Nonprofit Advocacy - Do's and Don'ts

A couple weeks ago I joined more than 35 social-sector loving professionals to hear from Dr. Billie Sandberg, YNPN Portland Board alumna and Director of The Nonprofit Institute at Portland State University, at YNPN Portland's Nonprofit Advocacy 101 event. Recently, the increasing visibility of social movements and the outcome of our presidential election led many nonprofit professionals to ask - What can we do? What can't we do? 

Fear no longer!  These takeaway do's and dont's will get you started on the right nonprofit advocacy path.

Emily Logan from Care2 created a mini-zine to accompany her facilitated group discussion - read about her experience making the zine and presenting to YNPN Portland, as well as a copy of the full zine, on the Care2 Team Blog. 


Dr. Sandburg reviewed key things nonprofit professionals need to know in a quick but thorough presentation, a helpful handout from Bolder Advocacy and reference to local leaders offering their thoughts on this issue (Advocating for greater impact, Meyer Memorial Trust). It is clear individuals often misunderstand this issue - instead of looking into the particulars, people oversimplify and shy away from advocacy activities, or engage in activities that could threaten their tax exempt status without even knowing it.


  • Understand the Johnson Amendment, and why nonprofit sector advocates are opposed to efforts to repeal it - including our local nonprofit association
  • Get clear on what is and isn't lobbying, and the right way to record lobbying activities for your nonprofit
  • Remain nonpartisan at all times - it's about the issues, not the candidates
  • Engage freely in activities that aren't lobbying: distribute materials, research or analysis on an issue and discuss broad social issues that aren't related to specific legislation
  • Support or challenge pieces of legislation that impact your constituents, within rules governing lobbying


The presentation was followed by active small group discussion, led by advocacy leaders from a variety of local organizations - huge thanks to Partners for a Hunger-free Oregon, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Multnomah County and Care2 for hosting those discussions, especially during the middle of busy legislative session!

What other events could YNPN Portland host to help its members feel more prepared as community advocates?  Let us know on Twitter @YNPNportland