Sustaining a NORC Program
Guiding Principle # 6
NORC programs become advocates for state and local legislation that provides stable, long-term funds.
Actions and Considerations
Begin advocacy early, recognizing that getting legislation passed involves a long-term commitment. Keep the goal of securing funding through legislative mandates in mind from the earliest stages of program development.
Learn how other states developed legislation to support NORC programs. Summarize what you learn about draft legislation, the legislative process, and results from other states in a written document to guide your discussions. But don’t expect to use the same language in your own legislation. State and local legislation needs to be tailored to the unique requirements of each political and physical environment. If you copy someone else’s legislation, you might find yourself boxed in with something unsuitable.
Engage people who are expert in state policy and the legislative process. Identify someone who knows the local political environment, understands how policy is crafted, and can help frame your approach. This person can guide early planning steps, which might include conversations with local legislators and community agencies who could become allies. Find out if this expertise resides among your partners or other stakeholders.
Consult with senior residents and other partners as you plan your advocacy strategy. Sharing responsibilities promotes community engagement and eases staff burdens. You do not need to do everything yourself. Questions you may want to discuss with your partners include:
- What is the likelihood that legislation will be passed, and how long will it take?
- What level of funding can realistically be anticipated?
- What are the competing interests for public funding?
- What features of the NORC program should be highlighted to improve the likelihood of success?
- What role can your partners play in building community support and advocating for legislative funding?
- What resources will the NORC program need to dedicate to its advocacy work?
Build a broad-based coalition of advocates for NORC program legislation. Reach beyond your own partners to link with other NORC programs, state legislative experts, and local agencies committed to changing communities and improving the lives of seniors.
An effective coalition needs committed, accountable leaders who can get the process moving, keep everyone engaged, and be persistent. The coalition also needs a plan and a timeline for moving forward, clearly defined roles for participants, and steps to engage the broader community. Your experience as a convener and collaborator will be helpful here.
Develop draft legislation tailored to your state or local area. Legislative language needs to be carefully crafted to avoid unintended consequences and to ensure that funded programs meet real community needs. In defining eligibility for NORC funding, be sure to consider:
- Appropriate density level (the percentage of older adults in the community).
- Minimum number of older adults (for example, “no fewer than 250 senior residents”).
- Geographic reach (reflecting local housing patterns and with thought to necessary economies of scale).
Successful legislation defines a clear mission and an appropriate service package for NORC programs, and mandates data collection so that the impact of a program can be assessed. Typically, legislation also includes a formula for matching public financing with other grants; for example, for every dollar of public funding, a NORC program may be required to raise 50 cents from private sources. Public policy development guidelines
Be explicit about the benefits for legislators. NORC programs can be attractive to legislators because they intersect with activities that already receive public funding, promote public/private partnerships, strengthen communities, and appeal to voters. Explain how NORC program activities lead to desired outcomes, and share your own success stories, as well as those from other states.
Update and revise action plans for advancing legislation during regular partnership meetings. This focus reinforces the idea that advocacy is part of the NORC program’s basic responsibilities. Evaluate your progress and your chance of success, incorporating the implications into your multi-year budget process.
Keep in Mind
It takes time to get NORC legislation passed, but success has a very high pay-off. Although you are not likely to see results quickly, you can not afford to ignore this opportunity.
You will need resources to advance a legislative agenda. New York, Indiana, and Georgia are among the states in which umbrella organizations, including the Jewish Federation, have taken a leadership role, providing staff and political expertise to pursue advocacy. Work with your partners to figure out what costs you will incur and where to seek funding.
There is no such thing as perfect legislative language, nor a single strategy for selling it to legislators, but there are models to draw on. Talk to others who have succeeded, build on their experience, and avoid their mistakes. Engaging an expert who understands the process of drafting legislation and the specific needs and interests of legislators is essential. Continue to Guiding Principle #7