7 Ways Lawmakers Can Help Your Nonprofit

With all 50 state legislatures now in session nonprofit leaders will spend much time this year in state capitols asking lawmakers to vote for a piece of legislation or an appropriation.

Public policy and money always matter.

But state lawmakers, Members of Congress and local elected officials can do much more to help your nonprofit besides support a bill or a budget. After you’ve followed these rules to get your meeting with a policymaker, here are seven asks to consider for your next meeting with a legislator at any level of government:

  1. Make a Site Visit

Invite your lawmaker to make a site visit to talk to your staff and the people you serve. This is a great way to introduce your organization and create a relationship with a policymaker.

Playworks Pacific NW, for example, asked an education advisor to the governor of Oregon to take part in the games it organizes at a Northeast Portland school. That short one-hour visit led to a relationship with the governor’s office that helped Playworks staff promote recess in state education policies for years to come.

  1. Write a Letter of Support

An endorsement by an elected official adds credibility to any grant application. Make it easier to say yes to your request by offering to provide a draft letter.

  1. Advocate for You

Having challenges with a state or local regulatory issue? Consider asking your relevant local elected official to raise the issue with the agency involved.

  1. Make an Introduction

Lawmakers have excellent networks and can introduce you to local leaders you don’t know.   Ask your elected official to make a call or send a letter on your behalf to busy influencers.

  1. Join Your Board

One of the best ways to involve a policymaker in your project: Ask elected officials or their staff to serve on your board or an advisory committee. You’ll get great insights and increase your credibility and influence in the community.

  1. Act as a Convenor

Invite one of your local lawmakers to speak at your next conference, fundraiser, or news conference. This is an excellent way to build the crowd for your next public event.

The Santa Cruz, California Reclaiming Futures project, which improves drug and alcohol treatment for teens in juvenile courts, wanted to persuade local businesses to hire teens who had been in trouble with the law. Project leaders asked the area’s Member of Congress to speak at an event and employers came in record numbers.

  1. Endorse You in the Media

Draw attention to your work by having an elected official write an op-ed article, letter to the editor, or a blog post about your project. As with any letter of support, its appropriate to provide draft text.

What has been your experience in involving public officials in your work after a meeting? Share your lessons and tips in the comments below.

Mac Prichard

Mac started Prichard Communications in 2007 to serve nonprofits, foundations and public agencies after a long career working in the public and nonprofit sectors and with elected officials. Mac lives in Portland’s Ladd’s Addition where he is often spotted taking Instagram photos while walking his dog Kai, a Weimaraner.

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