WORKING FOR CHANGE"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead
What's the difference between Lobbying and Advocacy?< br>
Under the law, a nonprofit organization is lobbying when it:
Although nonprofit organizations can lobby, Federal tax law limits the amount of lobbying they can do. Additionally, nonprofit organizations must consult their funders to make sure their funders do not restrict lobbying activities. For more information, nonprofit organizations should get legal advice to make sure they are in compliance with the tax laws.
"Legislative Advocacy" is another way of "becoming involved in affecting legislation." More and more parent groups are deciding to work for change at the law-making level. In fact, the active involvement of such groups has had a distinctive impact on local, State and Federal legislation.
There is a difference in the roles and jurisdiction of local, state and national elected officials. It is important to know which government official to approach, what the issue is, where that government official is located, when to make the approach and how the whole process works.
Government is divided into three basic areas, each area having a specific function and jurisdiction. A local elected official has no legislative power on State matters and elected State officials have no legislative power at the Federal level.
Local Government - Locally elected officials may be called councilmen, commissioners, or journey-men and are elected only by the people whom they directly serve, such as precincts, cities or counties. They deal with matters affecting cities and counties. They have influence at the State or Federal level but have no vote in such matters.Local government has been responsive to parent groups in passing such legislation as anti-paraphernalia laws (ruled constitutional by an 8 to 0 vote of the United States Supreme Court in March, 1982). In Baltimore, Maryland, for example, local parent groups were successful in getting legislation passed to remove alcohol and tobacco billboards which were near schools ( legislation which was upheld on appeal). Such legislation reflects community values and can be enforced through local law enforcement agencies. Most city and county government bodies meet on a weekly or bi-weekly basis; offices are usually located in City Halls or County Court Houses.
State Government - Most State legislatures are bicameral, meaning they have two legislative bodies known as the House of Representatives and the Senate. The elected members of these bodies are called Representatives, Assemblymen or Delegates (depending on the State) and Senators.State legislatures meet at prescribed times of the year at the State capitol. During the remainder of the year they can generally be found in home districts (see the local phone book or contact the Chamber of Commerce). Parent group representatives should meet with State legislators when they are in the home district. Any meetings should be by appointment. Note: while State legislation has an effect at the local level, elected State officials have no official say in local or Federal matters.
State legislatures have become increasingly responsive to tobacco, alcohol and drug related legislation, in part, because of the advocacy of parent groups and other interested organizations. Parent groups have been involved in the passage of State anti-paraphernalia laws in a number of States and have been instrumental in encouraging legislation banning look-alike drugs, increasing penalties for drunk driving and other tobacco, alcohol and drug related legislation.
When legislatures are in session, most States have a toll-free line for inquiries about the status of proposed bills. When calling, have the number of the bill about which the inquiry is being made and some understanding of the legislative process.
To write a State senator or representative, the correct form of address is:
The Honorable (full name of senator or representative)Federal Government - The seat of the federal government is located in Washington D.C., and each citizen is represented by two senators in the United States Senate and by one congressman in the United States House of Representatives. Senators are elected at large in each State and congressmen are elected only by the voters in their specifically defined district. Congressmen and Senators deal only with Federal legislation. While U.S. congressmen and senators may spend time in Washington, all have staffed offices in their home districts which are accessible to the general public. The correct form of address to write a Senator or Congressman is:
The Honorable (name)Tips to More Effective Advocacy:
It has been estimated that one letter or call represents the opinion of 400 citizens. Citizen pressure can have a tremendous influence on elected officials, the media, and the products produced and advertised by businesses. Your group can make a difference.
Tips for Increasing Media Coverage - It doesn't do any organization much good to try to do things no one knows about or hears about. Media involvement in the group is crucial to the growth and longevity of the organization and can vastly increase community support of prevention projects and activities. To get the most mileage out of local media:
Recommended resource publication on media coverage: Making Prevention Work: Actions for Media. For ordering information see Bibliography section entitled "Coalition Building/Community Involvement."