How Can Organizations Use Lobbying?
Have you ever stopped someone in a lobby and said, “I just wanted to talk to you about…”?
Lobbying originally referred to a group of people trying to convince legislators to vote in a certain way. Its name originated from the fact that these interactions oftentimes took place in the lobby of a legislative chamber.
Lobbying is an important type of advocacy, and today its definition is inclusive of communications with anyone within a governing body about legislation that is currently being discussed. Lobbyists engage in these conversations in an attempt to persuade individuals to vote for (or against) proposed legislation.
There can be confusion about who may engage in lobbying. The Internal Revenue Code limits the amount of lobbying allowed before risking the loss of tax-exempt status for a 501(c)(3). This code indicates that these organizations cannot participate in attempts to influence legislation as a substantial part of their activities. Because of these limits, some organizations avoid lobbying altogether, which is detrimental to the public, as it's such an important part of being a voice for the community.
Lobbying provides a way for organizations to lift the voices of the disenfranchised people whom they serve. In many communities, non-profits fill the gaps of food access, transportation, funding, or other necessities of life. These organizations have a ground-level view of the needs that exist. Although the hope would be that the governing bodies also have this view, the reality is far from that.
Organizations that can use their public influence to sway the discourse around a topic may then be able to influence officials, who can use their vote to make necessary changes. Although sometimes lobbying can be leveraged by the rich to buy votes or influence politics unfairly, that is not the intended purpose or why we participate in lobbying activities at MAVA. Rather, we hope to give our legislators the information that they need to make informed decisions to better serve our communities.
MAVA is currently lobbying for the passage of the MAVA Volunteerism Bill. This bill will bring funds to MAVA to share across organizations that have been especially hit during COVID.