Maximize Your Nonprofit’s Influence by Resolving to Advocate in 2020!


Natalie Roetzel Ossenfort

Are you looking to amplify your nonprofit’s voice? Are you tired of standing silently while our government takes actions that affect your community and clients? If so, then make 2020 the year that you commit to stepping up your organization’s advocacy game by becoming an active public policy player. Here are 10 resolutions to get you started:

  1. RESOLVE to build your nonprofit’s advocacy capacity. One of the most critical components of effective advocacy is having a clear understanding of your organization’s capacity to engage in the policy process. By setting aside one hour to conduct a detailed advocacy capacity assessment using Bolder Advocacy’s free Advocacy Capacity Tool, you can boost your organization’s ability and readiness to engage with policymakers in a meaningful and impactful way.
  2. RESOLVE to lobby. Did you know that public charities are allowed to lobby for policy changes and push for reforms at the local, state, and federal levels? While there are some limits to how much lobbying charitable organizations can do, the federal tax code permits nonprofits to engage with policymakers and pursue legislation that will advance their missions and improve the lives of their constituents.
  3. RESOLVE to engage in administrative advocacy. Not all nonprofit advocacy qualifies as lobbying under the tax code. In fact, efforts to influence rulemaking, regulations, and executive decisions fall in to the category of administrative advocacy. Luckily for us, nonprofit administrative advocacy is not subject to limits, which means that it provides ample opportunity for nonprofits to speak out.
  4. RESOLVE to get out the vote. Can you think of a better way to ensure that your community members’ voices are heard than by encouraging eligible voters to participate in elections? While 501(c)(3)s are prohibited from supporting or opposing candidates for public office, that doesn’t mean that they can’t engage in nonpartisan voter outreach. For more on how your organization can safely engage in election season advocacy, click here.
  5. RESOLVE to pursue a complete Census count. The 2020 census will determine how billions of dollars of federal funding are distributed for years to come. If your nonprofit is concerned about how government policies and programs are funded and implemented, then it’s to your organization’s benefit to ensure a complete Census count. For information on how to safely play a role in this critical Census year, visit our Census resource center here.
  6. RESOLVE to collaborate. Why go it alone when you can work together with nonprofit allies to magnify your collective power to impact public policy? Bolder Advocacy’s coalition checklist provides organizations with the information they need to join forces to effectively defend their shared interests in a legal and sustainable way.
  7. RESOLVE to create a sustainable advocacy funding stream. We all know that successfully advocating for policy reform can take many months, if not years. With that in mind, make it your goal to develop relationships with funders who are willing to support your organization’s advocacy mission. Check out this guide for foundation grantees, which details how public and private foundations can support advocacy work with specific project and general support grants.
  8. RESOLVE to brush up on state and local law. While the federal tax code sets many rules regarding the types of advocacy nonprofits may and may not engage in, state and local law can also play a role in dictating how nonprofits can participate in public policy and election season advocacy activities. For example, state-level lobbying ordinances may require your organization or staff to register and report as lobbyists if you engage in legislative or administrative advocacy. Likewise, voter registration and campaign finance rules may kick-in when you engage in some election activities (g. ballot measure advocacy). Visit our state law resource library for additional details.
  9. RESOLVE to keep up with housekeeping. If your nonprofit is ready to dive headfirst into the policy process, make sure you have a plan to keep track of your lobbying and advocacy activities so that you accurately report your work on your 990 and to any relevant state or local level agencies. Not sure where to start? Check out “Keeping Track: A Guide to Recordkeeping for Advocacy Charities” for more information and sample time and expense forms.
  10. RESOLVE to stay in touch. Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy program works hard every day to support nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to advancing the interests of their communities through advocacy. We offer workshops and free technical assistance to organizations across the country, so reach out soon if there is anything we can do to help with your advocacy journey.