“The beauty of this call and the people of Southwestern PA is your willingness to listen, learn, explore, and co-create. We need to do that in a way that changes the way people live, work, and play.”Fred Brown, President and CEO of The Forbes Funds
Guest Speaker Bhavini Patel
The Forbes Funds was joined by guest speaker Bhavini Patel, Cofounder and CEO beamdata and the “Be The Change” platform which connects users to legislators. With an understanding that accessible tools and mechanisms for outreach are needed, her app aims to amplify voices and make advocacy more accessible. A recording of the call can be accessed at this link or below.
Why advocate, and why use Be the Change?
Legislators are hungry for community connections and nonprofit leaders and their constituents are the experts on the needs of the community. Sharing statistics and facts about what is happening in the communities they represent is vital for bringing key issue areas to their attention. Nonprofits are well-positioned to provide vital information to elected officials that may ultimately impact legislation.
This tool centers on “low-lift” activities that support resource-scarce nonprofits and community members to take action in a straightforward and user-friendly manner. The Be the Change Platform provides ease with relationship building and establishing an advocacy voice, both at the individual and nonprofit levels.
Making the distinction between advocacy and lobbying
Advocacy is the process of stakeholders making their voices heard on the issues that affect their organization and the lives of those they aim to serve.
Lobbying involves showcasing direct support or opposition to a specific piece of introduced legislation.
Why Should Nonprofits Advocate?
Nonprofits serve as an equalizer that is deeply concerned about those left without a voice in our communities. US News ranked Pennsylvania #41 in measuring up for constituent needs, underscoring the importance of holding elected officials accountable.
Nonprofits are strong examples of what civic institutions can accomplish to sustain health democratic practices. They are already positioned to do advocacy because they represent the voices of many.
Nonprofits’ advocacy can fundamentally solve problems as they are already well informed about government programming, hold a unique position due to their proximity of the work.
Additionally, developing relationships with legislators can help further your mission. Their job success also hinges on their connection to what is happening in your community. Nonprofits can be a great source of knowledge on how they best serve their community.
Also, legislators don’t often hear from constituents on a regular basis unless there is a controversial subject gaining media attention. There is value in staying informed and advocating to show that you are paying attention.
Be the Change Features
- App is free, non-partisan, and available across Pennsylvania
- Regional, location-based visualizations for identifying causes
- Ability to filter by issue
- Individual or organizational profiles for easy identification
- Ability to post issues and share with other community members
Q&A with Bhavini
- Can organizations sign up, or is it a personal basis?
Yes, it can be both. Legislators are curious to keep track of what institutions are interested in. Organizations can include their logo and information.
- After reaching out to an elected official, what happens next?
Many find the process to be intimidating, but a simple advocacy tool can help you get more comfortable with advocacy. From there, there are several opportunities. You can invite legislators to speak to your membership base and build a deeper relationship. Their job is to be seen and available so they can take it back and craft policy. Be the Change is a great entry point and opportunity to build relationship with your legislators.
- How many legislators are using it?
Currently nine, mostly in Allegheny County. Spreading the word is one of the biggest challenges currently, but they are working on getting more onboarded and that begins with consistent use and promotion of the platform. More information on the platform can be found at changeourstate.com
Policy Updates from Arthur Pang
On the federal level, roughly 2.2 million vaccines are being distributed daily. Yet, as supplies become more available, African Americans are receiving vaccines at half the rate of white Americans.
Another disparity includes mask and indoor dining rules across states. Responses to reopening have been varied across states and this trend will like continue as the US strive for herd immunity by late July.
Finally, the $1.9T “American Rescue Plan” passed in the Senate over the weekend and is being sent back to the House with several modifications – key changes include UE benefit extension to Sept. 6th with a reduction to $300 weekly, as well as government coverage of COBRA premiums between April 1 through September 30th. Additionally, the U.S. Treasury named that it will invest $9B in minority communities (e.g. small business loans).
Also on the federal level, Pres. Biden is aiming to making voting easier via executive order, along with Congressional pressure to restore the Voting Rights Act. The consideration on raising the minimum wage and unsuccessfully doing so has also stoked calls to end the Legislative filibuster.
Finally, U.S. House legislation regarding pregnancy discrimination bill as well as George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed.
The state of Pennsylvania is slated to receive 100,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine this week, boosting the availability of vaccines to more essential workers, including education professionals.
In additional news, a PA Farm Bill includes funds to improve children’s access to health, local foods, and Gov. Wolf pledged $300M to support child care providers. Also in Western PA, violence against trans people of color has risen substantially, raising concern regarding hate crimes in the region.
Announcement of “Supporting Our Leaders Project”
This new project is funded by Jefferson Regional Foundation and provides mentorship programming to people of color with the goal of building a stronger leadership network in the Jefferson Regional service area. The program will provide a flexible set-up to accommodate schedules. Those who are interested can reach out to the ACCEL team for more information.
Maria Paula Quintero and Dr. Hannah Karolak announced the upcoming ACCEL Roundtable event, “Events in 2021 – How Do We Go From Here” which will feature panelists from PA Women Work, Allies for Health + Wellbeing , and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
Future roundtables will take place on May 18th, September 21st, and November 16th. All Roundtables are free and open to the public
Black Equity Coalition hosted a faith-based Town Hall on Wednesday, 3/10 at 6 pm.
“I’ve expressed as leader of The Forbes Funds for the past 37 months that I would like to see the nonprofit sector galvanize around its role as a safety net for our citizens. And not just be aware of that, but to have a concrete understanding to preserve the integrity of that.”Fred Brown, President and CEO of The Forbes Funds
You can register for future Community Solutions Calls and programming by The Forbes Funds at this link. Thank you for tuning in!