A lobbyist is a professional employee or contractor who represents the interests of an organization through direct contact with politicians. The role of lobbyists is often viewed negatively by the public, as a way of helping greedy corporations manipulate the political system. But a lobbyist may also serve as a public or social advocate through nonprofit employment or by representing social interests of a for-profit business.
Social advocacy is actually a common role for lobbyists in both public and private sectors. For-profit lobbyists often promote the public interest in their efforts to sway popular opinion. Additionally, the basic responsibilities of social lobbyists mirror those of for-profit lobbyists. You spend much of your time organizing key messages and points to align with employer interests, contact politicians and community leaders and set appointments. Hounding politicians is a common hazard of the job because it often takes perseverance to get an audience.
The particular motives and themes of social advocacy lobbying vary by nonprofit. Some common messages presented by nonprofit lobbyists include medical benefits for mental health conditions or childhood disorders, environmental standards and community recreation, rights of women, health care reform, endangered animal protection and anti-drug and anti-smoking efforts. Some nonprofit lobbyists advocate on many issues, while others center on one particular cause that ties to the organization. A youth substance abuse rehab facility might have a lobbyist advocate for drug prevention education or better health insurance for substance abuse treatment.
Pros and Cons
A social lobbyist experiences positive and negative job attributes relative to a traditional for-profit lobbyist. You may get paid and supported to fight for causes that you are passionate about. Nonprofits also receive donations to help fund efforts of lobbyists. You can also get media support and public sentiment to help push candidates more easily than business-centric lobbying. Social advocacy lobbying isn't always easy, though. It takes time, effort and diligence to get the public, media and politicians to care about and listen to your messages. Plus, politicians face demanding schedules and limited budgets that impact what causes they can take up.
Education and Training
The education and training required for work as a social lobbyist vary, but employees in this role usually have similar backgrounds to more traditional lobbyists. A bachelor's degree in business, political science, public relations, communications or journalism is a common requirement. Lobbyists also need excellent communication skills, relationship abilities, organizational skills and determination to track down politicians and community leaders. Some nonprofit organizations may develop someone with the necessary personal qualities to take on the role of social lobbying.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.