Alliance for Justice West Coast Office
The states along the west coast of the U.S. have long been at the forefront of economic, social, and political movements that have profoundly affected American life. The west coast in general, and California in particular, have been the incubators of many of the policies that have subsequently been adopted elsewhere in the country – both progressive policies such as environmental protections and living wages for workers, and conservative efforts such as restrictions on affirmative action, “tax revolts” that strip funding for essential human needs, and xenophobic rules that adversely impact new immigrants. Furthermore, activists in these western states have increasingly reached beyond traditional legislative methods for adopting such policies by turning to the direct democracy of citizen initiatives and experiments with varying methods of selecting political leaders, from Oregon’s move to by-mail voting to the 2003 California recall election.
With a less settled and entrenched political culture, policy advocates on the west coast have adapted and responded to a host of widespread and free ranging democratic efforts from both sides of the political divide. At the same time, partly as a result of a libertarian ethic arising out of the “pioneer” experience, and partly in response to the federal government’s “devolution of responsibilities in areas such as social welfare and environmental protection, western states have traditionally relied on a robust nonprofit sector to deliver services to under-served populations and ever-swelling immigrant communities, as well as in taking the lead on expanding efforts to protect and conserve the area’s natural environmental endowments.
Driven by this frenetic policy and political experimentation, Californian and other west-coast nonprofits have had to adopt more sophisticated legal structures and advocacy strategies to accomplish their policy goals in the legislative and electoral arenas. 501(c)(3)s have expanded to create sister 501(c)(4) organizations and these organizations have, in turn, created political committees to further expand the scope of their advocacy. California advocates have been at the nation’s forefront in efforts to create new types of advocacy organization –fiscally sponsored programs, 527s, pooled funders for 501(c)(3)s and 501(c)(4) efforts, etc.
AFJ is recognized nationally as a leader in promoting nonprofit participation in public policy. Through its Nonprofit Advocacy Project and Foundation Advocacy Initiative, AFJ offers extensive support to nonprofit organizations on the laws and regulations governing nonprofit communication on policy issues. Both the Nonprofit Advocacy Project and the Foundation Advocacy Initiative are premised on the belief that nonprofit organizations have a unique and necessary role to play in the process of generating and supporting sound, effective, and just public policy.
Throughout its existence, AFJ has provided an increasing level of assistance to nonprofits and foundations in the western U.S. in general and California in particular. Given the pragmatic need for nonprofit participation in developing public policy, and with the leading support of two visionary California Foundations – the McKay Foundation and the French American Charitable – AFJ established an office on the west coast in the summer of 2004. We chose the Bay Area since it was midway between southern California and the west coast states of Oregon and Washington. Furthermore, the Bay Area is home to many progressive nonprofit organizations, and has historically been a home to numerous organizations and political movements that have been crucial catalysts to national social and political change.
Since its launch in 2004, Alliance for Justice West Coast Office has continued to grow in its capacity and ability to provide advocacy resources to an ever expanding list of progressive nonprofit organizations. Through telephone technical assistance, in-house meetings, web workshops and on-site workshops, our attorneys and staff are valuable resources for gaining understanding of the laws and regulations that govern advocacy and election-related activities by nonprofit organizations. In addition to staff resources, we provide a library of helpful, easy-to-read publications that clarify and explain the rules that govern advocacy, lobbying and election-related activities.
The most public component of the assistance Alliance for Justice provides are the workshops we offer on the laws governing policy work by nonprofits and foundations. The structure and length of these workshops vary according to the needs of each organization. AFJ’s workshops are tailored to meet local needs and enable participants to expand their organizations’ policy work within the existing regulatory framework. Workshops for nonprofit organizations are customized based on the needs of the sponsoring organization, and can focus on a variety of topics. Click here for a list of our upcoming workshops and to register for one near you:
By establishing an office in California, AFJ has also been able to develop on-site expertise to help California nonprofits understand the requirements of state and local law governing advocacy. Our in-state staff is working to develop greater expertise in California law, from the law governing state lobbyist registration and reporting to the campaign finance and ballot measure issues.
Finally, while expanding our efforts at developing the advocacy capacity of nonprofit organizations operating in the western U.S., the west coast office of AFJ is also working to bring other Alliance for Justice programs to the west coast. In particular, AFJ’s west coast office is a partner of the Coalition for Fair and Independent Judges that helps to engage Californians in the effort to ensure a fair and independent federal judiciary. Through our national Judicial Selection Project, AFJ promotes support for the nomination and confirmation of highly capable and fair judges who have demonstrated a commitment to equal justice.
Alliance for Justice - West Coast Office