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Nonprofit Advocacy is NEEDED

Advocacy helps your nonprofit meet its mission.

Through advocacy efforts you can help others by, among other ways:

  • Preventing loss of resources – you might be able to stop a proposal to slash funding that would hurt the communities you serve;
  • Lowering barriers to broaden access to important services – you might be able to increase the staffing for a particular government agency (e.g., instead of being open just 20 hours a week to the public it can remain open for 30 hours, allowing more people to be served);
  • Illuminating real community needs – you might be able to shine the light on a particular social problem that has been ignored, allowing policy makers to see the problem and then address it.

Advocacy helps your nonprofit survive.

  • What would it mean if a governmental entity removed or limited your tax exempt status? What would happen if the Legislature mandated that all nonprofit executives get a special license that cost lots of money to obtain?

Nonprofit advocacy helps your community solve problems

  • "Frequently, nonprofits are the only institutions with a view of both the concerns most important to their constituents and the day-to-day realities of how government programs function and impact those constituents."1By stepping forward and sharing your special knowledge, you can help solve problems.

Nonprofit advocacy helps your community avoid problems

  • If nonprofit voices are not heard in the public policy making process because we choose to sit on the sidelines, then who will have complete, unfettered access to policy makers: people concerned about the broad public interest, or entities only wanting to advance their narrow agendas?

Nonprofit advocacy helps give citizens a voice

  • Standing alone while taking a position contrary to powerful interests with political clout and financial resources can be daunting Nonprofits serve as the great equalizer, where individuals come together so their voices are amplified. Moreover, nonprofits also serve as the gathering spot for people concerned about those who effectively have no voice – such as children, the poor, and the disabled who may not be able to travel to be heard – as well as those who truly have no voice, such as future generations who are not here to talk about the environment or governmental deficits.

Advocacy helps strengthen democracy

  • Nonprofits serve as America’s citizenship crucibles and leadership laboratories. Many Americans learn about compromise, conflict resolution, group processing, teamwork, and leadership by being involved in nonprofits. Sitting on committees, seeing how to make a motion, and learning how to organize support for a position are skills Americans learn through their nonprofits and then apply at their PTAs, while serving on the local parks board, or participating on a citizens’ bond committee for local schools. In these and other ways, nonprofits are the common entry point for citizens to learn skills needed to participate in democracy.  

Advocacy helps public policy makers who need – and often want – citizen input

  • Popular culture can create false impressions about the public policy making process. Indeed, although a common perception is that legislators don’t care, the truth is that most policy makers sincerely want to make the best decisions, and getting the informed views of people in the field is one way to make more informed decisions. To help nonprofit leaders see past fiction to the truth, this chart shows the divide between common misperceptions and reality.

Read how easy it is to engage in advocacy.

Read why it's legal for charitable nonprofits to engage in lobbying activities.

Read about how to safeguard your nonprofit's advocacy activities by filing the 501(h) election.

1Elizabeth Heagy, "Building Capacity for Public Policy Advocacy," in Enhance (Alliance for Nonprofit Management June 2004) at page 2.