Strong Platforms Mean Stronger Voices in Advocacy

OpEd by Marnie Taylor, President and CEO

Strong Platforms Mean Stronger Voices in Advocacy

The Oklahoma Legislature has gone into a second week of a special session. We are hopeful the Legislature can come up with measures to alleviate the budget shortfall. Additionally, last week, proposals at the federal level to simplify our tax code were released. With conversations at the federal level around budgeting, charitable giving, tax reform, health care and nonpartisanship for nonprofits, charitable organizations and their donors should be paying close attention to what is happening in our sector.

Now is the time to get ready to “Stand for your mission.”

Our team at the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits has been working hard to re-focus our own policy platform. The Center has advocates for the sector as a whole. We will continue to fight for a strong business climate that allows nonprofits to raise charitable dollars without barriers, continue to receive the taxation benefits of our sector through exemptions of ad valorem taxes and other fees, have full advocacy rights allowed under the tax code and IRS regulations, federal and state budgets that support nonprofits and promotion of public accountability.

And we encourage other nonprofits to be thinking about, creating, documenting and disseminating their own policy platforms so that they, too, can effectively engage their constituents to “Stand for their missions.” Nonprofits who regularly engage in advocacy (and all nonprofits should be engaging in advocacy efforts) must develop a strong policy platform to help guide their work, unify their voices, clarify positions and create robust messaging and other tactics to be most effective.

We also encourage nonprofits to be working together now to create coalitions in alliance on specific issues and find alignment with other organizations or groups to have the greatest effect and impact for their advocacy work. One example I always cite is the work coming from advocates for criminal justice reform. A number of nonprofits, businesses, local and state government agencies and leaders, concerned citizens and other groups have joined together to deliver messages on impact, both economic and human, around these issues. They have been successful, and we hope that success continues into the future to help Oklahomans.

Most importantly, getting prepared now helps nonprofits stay in their lanes when it comes to advocacy and lobbying efforts for their own missions. It’s very easy to get distracted or to go too wide on different issues. I suggest nonprofits narrowly focus on the issues that matter most, research the data and impact that prove their organizational effectiveness, and develop strong relationships with policy makers, philanthropists, leaders and other stakeholders.

While this special session is a reminder that the work continues, we must prepare for the next state legislative session and be mindful of what is happening at the federal level. This will help to guide our positioning and our actions for the future. I also recommend nonprofits work with the Center to learn more about their role in advocacy and their rights to educate, advocate and lobby policy positions that will help their constituents.

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