How Can Nonprofits Fight for Local Issues?

Your voice can be heard and it is important to understand how. Learning how to advocate for important issues is your first step.

Don’t worry! While this may seem like an overwhelming topic, there are small things you can do to make a difference in your community.


Know Who Your Representatives Are 

Your first step in advocacy is learning who has been elected to represent you. Individuals such as your state legislators are the ones that have the power to make an impact in your local and everyday lives.

Luckily, it is extremely easy to find out your district’s elected officials. The Official Idaho State Legislature websites allows you to search by location to find the representative near you.

Once you know who your representative is, don’t be shy! Their job is to serve the public, let them hear your voice. Write letters, emails and make phone calls to let them know you’re here and you care.


Understand the Process 

While the government body can be a daunting process, it is important for you to understand it so you can best advocate for your issues. Knowing this process will allow you to most effectively make a difference.

For dates that could be most important to your advocacy efforts, visit the Idaho State Legislature website. Here you will find Interim Committee meetings, along with legislative sessions. Explore lists from previous years to learn more about the process.

Administrative rules and key election issues can also be found online. When election time rolls around, stay tuned with the official voting information for the citizens of Idaho HERE.

Stay educated on the less publicized but still incredibly important topics! The official voting information will direct you to where to vote, if you are registered, condition information, and more.


Stay up to Date on Local Issues 

Staying informed on what is happening in your community is the foundation of advocacy. A big part of how to do this isn’t just following the news, but also keeping up to date with the agendas of various representatives.

Knowing who holds the power when it comes to topics you are passionate about it the key to making the changes you wish to see. And of course, keeping in contact with these representatives and making your voice hear! After all, they are the individuals who speak for your community on local issues, so keeping up with take with their agendas is vital in having your voice heard.


Are you a Nonprofit Looking to Stay Updated? 

Visit the Idaho Nonprofit Center Policy & Advocacy page to get the latest information on resources for your nonprofit. Advocacy tools, along with information on voting with your mission, why lobby, getting started, advocacy/lobbying tactics, law and more can be found on the INC webpage.

Another way to stay updated is to track legislation that impacts your nonprofit organization and your stakeholders with a FREE public resource by Idaho Public Television. Some recourses includes  live on-air and online coverage of the Idaho Legislature during the 2017 session Coverage of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC), the Lincoln Auditorium WW02 and East Wing 42 as well as the eight committee legislative hearing rooms.

Live sessions from the House and the Senate, media files from all chamber sessions and committee meetings can be downloaded live streaming of the governor’s State of the State Address (January 9) and limited online press conferences through Governor Live is also available. Judiciary Live offers live online coverage of the Idaho Supreme Court when it holds oral arguments in Boise.

All of this and more can be found on Idaho Public Television’s Legislative Live webpage


There’s More than One Way to Make a Change 

Speak directly with people making decisions is a powerful tool in making a difference. Being a lobbyist is an important aspect of getting the ball rolling. What most people don’t realize is, it’s easy!It is usually as simple as making a phone call or sending some emails to set up a meeting.

As a lobbyist, you can learn a lot and it is one of the most effective organizing tools. To learn more information on the Idaho Secretary of State Lobbyist check out their website HERE

Today January 10th is the deadline to register as a lobbyist!


How to Make Your Time Productive when Meeting with Elected Officials  

Make sure you know:

  • What: What are you trying to accomplish? What are you asking of the official?  (Sponsorship of a bill, a yes or no vote on the floor or in committee).
  • Who: Who are your targets? (Committee Chairs and membership, leadership, etc)
  • Why: Know how the proposal or bill supports/does not support your mission.
  • When: When does the meeting occur (off session is more relaxed, during the session- timing is important).
  • How: What is the strategy and tactics you will use to accomplish your goals and objectives

Dos and Don’ts of Meeting with Elected Officials 

Do:

  • Be prepared! Have a handout and know your issue backwards and forwards.
  • Share a story/mission from yourself or a constituent.
  • Back up the story with broader state-specific statistics. 
  • Find common ground/values with the elected official.
  • Meet off-session: Legislators are relaxed and it’s nice to start a relationship with them early

Don’t:

  • Be intimidated. Legislators are people who take their jobs seriously and want to hear from their constituents.
  • Be rude. Ever.
  • Lie.  If you don’t know an answer, just tell them you will get back to them.
  • Forget to follow up.  Send a thank you as well as any information they requested.

Encourage Others to Join 

Lastly, encourage others to join and advocate with you! Giving a voice to your community is a task that cannot be done alone. More voices creates a stronger community seeking improvement.

Advocating for issues important to you and to others is an integral part of getting involved locally and improving your community. No one else is going to share your voice, you must be the driving force behind your passion to create the change you want to see in your community.

The Idaho Nonprofit Center would like to give a special thank the United Way of Salt Lake for the inspiration and content themes