This year, sitting out legislative policy fights is just not an option.

Enter the question of lobbying and some timely new research from academics at George Mason University and the University of Miami. Lobbying is an uncomfortable topic for many nonprofits, but the study's authors challenge the pervasive view that the often-maligned practice is nothing more than a quid pro quo exchange of money for votes. In a piece describing the research, study co-author Jennifer Victor maintains that lobbying is about relationships and is, in fact, an essential part of our democracy.

Lobbyists provide an efficient, effective, and knowledgeable source of high-quality information that gets injected into the policymaking process at all stages. This is generally a good thing, because it can significantly help lawmakers fill gaps in their knowledge base.

By now you can guess where we're going with this: not only should nonprofits revisit their thoughts on lobbying, they should also seriously consider getting in the game. Lobbying is entirely consistent with public charities' charitable and educational missions because it deals directly with the regulatory and statutory context in which groups function. And if nonprofits won't speak for the people they serve when fundamental decisions are being made, who will?

Read the full article on nonprofit lobbying by Abby Levine at PhilanTopic.