Advocacy 101 – Tips for Organizations

Your organization has the right – and the responsibility – to participate in the legislative process. And while the Coalition is working on behalf of your organization, it is important for arts and culture organizations to remain informed and involved.

Below are legal regulations for organizational advocacy and tips on how to inform and involve the staff, board and volunteers of your organization.

Legal Regulations for Organizational Advocacy:

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, your organization CAN:
Educate elected officials on issues of concern in the arts and culture community, arrange meetings with them to learn their views on arts and culture, invite them to organizational meetings and events, and send them literature on arts and culture issues.

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, your organization CANNOT:
Endorse or oppose candidates for public office; collect or distribute funds for political campaigns; use your facilities for political fundraising (although you can rent out your facility to candidates at the market rate). You may also engage in legislative activities up to a “substantial limit” (the IRS has a lobbying limit for organizations; contact the Coalition for more information).

Make Sure Your Organization is a Member of the Coalition

As a Coalition member, your organization benefits from timely legislative updates and collective action on arts- and culture-related local, state, and federal policymaking and legislation. Join Now

To maximize your organization’s membership, be sure to:
  • Sign up to receive our Action Alerts e-mails to receive up-to-the-minute news and advocacy campaigns, and forward them to your co-workers.
  • Schedule an Advocacy 101 workshop to be held at your organization for staff and board
  • Coalition members can have the Coalition provide your staff and board with personalized legislative and congressional contact sheets so that everyone can have their elected officials’ information at their fingertips.

Advocacy Checklist for Organizations 

Integrate advocacy into your organizational practice. Remember, communication with elected officials is most effective when it is ongoing, rather than simply during a crisis. Build relationships with elected officials and share with them what your organization does and why it is beneficial to the community.

Here are some year-round advocacy initiatives for organizations:

  • Join or renew your organization’s Coalition membership.
  • Put your elected officials on your organization’s mailing list. Make sure the data is updated annually or as elections occur.
  • When your organization receives a grant from the California Arts Council or other state agencies, write a thank you note to your legislators and to the Governor. When your organization receives a grant from a federal agency, write a thank-you note to your Congressional representative and California’s two senators.
  • When you are turned down for a grant due to lack of funds, write to your legislators and the Governor asking for increased support for arts and culture.
  • Be kind, not confrontational. Make friends.
  • Appoint a board member to become an Advocacy Liaison to the Coalition. This person can report to your board on federal, state and local political activity affecting the arts.
  • Invite your elected officials for a tour of your facility and educate them about what you do and how your community benefits.
  • Invite your elected officials to openings and community celebrations and ask them to make a short speech about the importance of the arts and culture to your community. Take pictures of elected officials at these events and send them to your local paper.  If you publish a newsletter, include photos of officials attending your events.
  • Invite your elected officials to speak with your board of directors about arts and culture.

*Special thanks to the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts for their advocacy tips.