Advocacy Overview for Organizations

Apr 26, 2010

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


Great Basic Resources for Organizations

The Performing Arts Alliance provides an outstanding Advocacy Basics for Organizations resource on their website.

The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance’s Web site provides a strong Advocacy 101 section, including tips for Communicating with Legislators and for In-Person Meetings with Legislators.
Speak Up: Tips on Advocacy for Publicly Funded Nonprofits is another good resource from Center for an Urban Future; Annie E. Casey Foundation


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”
Nonprofit expenditure limits for direct lobbying are determined by the budget size of the organization.  Under 501(h) expenditure test public charities may spend:
Direct Lobbying:
20% of the first $500,000 of its exempt purpose expenditures;
15% of the next $500,000 and so on, up to one million dollars a year.

Grassroots Lobbying:
5% of the first $500,000 of its exempt purpose expenditures;
3.75% of the next $500,000, and so on, up to $250,000 a year.
Note: If your organization receives a government grant, these funds cannot be used to lobby. Lobbying expenditures must be applied to other parts of your budget, such as earned or privately contributed income.
 Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest’s Web site provides more information about lobbying and advocacy for 501c3 organizations. Visit )

Connect with the Media – Strategically and Appropriately

Depending on your specific advocacy effort, it may be appropriate to have a media strategy as a component of your advocacy efforts.
The Independent Sector’s Web site has a concise guide to working with the media.

Belong and Keep Informed

Join or renew your organization’s Americans for the Arts membership and membership in any state or local arts advocacy organizations and join the Performing Arts Alliance’s email list to receive updates.
Appoint a staff or board member to get involved with your state’s arts advocacy organization, either as a board member or as an “advocacy liaison” that remains abreast of arts advocacy activity. This person can report to your board on federal, state and local political activity affecting the arts.
*Special thanks to the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts for their advocacy tips, from which these tips were adapted and augmented.

Tags: Advocacy Basics, Advocacy 101, Advocacy for Organizations

Sub Categories

ADVOCACY: Be an Advocate


advocacy   artists