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Nonprofits Are Lobbying a Lot Less Than 2 Decades Ago, New Research Finds

August 10, 2023 3:00 PM | Shelly Dupre (Administrator)

According to a recent survey conducted for Independent Sector, a membership organization of nonprofits and grant makers, charities are now far more reluctant to seek to influence lawmakers and other policymakers. The survey found that less than one-third of nonprofits have actively advocated for policy issues or lobbied on specific legislation over the past five years, down from nearly three-quarters of nonprofits in 2000. 

Some of the survey's key takeaways include:

  • Less than one-third of nonprofits said they were well-versed in how to legally conduct advocacy campaigns and how much lobbying they were permitted to do. Twenty years ago more than half knew the rules, the survey found.

  • Nonprofits cannot endorse political candidates or parties; however, they can pursue a range of nonpartisan work, including research on important issues. Nonprofits can also educate voters on policy, get voters to the polls, draft proposed language for legislation, provide research on policy, and serve as witnesses at legislative hearings. 
  • Nonprofits were more prone to advocate on policy questions if they belonged to national or local coalitions. 
  • Nonprofits don’t have a clear understanding of how they can advocate at the federal, state or local levels. It is necessary for nonprofits, particularly those that rely on government contracts, to have a voice in public affairs. 
  • It’s important to build up political capital with local and state elected legislators so when you go “knocking on their doors, they know who you are”.
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