Lessons Learned: The Latino Community Foundation

California’s Latino community has long been at the forefront of advocacy. From Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta fighting for farmworkers to Secretary of State Alex Padilla leading efforts to expand the right to vote, our community is full of leaders who have pushed the envelope to advance the condition of Latinos in our state.

At the Latino Community Foundation (LCF), through our Policy Summits, Community Conversaciones, and “Yo Voy a Votar, ¿Y Tú?” Campaign, we are advocating for our Latino families by elevating the issues that matter to our communities and by encouraging their civic participation.

On September 21, the Latino Community Foundation (LCF) welcomed AFJ’s Bolder Advocacy, an organization that trains foundations and nonprofits to understand the complex rules governing advocacy, so they can advance their mission.

Our primary goal was to learn how our foundation can maximize our advocacy efforts in a critical moment in our nation’s political history.

Here are a few lessons that we learned:

Lobbying Is a Form of Advocacy

  • Advocacy is research, skills training, education and community organizing. It can also be lobbying – attempting to influence legislation. Or it can mean taking a stand on a ballot measure.
  • Community foundations have the right to lobby! For community foundations and other 501(c)(3) public charities, lobbying is allowed within generous limits, as long it is reported and tracked. For 501(c)(3) organizations that have chosen to measure their lobbying using the 501(h) expenditure test, some organizations can even spend up to 20% of their organization’s on lobbying.

Social Media Is a Powerful Tool for Advocacy and Lobbying

  • Through Facebook and Twitter, there are innovative ways to reach our elected leaders to inform them about the issues that are facing our communities. #BlackLivesMatter, for example, has forced our leaders to wrestle with the intersection of race and the criminal justice system.
  • A Facebook post tagging a legislator to pass/oppose a bill is considered lobbying and must be reported. Tweets and retweets that ask the public to contact their legislators to support or oppose a bill would also be considered lobbying.

General-Support Grants from Foundations Can Be Used for Lobbying

  • Through general-support grants, foundations can support organizations that are engaged in lobbying without the grant counting against the foundation’s lobbying limits.
  • LCF provides general-support grants to all its community partners. Because of such support, groups such as Services, Immigration Rights and Education Network (SIREN) have been able to organize their communities in support of bills that affect immigrant communities.

Not Everyone Is a Legislator and Not Everything Is Legislation

  • Police, sheriffs, school boards and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are not considered legislators. Organizations working at the intersection of community policing, education, and immigration can freely push these agencies to change their policies and advance solutions for their own communities. That would not be considered lobbying.
  • Executive orders, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are not considered legislation. Fighting to protect DACA, at rallies for example, is a form of advocacy that all organizations can and should pursue!

In the coming months, the Latino Community Foundation looks forward to applying this newfound knowledge to advance our advocacy efforts.

Through our roles as a critical convener, investor, and advocate for Latino-led organizations in California, LCF is strengthening the Latino voice and participation in public policy.

The issues that will impact our community, ranging from immigration and jobs to climate change and higher education, will require bolder action from philanthropy and nonprofits alike.

We are eager to rise to the challenge! Let’s get vocal! And let’s be bold!

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