Chapter Profile: AFP Southwest Florida’s Focus on Government Relations
Public policy is playing an increasingly larger role in all aspects of our life, including fundraising and philanthropy.
AFP has had great success in public policy over the years, including this year with the Legacy IRA Act, and is working with other nonprofits and associations to hold a DC Fly-In/Lobby Day later this November in support of the universal charitable deduction.
AFP caught up with a chapter that has been very active in government relations and public policy lately: the AFP Southwest Florida Chapter. Hear from Amy Towery, chapter president, and Rafael Robles, chapter government relations chair, about how they got involved and the guidance they have for chapters wanting to focus more on advocacy, lobbying and public policy.
1. How did you get started with your government relations program?
“The most important step we took in getting started with our government relations program was identifying a board member who was passionate about championing this cause,” said Towery. “For our chapter, that person is Rafael Robles. Rafael has taken on this responsibility, in addition to other roles he fulfills for our chapter. He has made calls to set up appointments with key representatives.”
2. Why is government relations important to the Southwest Florida Chapter?
“Advocacy on the issues that impact our nonprofit and philanthropic sectors is critical to the mission of our chapter,” said Robles. “We have a responsibility not only to our constituencies, but our chapter members and the profession to raise our voices and be heard in federal, state, and local government. It is here where public policy is set which, in turn, eventually effects change for those we serve.”
3. Talk about what issues the chapter and the government relations committee is working on.
“In June of 2022, Rafael set up calls with staff from Senator Rick Scott’s and Senator Marco Rubio’s offices to discuss the Legacy IRA Act and the Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act,” said Towery. “These calls were an important opportunity to make known the impact of these important policies on both donors and nonprofit organizations.”
4. Has the chapter hit any pitfalls in their advocacy work?
“Like anything we do within our chapters as volunteers, we wish we had more time to dedicate to this,” said Towery. “We must remind ourselves that starting small is still a start – and an important one! Setting up one call is progress! AFP Global is providing such tremendous resources for chapters to advocate for issues that impact the entire philanthropic sector. I’m not a career politician—I am a professional fundraiser, so I’ll admit I was a little overwhelmed thinking of all the research I’d have to do to feel prepared to meet with representatives from the Senators offices. The “Cliff Notes” available from AFP Global were a great starting point to learn about the proposed legislation and impacts and helped me feel prepared for the calls.
5. What is the chapter’s biggest success in the government relations space?
“Rafael’s ability to pull together leaders from other chapters within our state for a combined call has been our biggest success in the government relations space,” said Towery. “Along with presenting a unified front from fundraising professionals across our state, this combined effort also demonstrated to the government that we honor their time and attention in matters that impact the entire philanthropic sector. Similar to what we do every day in our profession, we had to ask for the time to make our case and give a voice to issues that are important to us, and getting the meeting is an important first step.
6. What advice do you have for individuals and chapters who want to get involved in advocacy in the Fundraising profession?
“Being involved in your community is what a fundraiser does,” said Robles. “Being informed of the legislative issues that impact that community and the fundraising profession is a natural next step.”
Robles recommends starting your due diligence with the following:
- Get familiar with your legislators and the issues they favor;
- Learn how the legislative process works;
- Research what committees do what; and
- Find who may be your legislative ally locally.
“This will strengthen your ability to better understand government’s role and how it intersects with the issues, your constituencies, and the profession,” added Robles.
Chapter can find these resources and more at the AFP Global website on Getting Started With Your Chapter Government Relations Program.