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Publication #FCS9264

Working with Nonprofit Organizations in Community Settings: Preparing your Organization to Lobby1

Elizabeth B. Bolton, Muthusami Kumaran, and Anna Guest-Jelley2


Nonprofit organizations can effectively lobby for their issue. In fact, they are often in an ideal position to do so because they already have many resources to get started—especially much needed information about the issue. The Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest (CLPI) lists ten reasons for nonprofits to lobby (CLPI, 2004a):

  1. A person can make a difference.

  2. People working together can make a difference.

  3. People can change laws.

  4. Lobbying is a democratic tradition.

  5. Lobbying finds real solutions.

  6. Lobbying is easy.

  7. Policymakers need your expertise.

  8. Lobbying helps people.

  9. The views of local nonprofits are important.

  10. Lobbying advances your cause and builds public trust.


There are several different steps that an organization can take to prepare for, and engage in, lobbying. These include the following missives (CLPI, 2004c):

  • Get motivated and educated.

  • Prepare for legislative advocacy (get a phone, internet access, etc.).

  • Study the legislative process.

  • Review the relationship between your organization and government (all levels).

  • Create a who's who list (of government officials).

  • Prepare the board of directors.

  • Connect legislative advocacy with governance (define/discuss how public policy affects your organization).

  • Take stock of your human resources (time, money, staff, etc.).

  • Develop useful data (about the organization that can be used for lobbying).

  • Look for allies.

  • Develop a public policy agenda (2-3 most important legislative changes for which the organization wants to lobby).

  • Review the law. (Lobbying on issues is legal. Supporting candidates for office is not.)


There are many ways to successfully lobby for a cause that are inexpensive yet effective. Your strategies might include writing a letter to your elected government official(s). Do not underestimate the power of personal letters. On the same token, a personal visit is also an effective way to lobby. It is a powerful statement of your interest and commitment. The important thing is that your position and purpose are delivered. Presenting testimony at a public hearing is another very effective strategy. Here, your message will reach a wider audience, one that usually includes elected or appointed officials; plus an agenda and a record is kept of what was said. The press is a frequent visitor to public meetings, thus presenting a good opportunity to speak to them about your issue (CLPI, 2004b).


Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest. (2004a). 10 Reasons to Lobby for Your Cause. Retrieved electronically October, 2006 from

Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest. (2004b). 'How-to' Resources. Retrieved electronically October, 2006 from

Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest. (2004c). Make a Difference in 3 Hours per Week. Retrieved electronically October, 2006 from



This document is FCS9264, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville 32611. First published June 2009. Revised June 2015. Please visit the EDIS website at


Elizabeth Bolton, professor emerita, and Muthusami Kumaran, assistant professor; Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.