Eliminating sex discrimination through research, education and legal activities
The answer is yes!
Often, members of organization can confuse advocacy with lobbying—then quickly shy away from any activities that might jeopardize their nonprofit status or the federal funding they receive.
But the truth is there are lots of ways nonprofits can advocate to improve policies, programs, and services for women and girls—without running afoul of any federal laws or jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.
When done effectively, advocacy influences public policy by providing a conduit for individuals and organizations to voice an opinion.
These efforts can, in turn, sway public opinion, garner press coverage, and ultimately provide policymakers an opportunity to respond to constituents’ needs.
Advocacy is the process of stakeholders making their voices heard on issues that affect their lives and the lives of others at the local, state, and national level. It also means helping policymakers find specific solutions to persistent problems. Most nonprofits can and do engage in as much advocacy as possible to achieve their goals.
Lobbying, on the other hand, involves activities that are in direct support of or opposition to a specific piece of introduced legislation. While nonprofits can engage in some lobbying, the IRS has strict rules about what portion of their budget can go toward these activities. There are also prohibitions on any use of federal funds for lobbying.
You can be an advocate by educating policymakers about the needs of your organization and the people you serve. You also can organize supporters on issues of importance and educate a wider audience on your accomplishments. Some examples include:
Keep in mind that these activities cross the line into lobbying if they call for action on introduced legislation or a pending regulation.
Here are more tips from an effective local advocate, Chuck Ricks, executive director of Roane County Committee on Aging, Spencer, WV:
Disclaimer: This narrative is not intended to serve as comprehensive legal guidance. State laws and private and public grant requirements create unique restrictions and opportunities for each organization. Please consult the Learn More section on page 14 of our webinar presentation for links to additional information on IRS rules for nonprofits and state and local regulations.