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What's the difference between advocacy and lobbying?

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 18, 2016
What's the difference between advocacy and lobbying?  Are there clear distinctions?

Nonprofits often serve constituents who face challenges in weighing in on key issues passing through our public decision making processes.  Yet, their experiences and perspectives are critical to crafting effective policy solutions.  Nonprofit staff can serve an important role in both facilitating participation in advocacy among communities they serve as well as sharing their perspectives as agencies who see many of the issues our leaders are trying to address first hand each day.  In fact, nonprofits sharing their perspectives and engaging their clients to do the same is essential to better understanding issues and finding the best solutions.
 
Advocacy consists of the range of activities through which organizations inform, educate and compel people to action on an issue central to their mission and at all levels of society – local, state, regional and national.  Advocacy and awareness raising can take many forms: marketing campaigns, conferences, press conferences, letters to media, meetings with elected officials to introduce them to your mission, and many more.
 
Lobbying, by contrast, is a regulated set of actions in support of or in opposition to specific pieces of legislation.  One threshold for lobbying is that the communication include a “call to action” on an organization’s part, whether it is directly to the decision maker (please vote yes!) or asking someone else to talk to a decision maker (please call your senator and ask them to vote yes).  The IRS has rules defining how much of an organization’s time and money can be dedicated to lobbying and to which category of lobbying – Direct or Grassroots – both of which have their own limitations. The IRS has reporting requirements for these types of activities as well.  While there are rules that must be followed, they are easy to manage even for a small organization.  If you want to learn more now, a great resource on advoacay and lobbying by nonprofits is Alliance for Justice www.afj.org.


Becky received her B.A. in History with High Distinction from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her J.D. with Distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law.

She has worked at Nebraska Appleseed since October of 2001 first as a Staff Attorney for the Economic Justice Program specializing in poverty law and then starting in 2007 as Executive Director.

During her time with Appleseed, Becky has successfully litigated cases in state and federal court and engaged in policy advocacy at the state and federal levels on issues ranging from poverty to immigration.

In addition to her work at Appleseed, Becky is the President of the Robert Van Pelt Inn of Court, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Center for Rural Affairs, the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands and ISoft Data Systems, Inc.

She lives with her husband Jeff and their two children near Valparaiso, Nebraska.

Tags:  advocacy lobbying 

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