Ways to Build Your Advocacy Efforts

Key Methods:

  • Develop an advocacy page on your web site that is useable and easily accessible to your members
  • Invite elected officials and their staff to public events and to tour your facilities. If it is a public event, allow the elected official or their representative time to speak. Try to make sure media is invited to the event and you have a substantial crowd. Elected officials always desire a crowd and positive media attention – help them achieve this goal and you will be a friend for life!
  • Invite elected officials to attend one of you board or coalition meetings. Don’t make them sit through the entire meeting. Let them do their piece and then let them leave.
  • Hold a candidate’s forum or voter registration drive.
  • Write an op-ed or letter to the editor to bring attention to your issues. Also use other forms of media, such as social media to spread the word.
  • Develop coalitions with other like-minded organizations. The larger and broader your coalition, the more impact you will have.
  • Host an “Advocacy Day” at the capitol or hold a legislative and advocacy conference. Or, set specific times each year for different groups to hold legislative visits.
  • Track legislative proposals and testify at legislative hearings.
  • Provide legislators with sample legislation you would like to see passed.
  • Attend public listening sessions, public forums or district meetings put on by elected officials. You might even consider hosting such a forum.

Make sure you know the law!  If you maintain a regular presence at your capitol or before another elected body, your state may require you to register as a lobbyist.  There may also be limits on gifts or other items that you can give to lawmakers or their families.  You must know these rules so that you do not run afoul of ethics laws. Also, many people incorrectly believe that nonprofits cannot lobby. You need to know the difference between advocacy (which is permissible) and lobbying (which is permissible on a limited basis as long as you are not utilizing federal or other restricted funds). Nonprofits may not endorse or support a specific candidate for office, but the executive director and staff may engage in political activities on their own accord as long as they do not utilize resources (including the property) of the nonprofit. So, do not allow campaign signs on your nonprofit’s property or promote individual candidate in your nonprofit’s newsletter.  Laws vary widely from state-to-state and vary depending on the type of organization you operate. Make sure you know the laws for your organization and state.