As much as us “policy wonks” like to think that all the advocacy that matters to the charitable sector happens here in Washington, DC, we know that isn’t true.
In fact, we would argue that the most important time to engage policy makers, in this case members of Congress, is when they leave town and come back to your neighborhoods. No one on this IS staff (as good as they are) will ever be as successful in conveying the issues and the interests of the sector to a House or Senate member as you. In many respects, all of us here in Washington are the warm up act for the real advocates at home.
So, as is often the case in my column, I come to you with a request. Please use the recess that is coming at the end of this week as a chance to engage your federal lawmakers. As you would guess, they will be quite visible in the weeks between now and Election Day. Use their campaign time as your time to make the case on the issues most vital to nonprofits across all communities. To make it easier for you to do that, we are providing you an updated Recess Toolkit. It will give you almost everything you need to be an effective advocate for the sector. But it won’t make the appointment for you. That’s up to you.
Speaking of advocacy, please check out our post about Independent Sector’s first All Staff Hill Day. I know I just got done writing that those of us in DC aren’t all that important as advocates compared to what you can do. But, what we did with our Hill Day was extraordinarily important. It’s not just that we were in more than 70 House offices in about 4 hours. It’s not just that we hammered away at three of our core issues: unrelated business income tax, the universal charitable deduction, and the need to preserve the Johnson Amendment. The really big thing is that, for the first time, everyone on the IS team was stepping into the role of public policy advocate on behalf of the entire sector. You will often hear us preaching (or at least me preaching) that this is a role and a responsibility for all of us as leaders in our sector. It was just a tremendous moment to see the whole IS team taking that responsibility on board ourselves.
One final request. Whether or not you are able to take up the charge to engage your member of Congress between now and Election Day, I do hope that you remember that perhaps the most important form of advocacy is the act of voting. I encourage each of you, of course, to vote as individuals. But I also ask, as you are able, and the rules permit, that you please encourage the employees in your organizations, your partners, board members, clients – everyone you know, in fact – to please vote in the upcoming elections.
Thank you, as always, for your partnership and for spending some time with the latest edition of Voices for Good.