If you don’t tell them, who will? Elected officials need to know what matters to the nonprofit sector and to your organization—this was a key message of The Giving Institute’s webinar last week, in which I participated as a GI member.
Jason Lee, general counsel for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, stressed how important this year is for making the most of our roles as advocates. Both parties have said tax reform is a priority for them, so several nonprofit-related issues will be on the table. This includes charitable incentives (IRA rollover provision and enhanced charitable deductions for food inventory and land conservation) and limitations (28% proposed cap on itemized deductions and 2% adjusted gross income floor for deductions proposed as part of a recent tax reform package). Studies suggest these changes could have a $1.7 billion or more impact on the nonprofit sector.
If federal, state and local elected officials are not hearing from us, then they’re going to assume that their constituents are neutral on these key issues impacting the nonprofit sector.
Cultivating relationships with legislators is key, the presenters said—which means you don’t wait until you need something to call them for the first time. Treat legislators as you would a major donor:
• Introduce yourself and your organization
• Know your audience, read their bios (typically posted online) and understand their committee assignments and roles
• Find out if they been philanthropic in the past
• Educate them on your organization and its impact on their district
• When you do need something from them, provide a clear “ask” and make your case for support
• Thank them for their time
• Continue to touch base via phone or email (provide new information, check if any new legislation will impact the sector, offer your assistance)
As long as advocacy is not a substantial part of a 501(c)3 organization’s activities, the organization is permitted to advocate in support of a particular issue—such as preserving the charitable deduction. This includes supporting or opposing a specific bill and asking colleagues and the general public to support a position.
Do you know your legislators? Do they know you and the great work your organization is doing?