Regional events convene and empower local advocates to influence policymakers
WILMINGTON - On Tuesday, November 10, 2015, United Way of North Carolina and United Way of the Cape Fear Area hosted the first of four 2015 Advocate NC! regional forum at the New Hanover County Arboretum in Wilmington, NC.
“Our goal is to take the fear out of engaging elected officials and sharing our side of the story to influence policy decisions,” explained United Way of NC President Laura Marx, after earlier emphasizing to all in attendance that “advocacy is not the demon that some people make it out to be.”
Advocate NC! regional forums are held annually at several locations across North Carolina, hosted by local United Ways in partnership with the statewide organization, United Way of North Carolina. Together, United Way of North Carolina and the local United Way organizations that serve communities closest to the event location plan the agenda and invite area nonprofits, elected officials and other community leaders to attend.
At the Wilmington event, Annaliese Dolph, registered lobbyist for United Way of North Carolina, shared a summary on the latest legislative and policy decisions made in the long session during 2015 that have implications on health and human service agencies and vulnerable populations in North Carolina. She also highlighted areas to pay particular attention to in 2016, some of which included: the National Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit; Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); workers’ compensation changes; and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Because United Ways are most interested in nonprofit issues, additional time allowed for more in-depth discussion around the charitable tax deduction.
Also at the Wilmington Advocate NC! Forum, Ted Fitzgerald from the North Carolina State Board of Elections shared information with attendees about Voter ID Law and answered questions on requirements for 2016. Posters and handouts for local communities were distributed to all in attendance.
“North Carolina 2-1-1 will be a community resource on Voter ID requirements,” shared 2-1-1 Statewide Strategy Director, Heather Black. She explained that call specialists staffing NC 2-1-1, the free statewide human service helpline that is run by United Way of North Carolina, will be prepared to answer basic questions about Voter ID requirements and can offer referrals to resources on how to acquire an ID or transportation in order to obtain one.
Participants engaged in an activity to help them practice some of the initial steps to identify advocacy action items and engage board members and other local advocates in the conversation. United Way’s 2-1-1 Counts www.nc.211counts.org was presented as an advocacy tool which highlights health and human service needs from 2-1-1 calls in every community throughout NC.
Chris Nelson, President of United Way of the Cape Fear Area, said “This event was a great opportunity for everyone to hear the latest news on public policy and to learn about the new capabilities of the 2-1-1 Counts website as a responsive tool to engage community leaders and legislators in conversations about our local community needs.”
Nelson, who serves on the United Way of North Carolina’s Board of Directors, is a strong advocate for both the 2-1-1 Counts dashboard and NC 2-1-1, the statewide information and referral service that is provided through support by United Ways across the state and managed by United Way of North Carolina. The 2-1-1 Counts dashboard recently added a number of enhancements and expansions to its ability to search for information on calls into 2-1-1 for food, shelter, utilities assistance and more. Now, the website allows for searches by state and federal legislative and congressional districts, offering an even more powerful advocacy tool to engage conversations with community leaders and elected officials.
More Advocate NC! Sessions are planned for 2015 in Charlotte, Burlington Asheville. For more information or to register, visit http://www.unitedwaync.org/form/AdvocateNC.