- What is Grassroots Advocacy and What Does it Have to Do with PTA?
- What is a Lobbying Organization and How is that Different?
- LWPTSA Council Guiding Principles for Grassroots and Nonpartisan Advocacy Events
- How Does LWPTSA Council Support these Principles and Diversity for Our Events?
- How Does LWPTSA Council Ensure Nonpartisan Educationally-Focused Events?
1. What is Grassroots Advocacy and What Does It Have to Do with PTA?
PTA is known as the largest grassroots advocacy organization in the country. Grassroots advocacy is different than organizational lobbying, and grassroots-style advocacy is the heart and history of PTA.
Grassroots advocacy is the empowerment of individuals to self-determine their stances and to tell their own stories. Grassroots advocacy organizations support advocacy efforts by effectively providing tools and opportunities for the obtainment and analysis of information and for the generation of effective communication. Since PTAs are generally 501(c)3 nonprofit corporations, PTAs, by law, are advocacy organizations, not lobbying organizations. But what truly makes PTA unique is our effectiveness, throughout history, in supporting our membership by giving them the tools to become informed, individual advocates.
2. What is a Lobbying Organization and How is that Different?
Because lobbying organizations cannot be 501(c)3 nonprofit corporations, the distinction between a lobbying organization and an advocacy organization is important. Where an advocacy organization prepares and empowers its members to tell their stories, a lobbying organization hires someone, or relies on its leadership, to tell their members’ stories for them. Due to this distinction , under 501(c)3 law, PTAs must remain bipartisan or nonpartisan. This is a difficult balance to maintain. While PTAs can engage in discussions with candidates or party-affiliated organizations, PTAs must always ensure the engagement with these individuals and organizations is educational and informational. PTAs must also provide equal opportunity to participate to the various sides or parities. And, PTAs cannot endorse, or appear to endorse, one candidate or party over the other. That said, PTAs can endorse and support specific issues based on the will of the membership and through the empowerment of individuals to stand up for those issues.
3. LWPTSA Council Guiding Principles for Grassroots and Nonpartisan Advocacy Events
Given these definitions and 501(c)3 law, our LWPTSA Council strives to live up to our organizational history by empowering our members to ask questions, to find their own answers, and then to find their own style and voice for advocacy on the issues that matter most to them. Our mission is to provide a myriad of sources and facts and information from multiple perspectives to ensure we support the needs of all our members across our diverse community.
When we are informed, we are empowered.
Therefore, the following framework helps us reach our goals:
- to provide our members with opportunities to obtain the information and tools they need and request to be empowered to make their own, educated decisions
- to provide opportunities for our community to understand all angles of the discussions currently happening, in their entirety
- to empower our members to be well informed advocates so they can hold productive and effective discussions by engaging with others from all sides of an issue
Our foundational principle is that effective advocacy comes from asking questions, from understanding multiple perspectives, and from creating a matrix of data, information, and knowledge.
Therefore, we strive to provide opportunities for our community:
- to understand the many sides of complicated issues
- to engage with different perspectives and a breadth of organizations
- to empower our members to make their own, informed decisions, and
- to empower our members to generate more effective communication strategies with understanding and empathy in order to generate productive discussions with those who don’t share the same stances.
a. How Does LWPTSA Council Support these Principles and Diversity for Our Events?
LWPTSA Council hosts and sponsors a series of events and educational opportunities over the course of the year, ensuring our members have access and opportunities to engage with a breadth of perspectives and a diversity of organizations:
- Some of our events are made up of panels of participants. For example, we host bipartisan candidate forums and Legislative Update discussions to which we invite all candidates or legislators from all parties and during which we give equal time and opportunity to participate.
- Some of our events, like our Legislative Reviews, often rely on the many organizations and experts working on education and child-welfare policy. For these events, we sometimes have individual speakers and sometimes we host a panel. For example, in December 2016 we hosted Marcie Maxwell, sharing her perspective as a policy advisor for the Governor’s office and a former state legislator; Wendy Rader-Konofalski, representing WEA; and Brooke Valentine, representing WSPTA.
- Some of our events include only individual speakers to facilitate a deeper dive into a given perspective or topic. For example, in December 2017, our Brown Bag discussion on Education Funding we invited only Dan Steele, WASA Executive Director, to share their perspective and assessment of appropriate funding levels needed to ensure fully funded basic education.
- LWPTSA Council has a long history of ensuring we provide a well-rounded approach to advocacy and community education with this method of speaker and organizational diversity. We are grateful to the many organizations who continue to work with us over the course of time, including, but not limited to, Stand for Children, League of Education Voters, LWEA, WEA, WASA, WSSDA, and WSPTA.
b. How Does LWPTSA Council Ensure Nonpartisan Educationally-Focused Events?
Under 501(c)3 law, and in-line with our Council principles, we provide nonpartisan, educational events by:
- focusing on timely and relevant topics
- engaging in discussions around alternate view points
- engaging with a breadth of speakers and organizations that have a diversity of perspectives
- providing platforms for a range of topics
- inviting speakers and organizations with a depth of knowledge, expertise, and experience in the topics of choice
- asking speakers to share the information and data with the foundational principles of critical thinking and evaluation in mind, including asking for discussions around the pros and cons of their analyses and stances
For questions or more information, please contact your LWPTSA Council VP of Advocacy: Erika Kapur