Five Effective Tools for Successful Advocacy

Posted by Joe Nolte on Sep 6, 2017 7:30:00 AM

The key to being an effective advocate for charitable giving planners and their donors is having the right tools.

Sometimes, that’s a yardstick.

Just before I met with Iowa Congressman David Young in July to talk about The Legacy IRA Act of 2017 (H.R. 1337), I discovered that we shared an interest in vintage wooden yardsticks that banks used to give to customers and are now collectibles. My colleague Lynn Gaumer of the Stelter Company and I were meeting with Rep. Young on behalf of the Mid-Iowa Planned Giving Council (MIPGC).

Talking about this common interest helped break the ice to begin the bigger conversation about expanding the IRA Charitable Rollover provision to permit life-income gifts.

Introduced in March, the Legacy IRA Act of 2017 calls for expanding tax-free distributions from individual retirement accounts to include rollovers for charitable life-income plans for charitable purposes.

In February, Lynn and I represented MIPGC at the 100 Years of Charitable Giving Fly-In in Washington, D.C., where we first met Rep. Young in his D.C. office to discuss tax reform and the charitable deduction. In March, I participated with my council colleagues in a National Association of Charitable Gift Planners (CGP) webinar updating us on H.R. 1337 and how local councils can encourage their representatives to co-sponsor the bill.

Lynn and I knew this would be a great opportunity to talk about the important role local charitable organizations and their donors play in meeting community needs and how this non-partisan effort could assist. It also provided an important advocacy service to our MIPGC membership.

As a former executive director of non-profit organizations and an active member of several local community advocacy organizations, my experience has shown me that legislators rely on people in their communities to talk about issues and offer solutions.

It begins with a conversation.

Aside from a helpful ice-breaker, I suggest the following tips to start and structure that discussion:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask
  2. Have a clear, concise agenda
  3. Stick to the agenda
  4. Reach out for help if you need it
  5. Follow up

Fundraisers know you won’t get the meeting or the donation if you don’t ask for it. To schedule our meeting with Rep. Young, we simply filled out an online meeting request form. We had to be patient—we requested the meeting in March, and had our meeting in Des Moines in July.

Once the meeting is scheduled, prepare a clear, concise agenda. You will likely have only 10 to 15 minutes for the meeting, so stay focused and don’t overload the time with multiple topics. In advance of the meeting, provide key information about your subject and the names and brief biographical information of any colleagues joining you.

If you are new to advocacy, CGP has many resources and can help you prepare for a meeting with your legislator. Michael Kenyon did an excellent job providing the information we needed to make our case to Rep. Young.

Don’t forget to follow up after the meeting as a courtesy and for accountability. First send a thank you email or note and then later ask for official confirmation of any promise of support, because this is the key measure of your advocacy efforts.

Rep. Young agreed to support The Legacy IRA Act during our meeting with him and is now officially the eighth co-sponsor of the bill.

I am pleased we advocated at the local level for a measure that will benefit our MIPGC members, all local charitable organizations and, most importantly, the individuals they serve. In the end, it was simply the right thing to do.


Joe Nolte is a senior director of development for the Iowa State University Foundation, the past president of the Mid-Iowa Planned Giving Council and a history buff.

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Topics: Advocacy