When Did Lobbying Become a Four Letter Word?

Whenever I ask someone who works for a nonprofit if their organization engages in lobbying, they cringe at thought.  We don’t lobby; bBut we educate our legislators about our cause.  We don’t lobby; but we provide comments on the governor’s budget.  We don’t directly lobby; but we belong to a coalition that lobbies on our behalf .   Is it just a game of semantics? 

According to OMB Watch’s, “Strengthening Nonprofit Advocacy Project,” a study of over 1700 nonprofits revealed that charities are participating in the public policy arena more often than you might think.  In fact, according to the study, roughly 75% of nonprofits reported engaging in at least one of the key types of political activity such as direct or grassroots lobbying or testifying at a legislative or administrative hearing.  The same study also revealed, however, that the frequency that nonprofits participate in public policy advocacy is generally low.

The Standards for Excellence® code states that, “Nonprofits should represent the interests of the people they serve through public education and public policy advocacy, as well as by encouraging board members, staff, volunteers and constituents to participate in the public affairs of the community.”  Consider this a charge to evaluate your organization’s current level of public education, direct and grassroots lobbying, and participation in public affairs.  You might find that it is time to do more.

Did you know?  The Standards for Excellence® program’s educational resource packet, “Public Policy Advocacy,” includes a discussion on permissible political and legislative activities for public charities.  The packet is free and available to Standards for Excellence Institute® members.  It is available through the members only section of our website.  Hard copies are also available upon request. Not a member? Join now!

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