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AFP Texas Legislative Action Day: Empowering the Nonprofit Voice in Texas Policy

February 5, 2013

As states around the country prepare for the New Year and the policy implications that will come at both the federal and state levels, Texas AFP chapters began their own education and outreach campaign—for policymakers of the Texas State Legislature.

On January 29, over 50 AFP members from six of the twelve chapters in Texas, met at the state's capitol in Austin to participate at the AFP Texas Legislative Action Day, themed Empowering the Nonprofit Voice in Texas Policy. The goal was simply to raise the awareness and educate legislative offices that AFP members were available to provide expertise on issues relating to fundraising, philanthropy and tax exempt organizations.

“We’re past the point where we can be reactive,” mentioned participant Sally Ehrenfried, who serves on AFP’s US Government Relations Committee. “We really need to be proactive in forming these relationships. I think the charitable deduction fight has taught us that we can’t just say we’re nonprofits, we do good, so don’t touch us.  We have to be proactive, follow the issues and advocate for ourselves.” 

The idea for the inaugural AFP Texas Legislative Action Day, spearheaded by the AFP Greater Austin Chapter, was a stretch goal dating back to 2011 that started with a program session at the chapter’s annual Member for A Day conference. A session entitled ‘Do’s & Don’ts to Nonprofit Advocacy” started the momentum, and focus grew in 2012 at the Legislative Affairs Committee to organize AFP chapters from across the Lone Star State.

“Given the growing reality of government meeting its budgetary restrictions and obligations, nonprofits are increasingly asked to bear more of the burden while being allocated fewer resources to meet the growing needs of our communities,” said Erica V. Ekwurzel, CFRE, director of legislative affairs for the AFP Greater Austin Chapter. “We took this shift as an opportunity to extend that value and benefit produced by AFP.”

Marion Martin, CFRE, president of the AFP Greater Austin Chapter added,  “With the State Capitol in our chapter’s backyard, we felt an obligation to help create a legal, safe and collective way to bridge our chapters across the state and develop a collective voice of AFP and our association’s values in ethical fundraising and community impact.”

The event included opening remarks from Representative Mark Strama, a long-time champion of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, followed by advocacy trainings led by Arnold Public Affairs and AFP International Headquarter’s (IHQ) general counsel, Jason Lee. Participants then were organized into small groups and headed to over 20 legislative meetings, which included a constructive meeting with the Texas Lieutenant Governor’s Office.

“What Greater Austin Chapter put together is a very good model for other nonprofit organizations to use in putting together a state advocacy day. It was very well organized, resourceful and had more of an impact by going in as a collective group as opposed to individual meetings,” commented participant and committee planning member, Michael Delzotti, CFRE, who also serves as chair of AFP-IHQ’s U.S. Government Relations Committee. “It’s something that can be packaged and developed for other AFP chapters around the country.”

Other key milestones that transcend beyond this inaugural event include Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate resolutions, as well as a Governor’s Proclamation, aa recognizing AFP and its role in community impact and November as Texas Philanthropy Month. Click here to read more about the construct and highlights of the day.

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