SER MWGL Advocacy and Endorsement Policy
In October of 2017 the Board of Directors of SER MWGL adopted a policy on advocacy and endorsement in order that we mighta respond to requests from individuals and organizations to make science-based recommendations on policy issues. The policy is printed below in its entirety.
To provide guidelines and a process for decision-making related to outside requests for advocacy, endorsement and science-based recommendations by SER-MWGL.
- define what it means to engage in endorsement, advocacy, and making science-based recommendations
- develop a set of guidelines for reviewing potential requests for endorsement/advocacy or standalone activities that the chapter might want to undertake to decide what type and level of engagement is appropriate and what is not appropriate; and
- develop a process for making decisions on endorsement/advocacy.
- Endorsement – to express support or approval publicly for a cause or proposal; allow the implication of support through the use of a logo or name
- Advocacy – the act or process of supporting [oral or in writing] a cause or proposal
- Recommendation – to present as worthy of acceptance or trial; to suggest an act or course of action based on data or use of the scientific method
- Lobbying – Directlobbying refers to attempts to influence a legislative body through communication with a member or employee of a legislative body, or with a government official who participates in formulating legislation. Grass rootslobbying refers to attempts to influence legislation by attempting to affect the opinion of the public with respect to the legislation and encouraging the audience to take action with respect to the legislation. In either case, the communications must refer to and reflect a view on the legislation.
The SER-Midwest Great Lakes Chapter recognizes that it may receive requests for, or may proactively engage in, endorsement, advocacy, or science-based recommendations. These activities may advance the goals of the Chapter or provide opportunities for scientific and/or educational outreach to the restoration community. However, the Chapter wants to control use of the chapter name and logo to ensure topics and context align with our mission and purpose, including scientific objectivity. The following guidelines will provide direction for the Board to evaluate the appropriateness of such activities as well as a process for making decisions.
- Activities will be professional, ethical, and will advance the Chapter’s mission and purpose as stated in the Bylaws and as approved by the Board.
- Activities may support local, state, and national policies that support conservation and ecological restoration, provided such activities do not meet the IRS definition of lobbying.
- Activities will be non-partisan – partisanship can be detrimental to long-term membership, sponsors, reputation, etc.
- Statements/activities will not endorse or criticize any elected official or candidate for political office. [As a condition of our tax-exempt status, we cannot work for or against the election of a candidate, or endorse or oppose a candidate; or direct financial contributions to a candidate, political party, or political action committee (PAC), or provide in-kind contributions to a candidate, political party, or PAC.]
- Name and logo will not be used with any discriminatory text or images, and use will not degrade the Chapter’s reputation.
- The Chapter website will be the only contact information provided for events/activities.
- Social media posts considered inappropriate will be removed within 48 hours.Questions for evaluating activities:
- What is the event/activity goal?
- Is the event/activity consistent with SER-MWGL mission and purpose?
- Is the event/activity within the SER-MWGL geography?
- How will our name and logo be used?
- Will materials and media be provided in advance for review, and, if so, are they appropriate?
- Does the event/activity support restoration and/or science?
- Does the event/activity provide positive benefit/exposure for SER-MWGL?
- Would the event/activity be more appropriately addressed at the national level?
- Does the executive committee think that the Chapter membership would support this event/activity?
- Are the reputational risks acceptable?
- Is the event/activity consistent with the guidance in the SER Chapter Advocacy Toolkit?
- Does the request meet the requirements of IRS 501.c.3. status related to political advocacy?
- For white-papers or position statements, does SER-MWGL have the knowledge and expertise to develop an informed position?
Process for evaluation:
- Requests will be submitted using a request for endorsement (RFE) form, which will include:
- Event/activity name
- Primary contact for request
- Date and duration of event/activity
- Goal/purpose (include stated connection to restoration/science)
- Media involved (e.g., print, social)
- Estimated number of people reached
- RFE and any supporting materials will be distributed to the executive committee for initial review and approval. Each member of the executive committee will get one vote on approval.
- Following executive committee approval, RFE and any supporting materials will be distributed to the entire Board for review and comment. Should the vote of the executive committee be tied, a vote will be extended to the remaining members of the Board, with each member getting one vote. In the event there is still a tie after Board voting, the request will be declined under the assumption that the request is too controversial for SER-MWGL to support.
- Requests and all materials will be provided to the SER-MWGL reviewers at least 2 weeks prior to the date that approval is requested.
- Requests for white-papers or position statements on specific issues will be distributed to the Chapter membership for review and comment (and, thus, will require additional time for review and approval); therefore, such requests could require up to 2 months for review.
- Chapter president will be the point of contact for requests.
- Actions may include:
- Sending an email or letter of approval, as well as any restrictions or limitations on the use of logo/name.
- Preparing a white paper or position statement
- Declining approval of the request
Definitions are (generally) from Webster’s online dictionary. No definitions were found in IRS documents for 501c3. No IRS documents use the term “endorse” or its variants; IRS uses “on behalf of”, “in favor of”, “in opposition to”. The definition of lobbying is from the IRS site: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/direct-and-grass-roots-lobbying-defined. For more details on advocacy and lobbying as they relate to SER, refer to the SER Chapter Advocacy Toolkit.