It can be challenging for us nonprofit leaders to move beyond our comfort zones and delve into new areas of organizational growth and opportunity. One area is government—specifically how to determine what government actions are important to our organizations and require immediate attention and what is just background noise and better off ignored. The key question then is: When and how should you engage with the government as a nonprofit leader?

For nonprofit groups, tax, governance and fundraising laws are a given. But sometimes the unexpected can happen and the impact of government can be felt in ordinances passed at city hall, in regulations from a county council order or more broadly at a state, regional or federal level—with rules to navigate and economic determinations to consider.

No matter the level of government, I believe the intentions of those doing the work in the public sector are generally pure, but the challenges from the result of that work can be complex. For my organization, BBB National Programs, those challenges are compounded since we operate on a national and, in some areas, global level.

Addressing government challenges is a multi-step process. First, keep in mind this basic tenet: follow the current law. Sometimes that process can take some digging, with local governments or state legislatures and agencies occasionally completing their work under limited sunshine, given the dearth of local media coverage.

Beyond the laws in place, there are the legislation, rules and regulations under consideration. This is where close discernment of what is real—and what is background noise—comes in. I suggest nonprofit leaders consider following a few paths:

  1. Follow the news from sources you trust.
  2. Read/watch big speeches.
  3. Be a U.S. Supreme Court watcher.
  4. Engage in relevant stakeholder groups.
  5. Follow—and take opportunities to educate—Congress and federal agencies.

Read the full article about government action and engagement by Eric Reicin at Forbes.