Nonprofit advocacy is a term used to describe a wide range of activities that seek to effect change and improve the lives of the disadvantaged, minorities, and even the general public. Among other ways, a nonprofit’s advocacy efforts help people by:
- Reducing barriers and broadening the access to important services (like healthcare and education), for all.
- Shedding light on the needs and issues of a community that otherwise may have been overlooked.
- Raising funds to help provide communities with adequate resources for survival.
We’ve created a complete guide to nonprofit advocacy, covering topics from nonprofit advocacy strategies to the best software. Read on to know more.
What is nonprofit advocacy?
The crux of nonprofit advocacy is furthering the cause that the nonprofit believes in, whether social, economic, or political. There are a few ways in which nonprofits can achieve this. They are:
- Spreading the word
- Political activity
Let’s explore these ways in a little more detail.
Spreading the word
To begin with, nonprofit advocacy is about making your cause or initiative widely known amongst people. As members of the nonprofit, staff, volunteers, board members, donors, and everyone else associated, become representatives of the nonprofit.
Speaking about the nonprofit, making its intent known, talking about the people it directly impacts – are all part of spreading the word about your nonprofit advocacy mission. All your representatives can engage in this method of advocacy.
Lobbying as a nonprofit advocacy activity needs to be better understood. This is primarily because of two misconceptions:
- Advocacy and lobbying are synonymous.
- Lobbying is illegal for nonprofits.
Advocacy is the act of supporting and furthering causes that affect people’s lives and can be done in a variety of ways. Nonprofit advocacy also involves helping policymakers find solutions for problems affecting a community.
On the other hand, lobbying relates specifically to activities undertaken to support or oppose particular legislation. While nonprofits can engage in lobbying, the IRS limits what part of their budget could go towards such activities. (To know more about these expenditure limits, you can refer to this post)
Lobbying specifically aims to change legislation through either:
- Direct lobbying (communicating directly with a government official) or
- Grassroots level lobbying (influencing legislation through changing public opinion).
Secondly, not only is nonprofit lobbying legal but also recommended. To recognize a nonprofit advocacy campaign as lobbying, the nonprofit must address specific legislation, express a view about it, and include a call to action for people to follow through.
Political activity as a part of nonprofit advocacy can be conducted through nonpartisan voter education since nonprofits cannot actively endorse a party or candidate.
However, nonprofits can:
- Educate voters about their rights
- Engage in get-out-the-vote activities
- Encourage voter registration
- Help people to register for mail-in ballots
- Hold debates or open discussion forums by inviting all viable candidates
What are the different types of nonprofit advocacy organizations?
There are four types of advocacy groups:
- 501(c) Groups: Tax-exempt groups formed under section 501 © of the Internal Revenue Code. These groups can engage in a limited number of political activities.
- 527 Group: This tax-exempt group under section 527 was created to raise money for political activities. They can be parties, candidates, committees, or associations influencing policy or contesting an election.
- Hybrid PACs (Carey Committees): A Carey committee can work as a PAC (Political Action Committee) and Super PAC. They can collect an unlimited amount of money from any source for their expenditure but cannot use these funds for political activity.
- Political Action Committee (PAC): PACs are formed to help elect or defeat a candidate in an election. To do so, PACs can collect a limited amount of money, as specified by the Federal Election Commission.
Of these four groups, only 501(c) Groups are nonprofits created for religious, charitable, scientific, or educational purposes. If an organization wants to participate in nonprofit advocacy, they need to be registered as a 501(c) group.
Nonprofit advocacy laws for influencing public policy
Nonprofit advocacy is legal. However, there are limits to this exercise that a nonprofit must know about. We’ve listed a few nonprofit advocacy rules that you should know about:
- Your advocacy will be considered lobbying under the IRS regulations if it communicates to legislators to influence specific legislation.
- Public education or issue advocacy will not be considered lobbying.
- Courts have in the past deemed any expenditure above 5% of the organization’s total expenditure as ‘substantial’ for advocacy.
- Section 501(h) of the Internal Revenue Code places specific dollar limits on a nonprofit’s lobbying activity. These disclosures are the same as income disclosure at the end of the year.
- A nonprofit cannot openly support a party or candidate running for office.
Look up more details regarding nonprofit advocacy laws specific to your state to ensure you are compliant with regulations.
Strategies for nonprofit advocacy
Once you know the types of nonprofit advocacy organizations and regulations for them, it is time to draw your nonprofit advocacy strategy. We’ve explored a few for you. Read on.
- Patch-through calling
- Digital advocacy campaigns
- Advocacy events
- Campaign reporting
Patch-through calling is an excellent strategic tool for nonprofit advocacy. It helps you connect your supporters with local representatives to influence decisions and legislation, oppose or support campaigns, etc.
Here’s how it works:
- Assign agents to call supporters for your campaign.
- Educate supporters about your campaign and let them ask questions.
- Ask supporters to speak to your local representative to oppose, support, or influence legislation.
- Connect the supporter on the call with the representative to make their voice heard.
- Once multiple supporters speak to your representative, you’ve made good progress in influencing your government official.
Digital advocacy campaigns
With Americans spending close to six hours on their smartphone devices every day, digital advocacy campaigns are the present and future of advocacy.
Using digital advocacy platforms and tools such as:
- Social media
- Calling, etc.
You can build great campaigns that reach many people faster and more effectively.
Starting nonprofit advocacy petitions online is another excellent way to reach a large group of people.
You can start sign-up petitions where a large group of supporters digitally sign up to support your cause. These signature petitions inform legislators about the number of people backing a cause.
For example, Taylor Swift had created an online petition supporting the Equality Act for LGBTQIA+ individuals, which received over 200,000 signatures, which earned a White House response.
Advocacy events aim to generate support, build legislative pressure, and raise funds. Since these are important to carry out a successful nonprofit advocacy campaign, events are a great way to make it possible.
It helps cultivate proactive citizenry by involving people from the community and asking them to participate in events.
Your advocacy campaigns get better with time. This is why you must track the success and setbacks of your nonprofit advocacy campaign. Here are a few important metrics you must track that will be relevant to you:
- Number of event attendees
- Number of signatures on petitions
- Calling budget for outreach
- The geographical location of most supporters
- Demographic that supports your campaign
- Amount of money raised and spent
- Most successful communication channels
Once you have your campaign strategy in place, you can explore tools and software that will give a boost to your nonprofit advocacy campaign. We’ve shortlisted 4 software options to choose from.
4 Nonprofit advocacy software to consider
Software tools for nonprofits help increase productivity and reach while simultaneously decreasing cost and administrative effort. Our list of the four best nonprofit advocacy software will explore features that will help boost your campaign. Read on.
CallHub is your best bet for communication software and communication management. How? CallHub has a range of calling and texting solutions that increase agent productivity and decrease your costs while ensuring you are compliant with regulations.
Features to look forward to on the CallHub software:
- List segmentation: This allows you to filter through lists and only reach out to relevant contacts based on age, location, gender, income level, etc.
- Autodialers: CallHub’s range of autodialers allow you to choose the speed at which you want to make calls to your supporters. It saves time by dialing numbers while agents focus on the call.
- Texting software: Sharing reminders, follow-up messages, event notifications, etc. got a lot easier with CallHub’s texting software. It allows for one-way mass texting or two-way peer-to-peer texting communication.
- Patch-through calling: Perhaps one of its best features, patch-through calling on CallHub helps agents connect supporters to local representatives – an ideal tool for advocacy campaigns.
- Link shortener and tracker: CallHub’s latest link shortener and tracker feature helps nurture donor relationships. You can share short donation links via text messages and track responses to retarget your audience.
Pricing: CallHub’s lite subscription starts at a $0 pay-as-you-go model.
NationBuilder is a complete software solution for nonprofits. With NationBuilder, you can build your nonprofit advocacy website within minutes, raise more money through fundraising pages and payment processing, and receive real-time data to improve your campaign.
Here are NationBuilder features to look forward to:
- Fundraising and finances: You can engage and track donors with the help of their fully-integrated system and advanced insights.
- Hosted action website: Seamlessly track actions all across your website by visitors.
- User-created content: Your advocates can create their own posts, fundraising pages, etc.
- Recruiting links: Provides links to advocates so that you can track which and how many supporters and volunteers they add to your campaign.
Pricing: NationBuilder’s new pricing starts at just $29/mo for unlimited users.
Salsa Labs provides donor management, digital marketing, peer-to-peer fundraising and fundraising tools to organizations.
Here are some features from Salsa Labs to look forward to:
- Email software: You can create beautiful, informative email campaigns through the Salsa Labs software.
- Mobile-ready actions: Supporters can easily sign up for your cause at the click of a button and targeted action towards legislators.
- Social targeting: You can tweet to your legislators or comment on their Facebook posts through the Salsa Labs platform.
Pricing: You can request Salsa Labs for their pricing here.
EveryAction aims to develop nonprofit tech that makes an impact. They help organizations engage more supporters, raise funds and manage donors. It is a platform built specifically for nonprofits.
Here are some features from EveryAction to explore:
- Integrated fundraising features: Their integrated fundraising features make it easier for donors to donate to nonprofit advocacy campaigns.
- One-click advocacy: Supporters can take action with only one click on the call-to-action buttons. This makes garnering support and allowing people to take actions simple.
- Reach elected officials: You can reach elected officials easily since EveryAction geolocated your representatives at the local, state, and national levels.
Pricing: You can explore the EveryAction platform by requesting a demo.
Starting a nonprofit advocacy campaign can be tremendously stressful, but knowing best practices and with the right software on your side, you can create a successful campaign.
CallHub’s communication tools are the perfect match for nonprofit advocacy campaigns. You can explore CallHub by starting a free 14-day trial today!
Featured Image Source: Kindel Media