Dedicate one staff person or volunteer to work at least 3 hours per week on public policy issues and building relations with government. See Make a Difference for Your Cause in 3 Hours Per Week, by Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest.
Identify office space, computer, printer, copier, telephone and email address that may be used for lobbying and other public policy activities.
Prepare a section of website for description of key public policy issues.
Gather lists of potential allies including constituents, clients, donors, board members and people in the community that support your organization and might be a source of volunteer action in your public policy and lobbying work.
Identify the current and future needs from government as it fulfills its mission.
Identify the laws, regulations and public policies that affect the work of your organization.
Identify the government officials that have influence over the laws and regulations that affect the work of your organization.
Contact associations in your field of service to put you in contact with someone who works on public policy issues of interest to your organization.
Identify how current laws and regulations might be changed to help your mission and services. Write a paragraph about what life would be like for your organization/community if public policy were changed in your favor.
Funding resource planning
Identify part of your organization’s general operating support that may be used for lobbying and set aside a portion for public policy and lobbying related activities.
Make sure your organization has taken appropriate legal steps necessary to lobby including taking the 501(h) lobby election by 501(c)(3) organizations under the Internal Revenue Code. Determine if you need to register as a lobbyist, or file as an organization that lobbies with the appropriate state government office that regulates nonprofits, i.e., the Attorney General’s office, or the IRS. See CLPI materials for more information.
Become familiar with the basics about lobbying and public policy activity using foundation grant funds. See “Four Important Facts About Lobbying with Foundation Grant Funds,” by Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest.
Volunteer and Board planning
Based on your issues planning, prepare to engage the board and key volunteers in public policy work vital to the services you provide – Watch Charity Lobbying: You Can Do It!, a short video by Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest that discusses the importance of lobbying in the public interest aimed at board members.
Use the discussion guide with the video to engage your board in a discussion of the connection between key public policy issues and the needs of your constituents and programs.
Review your strategic plan and identify how changes in public policy may affect the goals and direction of your organization.
Review your mission statement and values. Develop rationale for working on public policy issues that connect to the beliefs and goals of your organization.
Form a small committee of staff, board members, clients, residents and other volunteers to discuss and plan appropriate next steps in the public policy arena.
Use “Make a Difference for Your Cause in Three Hours Per Week,” by Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest as a reference tool for carrying out activities.
Attend a coalition meeting or convene a meeting of organizations that share your concerns to discuss the problem and plan how, collectively you can work together to shape public policy.
Schedule brief meetings with your city, county, state and federal legislators as appropriate to discuss the policy changes you and your coalition are seeking. Bring a board member and a person that receives benefit from your services with you.
Follow through on the next steps from meetings with legislators or other government officials. Keep the pressure on to schedule a meeting.
Contact your state association of nonprofits at www.ncna.org or Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest www.clpi.org for further assistance or questions.