An excellent piece of news today: the National Council of Nonprofits and the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest have merged. Why is this such good news? Because many nonprofits have let the fear of losing their 501(c)(3) status keep them from participating in the democratic process in appropriate and legal ways. And now, with budgets squeezed at the state and local as well as the national level, whatever organizations fail to put themselves in lawmakers’ faces will end up without the resources they require.
Lawmakers, like most other people, pay attention to what grabs their attention, which during a legislative session is whatever gets brought up by the people literally standing around the lobby waiting to talk to them. Human services agencies need to be in that cohort; so do arts groups and environmental groups. (Hospitals and universities long since figured out that they can conduct advocacy and still maintain their tax-exempt status.)
Not only will this merger give the National Council of Nonprofits a louder voice in legislative decision-making; it will signal clearly to nonprofits around the nation that lobbying in the public interest is indeed part of their mission—so much so that they won’t be able to pursue their mission without such lobbying.