From time-to-time, Forward Community Investments engages in different forms of advocacy. Sometimes, it advocates and lobbies for the CDFI industry, both nationally and statewide. From a national perspective, we take our lead from Opportunity Finance Network, the CDFI Coalition or the New Market Tax Credit Coalition. When we work statewide, we frequently work with other Wisconsin-based CDFIs or with state legislators.
We also advocate on behalf of our borrowers and sectors that we serve. This type of advocacy typically involves support of government funding or legislation. In this case, we will oftentimes write letters of support, call our elected officials, and inform our Facebook followers to do the same.
And, most important, we advocate on behalf of our own mission and support causes and efforts that address issues of racial disparities and socioeconomic inequities.
Why advocacy is important
Whether you are advancing a cause, sector or mission you believe in or warding off a policy threat, advocacy gives voice to your opinion.
When done effectively, advocacy is an investment of time and resources that can lead to systemic change.
Advocacy strengthens the voices of the underrepresented and provides policymakers of all stripes with information they need to make informed decisions.
Advocacy is a “team sport” and, to that point, it brings together diverse members of the community to support a specific cause.
Advocacy versus lobbying*
Advocacy is the process of stakeholders making their voices heard on issues that affect their lives and the lives of others at the local, state, and national level. It also means helping policymakers find specific solutions to persistent problems. Most nonprofits can and do engage in as much advocacy as possible to achieve their goals.
Lobbying, on the other hand, involves activities that are in direct support of or opposition to a specific piece of introduced legislation. While nonprofits can engage in some lobbying, the IRS has strict rules about what portion of their budget can go toward these activities. There are also prohibitions on any use of federal funds for lobbying.
Examples of advocacy vs. lobbying*
Telling your member of Congress how a federal grant your organization received has helped your constituents.
Educating a member of Congress about the effects of a policy on your constituency.
Inviting a member of Congress to visit your organization so that he/she may see firsthand how federal funding or a policy affects day-to-day operations and the difference it makes.
Asking your member of Congress to vote for or against, or amend, introduced legislation.
Emailing a “call to action” to your members urging them to contact their member of Congress in support of action on introduced legislation or pending regulations.
Preparing materials or organizing events in support of lobbying activities.