Can health centers advocate? YES, and you should! It’s incredibly important that health centers including employees and board members advocate in order to continue to build support for health centers and further the health center movement. Not only will it help you promote your center in your community, recruit providers, and improve patient satisfaction, but more than 75% of a Health Center's budget is determined by federal, state, and local governments' decisions.
Keep in mind some limits to what non-profits can do:
Providing educational information regarding your health center, the services it offers, the patients you serve, and the general challenges faced in your community to both elected officials and the general public is completely fine and encouraged. There is no limit to the amount of general advocacy and education you or your health center can provide.
Attempting to influence legislation in some way is considered legislative advocacy or lobbying. Health centers can engage in this activity, but they cannot use ANY federal funds to do so. Centers must also keep lobbying expenses below 5% of the organization’s time and effort.
Health centers as organizations CANNOT participate or intervene in any political campaign, nor can they be involved in partisan activities. However, everyone has the right to be involved in political campaigns and or partisan activities in their personal time (off the health center clock) so long as they are not speaking on behalf of the organization.
Webinar Recording: "Say What? Lobbying Do’s and Don’ts" (December 2014) (slides here)