Engaging in Public Policy
As advocates for people who are struggling to cope with poverty, homelessness, addiction, abuse, and other forms of oppression, our input into the decision-making process of our lawmakers is absolutely essential. We are the ones best equipped to communicate to our legislators about these struggles and the barriers to overcoming them.
When I am out training human/social service providers through our Legal Liaison Program, I include information about not only the laws that govern our lives, but how those laws came to be through our legislative process--and how we, the public, can work to change them. Many people ask for more information on how to get involved in the law-making process; many others believe they are not allowed to do so.
In fact, nonprofits' are not banned from public policy advocacy; rather, only the amount of such advocacy is regulated depending on the funding source, and nonprofits must track how much of it they are doing to ensure they are compliant with their funders. (If you have questions about what or how much public policy advocacy you are allowed to engage in, you should speak to your supervisor and/or the executive director of your organization; information at the
Alliance for Justice
may also be helpful.)
What's more, only the advocacy we do in the course of our employment is regulated. The advocacy we do as private citizens on our own time is not only freer, but our duty as people privileged to live in a participatory democracy. And, we must never forget: democracy is not a spectator sport.
In our current political climate, getting involved in public policy is now more important than ever. So much of our work depends on the decisions our lawmakers will make within the upcoming months, and thus it is critical that we ensure our input is considered when those decisions are made.
Luckily for us, there are stellar organizations helping us to understand policy issues and to engage in these decisions. One particularly excellent organization is the MN Council of Nonprofits (MCN), a statewide organization working to advance the interests of our nonprofit sector and the crucial work we do. MCN is doing exceptional work on federal public policy through their "We Are Interconnected" campaign. There are several training opportunities coming up this summer to help learn more about how you can get involved, and I urge you to explore and attend one or all of these events. Learn more at the MN Council of Nonprofits Calendar page or by contacting Rebecca Lucero, MCN Public Policy Director, at email@example.com
As Franklin Roosevelt said, "Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country."
, Executive Director