Advocacy vs. Lobbying
Advocacy is allowed and encouraged; lobbying by charities is permitted but restricted; and political campaign involvement by nonprofits is prohibited, so it is important to be clear on definitions and implications of each, especially as we go into a time of heated primaries and elections.
The Alliance for Justice defines advocacy as:
“While all lobbying is advocacy, not all advocacy is lobbying.Advocacy is any action that speaks in favor of, recommends,
argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others. It includes public education, regulatory work, litigation, and
work before administrative bodies, lobbying, nonpartisan voter registration, nonpartisan voter education, and more.”
Advocacy, therefore, is broad—encompassing just about every form of communications a nonprofit can do. Lobbying, on the other hand, is very narrowly defined.
Lobbying is defined as:
- Direct lobbying: Any attempt to influence new or existing legislation via communication with a member of the legislative body or other government representative who has a say in the legislation.
- Grassroots lobbying: Asking the general public to contact their legislator and/or mobilizing the public around a legislative issue. It must be specific legislation already introduced or proposed. It must also reflect the organization’s view on the legislation and encourage action. Examples of grassroots lobbying include: creating an online petition to generate public support for a cause, distributing flyers, and organizing a public demonstration or rally.