Why do nonprofits engage in advocacy and lobbying? How can they do it effectively?
These are some of the questions answered in the new second edition of Marcia Avner's The Lobbying and Advocacy Handbook for Nonprofit Organizations: Shaping Public Policy at the State and Local Level (Call Number: 645 AVN 2013) which has recently been acquired by all five Foundation Center libraries. Intended for 501(c)(3) organizations (and useful to just about any community-based organization) this guide focuses on lobbying with an emphasis on influencing state legislatures.
Nonprofit lobbying has been used to bring about positive changes and improvements to daily life we take for granted. Things such as clean water, public art, affordable housing, child care, and improved transportation options would not exist if not for nonprofits influencing public policy. If your organization's mission is to sway public support on issues that are important to you, this book is ideal since it covers all steps needed to advocate effectively, from planning to implementation to sustaining a "cycle of advocacy" through civic engagement. For those of you new to the field, it also covers the basics, such as explaining the difference between advocacy, which involves embracing and promoting a cause, and lobbying, which is one specific form of advocacy that focuses on supporting (or opposing) a specific law that is being proposed.
The book is highly practical and includes worksheets and sample documentation to get you started. The chapter titled Get Ready! Develop a Plan for Advocacy and Lobbying includes a 7-page "Public Policy Readiness Inventory" to help you determine where your organization stands in term of the substance of your objectives, and your capacity to do the work. It also provides basic instructions on how to initiate lobbying activity. If you are proposing new legislation, Avner explains how to write the proposal, how to gain support for your bill in the legislature, and offers advice on how to testify at a committee hearing.
Other highlights include a special section on social media advocacy by Josh Wise. He explains that social media presents three unique opportunities to advance your cause: it allows you to communicate to a large audience with little effort, it provides two-way communications in real time so you can hone your message, and it serves as a "rapid-response system" to make your position known whenever there is a positive (or negative) development in your efforts. The book also covers voter engagement, which is crucial to sustaining your efforts, since major social change takes years (if not decades) to realize and is usually not accomplished in one hearing or legislative session.
The second edition also features a new appendix on evaluating advocacy efforts that was not included in the original edition. Other new sections explain how to build an internal system for information and communications, and provide tips on convening a public policy advocacy committee.
The Lobbying and Advocacy Handbook concludes with a selective listing of organizations that support nonprofit advocacy, as well as primers on the topics of basic advocacy, grassroots organizing, philanthropy and advocacy, civic engagement, and legal issues.
For even more help, read the Knowledge Base Article "Can nonprofits engage in advocacy or lobbying efforts?" which touches upon the range of activities a nonprofit can engage in, and includes a list of a dozen or so web sites that discuss lobbying as it relates to public charities. Lastly, more books on this topic can be found by searching the Catalog of Nonprofit Literature using subjects "nonprofit organizations--advocacy" or "lobbying."
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