3) organization may safely lobby indirectly. For more information on the specifics of 501(c)(4) organizations, you will probably want to consult with legal counsel.
Learning to change policies to offer long term, continuous funding for your organization is hard work. It's not a quick fix or a magic pill. However, over the long run, working with policy makers to get them to see your organization as "necessary" is the best way to secure the long-term sustainability of your organization. Ideally, you are working to make your organization be seen as people see the fire department -- you are funded because not doing so would be unthinkable.
We encourage the reproduction of this material, but ask that you credit the
Community Tool Box: http://ctb.ku.edu/
The Advocacy Institute
The Advocacy Institute is a U.S.-based global organization dedicated to strengthening the capacity of political, social and economic justice advocates to influence and change public policy
Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest. Independent Sector.
2040 S Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 387-5048 phone
(202) 387-5149 fax
Their web site has a lot of very good information educating charities about the important and appropriate role lobbying can play in achieving their missions. You may also contact them to receive a free package of lobbying information that you can use for your organization or other groups with whom you work.
INDEPENDENT SECTOR is a national leadership forum, working to encourage philanthropy, volunteering, not-for-profit initiative and citizen action that helps better serve people and communities.
OMB Watch also has a lot of good information, focusing in five main areas:
- Budget and government performance issues;
- Regulatory and government accountability;
- Information for democracy and community;
- Nonprofit advocacy and other cross-cutting nonprofit issues; and
- Nonprofit policy and technology.
Founded by Ralph Nader in 1971, Public Citizen is the consumer's eyes and ears in Washington. Public Citizen works for safer drugs and medical devices, cleaner and safer energy sources, a cleaner environment, fair trade, and a more open and democratic government.
Altman, D.G, Balcazar, F.E., Fawcett, S.B., Seekins, T., & Young, J.Q. (1994). Public health advocacy: Creating community change to improve health. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.