Is your nonprofit tied to a future of raising funds to deal with issues and meet needs that should be addressed through public policy? It doesn’t have to be this way: talk to your local candidates.
Sometimes we forget that nonprofits emerge to meet needs that result from public policies and legislation. Consider the blight fighting nonprofit. Yes, it is important to employ young people to cut the grass and board up abandoned homes. But what are the public policies that lead to people abandoning their homes? You can advocate for partnerships and funding for your program, AND you can talk to all candidates to learn their position on landbanks, property tax forgiveness, and other related policies. We have to change the conditions that lead to situations where nonprofits must form and raise funds to deal with the effects of systemic issues.
Here are our suggestions for raising your issues with candidates.
Board members have an important role to play in this process. First, inform yourself on candidates’ positions relating to the mission and goals of your organization. Other things you want to learn include whether any have a history with your nonprofit; do they know your mission and goals, and does their platform address these? Which candidates oppose the work of your nonprofit? Which have values that match yours? Have any been a donor, or engaged with you in the past as a volunteer? Have any advocated for your nonprofit or projects and policies that impact your work, either as an elected official or a private citizen? Have any influenced your work in a positive or negative way?
Create a short list of issues, projects, and policies that are important to your nonprofit and the people you serve. Take the time to call, email, and communicate via social media to ask candidates about your priorities. Ask about their positions. Send an online survey to get their feedback.
Once you know where candidates stand, alert your constituency about how candidates feel about your mission – you are not endorsing anybody; you are just letting people know their positions. You can do this with phone calls, social media, opinion pieces in local media, your newsletter and website – any and everyway you communicate. You will also want to share information about which politicians your constituents should learn more about because of their potential role in impacting the work of your nonprofit, your goals and mission, and the people you serve.
Remember, this is the work of the board. You can and should also work with staff to keep them informed and to amplify your efforts. Ask the executive director and staff members about inviting candidates to participate in a socially distanced VIP tour, or a virtual tour. Discuss hosting an online forum for candidates to share how their agendas coincide with yours. You don’t have to reach thousands of people: every vote counts, and you can do your part to help ensure those running for office are informed on the issues of those they want to represent.
[Copyright 2020 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you find your way through this unknown time. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.]