The Hill Days are important because like it or not, sometimes success is in showing up.
But, the factor that means the most is often the one most bungled. When a group descends on Washington to “tell our story” or “make our point” the effort is often diluted, because the members involved go off the script and waste precious time with anecdotes and personal matters. But, to me the worst transgressions are the wrong messages. Nonprofits are particularly selfish.
You see, the real reason why most nonprofits visit the Hill is not what is in their mission statement. Actually, it is the development of resources in order to accomplish what is in the mission statement.
Once you understand this, you can understand the typical Hill Days. Instead of informing Congress about the cause, too much time is spent defending one’s tax issues, fighting threatened postal hikes, or on other topics that impact the nonprofit’s ability to raise money.
So with all this energy spent just on holding the business together, who then speaks for the poor?
That needs to be us.
As Catholics, we have the annual Catholic Social Ministries Gathering in February, where advocate leaders can speak to that year’s threats and opportunities involving our faith.
In addition, we can contact our elected representatives throughout the year in their home offices – where such meetings are always more welcomed and appreciated – and speak to real-life poverty concerns. We can join with the Voice of the Poor committee, and sign up for CapWiz and other communication tools, to give that unique Vincentian perspective of walking with the poor. We can inform government leaders at all levels about what it is really like in our - and their - neighborhoods and parishes.
Who speaks for the poor? Do we? Do you?