Divided We Stand – But We Don’t Have to Fall

Because I’m a policy wonk and I’m competitive, I entered an election challenge being run by Politico.  I looked at polls, did my research, and made my projections on a number of races in the House and Senate.  While I don’t know exactly where I’ll land, I’m confident that I shouldn’t quit my day job of advocating on behalf of local Goodwill® organizations and the people they serve and leave the election forecasting to the experts.  That said, based on the results we can make some educated assumptions on how the new Congress may impact Goodwill.  We also know that the new Congress will bring and abundance of opportunity, despite the divided government.  There is already discussion about potential bipartisan agreement on workforce development issues pertaining to apprenticeships and infrastructure.

Among the readers of this blog are local Goodwill employees including their leaders, shoppers, donors, program participants, funders, partners, volunteers, and policymakers.  Many of you receive this blog via email because of your interest in government affairs or your position as an advocate for Goodwill and the people who receive vital services.   No matter what your affiliation is to the mission of Goodwill, you can create opportunities to strengthen our public policy influence.  While the Goodwill Industries International government relations team focuses on federal lawmakers the tips below are applicable for meeting with lawmakers at all levels of government.

Building Relationships

There are a number of newly elected lawmakers who will be taking office for the first time in January.  At the time of this writing, some races are still being decided, however we know that we’ll see a great amount of diversity across race, gender, ethnicity, age, religion, and sexual orientation.  Read their bios and learn about their interests and backgrounds.  Consider sending a welcome letter noting the issues of concern and the things you look forward to working together.  If you work for a local Goodwill, invite the lawmaker and staff to visit your agency to see the mission in action.

Pay attention to the committees which have jurisdiction over the issues that you care most about.  Every committee in the House of Representatives will have a new Chair.  This is an opportunity to educate and serve as a resource.

Leveraging Data and Success Stories

There has been an emphasis on data and evidence-based practices when considering funding and making changes to particular programs.  Local Goodwill organizations serve as incubators of innovation in communities all over the county.  Take advantage of the opportunity to leverage data and results to communicate impact, and pair that data with a success story of an individual who has benefited from the service.  Be an informed advocate – learn more about those programs and those who have benefited on GII’s Legislative Action Center.

Helping to Bridge the Divide

We have a divided government and the country is seemingly becoming more polarized.  Many people feel that the government has failed them.  They may have been out of work or their communities have fallen apart and they are in despair.  No one person in any office is going to be able to address the needs of these individuals.  We need to provide solutions together.  Local Goodwill organizations have a role to play as a partner, a convener, a service provider, and an employer to provide opportunities for individuals who feel they have none.

As an advocate for Goodwill, you have an important place in this conversation.  We hope that you’ll continue to help us advance our issues as we work to educate and engage the next Congress and equip them with the information they need to advance policies that protect Goodwill, the nonprofit sector, and they people they serve. We invite you to register for our Legislative Action Center, follow us on Twitter, provide input on our public policy agenda – be a part of the solution.