Make your voice heard, Advocate!

It is very important for you to stand up, show up and be present for your mission. Nonprofit advocacy groups are often known as special interest groups, citizen organizations, mobilizing groups, multi-issue organizations, or social movement organizations. The activities in which they participate may be calledgrassroots action, civic voice, public action, organizing, and empowerment.

Yes, nonprofits organizations are allowed to advocate. Advocating for your mission matters. When done right, advocacy influences public policy by providing a way for individuals and organizations to have a voice. However, it is important to learn the difference between advocacy and lobbying.

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. For example, informing a member of Congress how a federal grant your organization received has helped your mission is considered advocacy.

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. For example, asking your member of Congress to vote for or against, or amend, introduced legislation is considered lobbying.

How can you be an advocate?

You can be an advocate by educating policymakers about the needs of your organization and the people you serve, and developing a relationship where you act as trusted voice on policy issues. You also can organize supporters on issues of importance and educate a wider audience on your accomplishments. Some examples include:

  • Emailing or calling your elected officials
  • Organizing meetings or site visits with your legislators and their staff
  • Making your views known to policymakers and your community through traditional and social media

Understand the rules of your state in regard to inviting policy makers to your organization or event, for example if you have to have approval from the State Board of Ethics. Make sure you don’t cross the line. Keep in mind that activities are considered lobbying if they call for action on introduced legislation or a pending regulation.

See Share Resultsfor ideas on presenting the impact of your charitable pharmacy and its services to groups local to national.