Advocate for Home Visiting

SC Home Visiting > Advocate for Home Visiting

3 Steps to Contacting Your S.C. Legislators

1. Visit scstatehouse.gov and fill in your home address.

  • The ‘Find Your Legislators’ box is at the bottom left of the home page.

2. Click the names of the policymakers you would like to contact.

3. Follow the contact information on their webpages to visit or call their offices, write letters, and
send e-mail or social media messages.

Advocacy vs. Lobbying

All lobbying is advocacy, but not all advocacy is lobbying.

There are common misconceptions about what 501(c)3 and state organization employees can do within
their roles when it comes to advocacy and lobbying activities. The lack of clarity often causes
organizations and individuals to avoid advocacy activities altogether. This is a mistake! Charitable and
state organization employees often have the expertise to advocate most effectively for policy change. If
they don’t, an important voice will be missing when policy is formed. Please refer below to quickly
determine if activities are considered general advocacy or should be considered lobbying work and
registered accordingly.

Advocacy is showing support for a particular cause, policy or program, such has home visiting. Often
you are sharing that support with a legislator, community leader or other person of influence. There is
no limit to the amount of non-lobbying advocacy your organization can do.

Advocacy activities can have a positive influence on the sustainability and community support for
successful home visiting programs. The more people who understand home visiting and advocate in the
field, the greater the support for home visiting when decision makers determine funding priorities.
General advocacy can include activities such as:

  • Providing factual information about a program,
  • Explaining the impact of a proposed policy, and
  • Promoting and touting the successes of your program.

Lobbying, on the other hand, is any attempt to influence specific legislation or bill. Lobbying activities
are limited to a percentage of a 501(c)3 operating budget and involve 3 parts: communication with a
policymaker that takes a position on specific, pending legislation. There are two types of lobbying: direct
lobbying and grassroots lobbying.

Direct lobbying is any attempt to influence legislation through communication with any member
or employee of a legislative body, or with any other government official who may participate in
the creation of legislation. An example of direct lobbying would be calling your senator and
asking for an increase in funding for your program in the new appropriations bill.

Grassroots lobbying is any attempt to influence legislation by affecting the opinion of the
general public. With this type of lobbying, an organization refers to a specific piece of legislation
and provides information to the public on how to contact decision-makers. An example of
grassroots lobbying would be sending a letter to home visiting supporters in your community
asking them to contact their state representatives to support a bill providing state funds for
home visiting programs.

Where lobbying is concerned with influencing specific legislation at the local, state, or federal level,
advocacy focuses on educating about a specific issue. Remember – lobbying is only a small part of the
total amount of advocacy efforts for most nonprofit and state agencies. Even if you choose to avoid
lobbying activities altogether, there is a lot of advocacy work to be done on behalf of home visiting in
South Carolina.
Find more information on lobbying rules and limitations from the S.C. Association of Nonprofit Organizations.

10 Tips for Effective Advocacy

1. When working with a legislator, always identify yourself. Let your legislators know who you are,
where you are from and why this issue is important to you.

2. Be genuine. Be yourself. Share your pass and follow our instincts and core beliefs.

3. Keep it simple and specific. Don’t overwhelm your legislator with several unrelated appeals.
Prioritize requests and suggest a clear action step in response to your concerns (e.g. introduce,
co-sponsor or oppose a bill.)

4. Be polite. A positive response is more likely when you are calm and courteous in your approach.

5. Don’t vilify your opponents. Present a thoughtful case in your favor and allow legislators to
decide for themselves.

6. Tell the truth. Be sure that any information you present accurately portrays the issue at hand.

7. Leave something behind. A fact sheet or other educational piece allows the legislator and
his/her staff to review relevant information after your meeting.

8. Use social media. Facebook, Twitter and other social media can help you garner support and
share messaging with a vast audience.

9. Be patient. Legislative action is often a long process. Don’t expect immediate results.

10. Provide a timely follow-up. A short letter or e-mail still goes a long way.