It’s the time of year when nonprofit organizations should be turning to their legislative agendas, preparing the documents that will state to their public, their staff, and their elected official targets what priorities they will pursue for the coming legislative session. Legislative agendas, as a product, serve several purposes:
Viewing legislative agendas as a product, though, is a mistake, because they are actually far more valuable as a process. I have worked with nonprofit organizations whose legislative agendas are developed by one person, working in isolation, and I have been around organizations who do lobbying without the aid of any formal agenda at all. I have encountered organizations whose legislative agendas are prepared months and months before the start of the session, when they can’t possibly have good intelligence about what the opportunities might be, and I have seen organizations whose agendas are not finalized until weeks after the session starts, rendering them virtually irrelevant.
So what should this process look like, and how can organizations arrive at legislative agendas that are, as they should be, helpful tools around which to organize their advocacy? I have prepared eight different legislative agendas for three different organizations where I have worked, and I have also assisted numerous other organizations in drafting or refining their agendas. Each organization’s process, and, of course, product is different, as they should be, but here are some general guidelines for success. Let the process begin!
If your organization has adopted a legislative agenda, I’d love to see it! What tips do you have to share from past years? If you’re just beginning this process, what questions do you have?
El Centro, Inc.’s 2007 Legislative Agenda