Beyond the Check: Addressing health and wellness through systems change advocacy

In 2023, Natrona Collective Health Trust will launch an advocacy grants program as well as an approach to advocate alongside grantee partners. To prepare for this, the Trust is sharing more about systems change advocacy and how that shapes our approach to advocacy grantmaking and engagement.

While NCHT has a sizeable endowment, this money does not go very far, especially when talking about health care. Many of the challenges Natrona County faces can’t be solved by funding alone; we simply can’t fund our way out of problems. We must also look at the systems and structures creating these problems in the first place.

This is where systems change advocacy comes into play. By nonprofits engaging in advocacy and supporting their clients to advocate, they share subject matter expertise with decision-makers that can change what and how things happen.

Here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Systems are more than lobbying public policies. This model of six conditions of systems change looks at systems beyond laws and policies.
  2. Lobbying is a form of advocacy, but advocacy entails a much broader set of actions and approaches. This tool from Alliance for Justice looks at different areas of advocacy capacity.
  3. 501c3 public charities can advocate and lobby. The primary restriction is engaging in partisan, political activity. Additionally, there is a cap on how much a nonprofit can spend on lobbying, which is defined by the IRS more specifically than what many constitute as lobbying. Learn more here.
  4. Nonprofits are well suited to advocate. Nonprofits are experts are managing relationships – with their clients, donors, board, etc. By engaging in advocacy, nonprofits are managing relationships with other groups – policymakers, reporters, other advocates, etc. Advocacy also helps nonprofits further their mission beyond those they could serve directly.

It’s important to note that the resources above primarily apply to 501c3 public charities. Natrona Collective Health Trust is a 501c3 private foundation and thus the IRS regulates our activity differently than public charities. For instance, NCHT cannot engage in lobbying activity as defined by the IRS. We can advocate, but we can’t lobby specific pieces of legislation to a legislative body. The Trust also can’t earmark funding for lobbying as defined by the IRS. We can fund advocacy and nonprofits can use our funding for all allowable advocacy activities; however, we can’t restrict and designate funding for lobbying activity.

NCHT looks forward to sharing more with you in January about our advocacy grantmaking. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to Ray, Sam or Anna if you want to learn more about nonprofit advocacy.