Elections offer nonprofits and charities opportunities too good to miss. Most non-profit groups don't jump on the opportunities this offers. Of course, most non-profit groups and charities are non-partisan, and must not be seen to favour any particular party or candidate.
Still, there is much you can do and must do, since governments at every level have major impact on health,education, social services, arts and culture, youth, the homeless and dozens of other issues.
Here are a few tips for right after the election
1. Phone the winning candidates in your area (or at least send a note) to:
a) Congratulate them on their success, and
b) Set up a meeting to cultivate the relationship.
HINT: Include their constituency assistants in the meeting -- these gatekeepers often have more time (and information) to help you than the politicians themselves. In order to truly cultivate the relationship, first and foremost listen to the politician's views on your issues. Ask about their personal connections. Maybe they have a family member with cancer, or a mother who was a teacher, or a friend who loves opera or wilderness camping.
Only after listening to them, discuss how your organization serves the people in the politician's constituency.
Search for a win-win link in your mission, vision and values.
Try to get the meeting early on, while they are still formulating plans.
c) Invite them to tour your organization, meet the people you help, and see you in action.
d) Add the politician (and the constituency assistant) to your mailing list, and your email (with their permission). Send news releases, annual reports, backgrounders, invitations to events, newsletters and more.
e) Throughout their time in office, ask them to speak out on your issues. Invite them to cut ribbons, open new facilities, appear at your special events. Arrange photo opportunities and news coverage. Make friends with them as much as you can -- and they will be more likely to take the actions you want.
2. Phone the losing candidates (at least the ones who are tolerable), to: a) Console them. They may run again. and may remember you warmly. b) Recruit them as volunteers - they know a lot about fundraising, and after a bit of a rest they may want new activities to occupy their energy. c) Offer to keep them informed on the issues by adding them to your communication list.
3. Recruit volunteers from the best election campaign workers. They know fundraising, publicity and a host of skills you need.
4. Re-evaluate your political environment. There is a new political mood. How might it affect your organization? Could it lead to reductions in your government funding (if any)? Or an opportunity to increase your government support? Will the government now pass laws that affect the people you help? If the implications are serious:
a) Educate your members/clients/donors/alumni/patients/audience/friends/campers or whatever you call the people you serve. Ask them to contact the newly elected politicians, and share the non-profit's insights and positions,
b) Write editorials, opinion pieces and letters to the editor, and use your social media.
Note: Who should phone the candidates? - First choice is a member of your board who was active in their campaign. - Next, a person who donated to both your group and the political campaign. - Finally, an influential volunteer, the executive director, lead staff - or even a political affairs consultant.
Note: So your favourite candidates are not in power? If you have political contacts who are in an elected office, but not in a position of power, they can still help you by acting as a 'shadow cabinet' -- asking questions, raising issues and speaking to the media.
Note: Beware being too political -- or too passive. All charities and most non-profits must remain neutral, or at least not show their political leanings. Stay within the limits of acceptable advocacy.
Don't favour one party and risk alienating another which might someday come to power.
But don't be so timid that you fail to take appropriate action to help the people you serve. You are legally allowed to do so.
Politicians have told me they are surprised how seldom non-profit groups approach them. They try to understand all sides of an argument, but if they only hear from the business sector, they may not learn about your views.
Professor Ken Wyman has more than 35 years’ experience helping grassroots groups grow and raising millions of dollars. He has written or contributed to eight books on fundraising, most recently Excellence in Fundraising in Canada, and is a frequent media commentator. He won the first ever award as Fund Raising Executive of the Year from the AFP Toronto Chapter. Ken is a consultant and a professor in the graduate Fundraising Management program at Humber College.