This week, over 100 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers will descend on Capitol Hill for the 13th annual National Day of Action, organized by the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA). They will spend the day telling personal Peace Corps stories, highlighting the important work that Peace Corps does, and asking for increased funding for the Peace Corps. There is no better advocate for the Peace Corps than a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV). Meetings with constituents is a great way to influence Congress. Since these one-on-one meetings happen every year, we are left wondering, why has there been such low support for the Peace Corps on Capitol Hill?
Despite the efforts of RPCVs, the Peace Corps has been drastically underfunded over the past 7 years. Since 2010, there has only been a 10 million dollar increase to their budget, well below the rate of inflation.
For answers, let's look at current advocacy efforts that are successful and find out what they are doing right. Funding for Global Health has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, from 5.3 Billion in 2006 to 10.2 Billion in 2016.
Non-profits like Save the Children, World Vision, and CARE all have 501 (c) 4 affiliated organizations so they can lobby congress without any restrictions. Many of them hire lobbying firms to meet with lawmakers one-on-one on their behalf. Other stakeholders, like pharmaceutical companies who provide antiretroviral drugs or large for-profit organizations who implement USAID contracts also have a robust lobbying presence. And don’t forget about grassroots organizations like The ONE Campaign or Global Citizens who rally millions of people and recruit celebrities to show their support for Foreign Aid programs. Just look at all the celebrities who attended the free concert below:
The main lesson we can take away from Global Health is the more voices advocating for an issue, the better! Without consistent political pressure, Congress will never actually do anything! And while you won’t find a better advocate than a returned Peace Corps volunteer, our 220,000 strong is no match for the amount of support the 12 organizations advocating for Global Health have built over the years (The One Campaign alone has over 2 million followers on Facebook and Twitter combined).
Now, imagine for a second, that a week after hearing a compelling personal story from one of their constituents, a member of congress sits down with a professional lobbyist to discuss the political upside of funding the Peace Corps, the importance of Peace Corps to foreign policy, and the Peace Corps' role in building a diverse American workforce?
Lobbyists give legislators precise actions to take like which office to talk to, what committee to meet with, and what funding levels to support. Lobbyists also build the support needed around the Hill. What started off as a nice idea is now a tangible, easy victory for that member of congress.
This is why the Peace Corps would benefit if somebody hired a lobbyist on their behalf. There is no better compliment to what is currently being done than a professional advocate who meets with lawmakers to talk about the Peace Corps' role in foreign policy, foreign relationships, and national security.
An RPCV recently submitted a campaign on our platform to hire a lobbyist to advocate for a higher Peace Corps budget. We have chosen a firm that employees a former member of Congress who also happens to be a returned Peace Corps volunteer. We have worked for this lobbying firm before. They are strategic, smart, well connected, and good at what they do. They have built relationships with almost every congressional office and can get meetings with the right people at the right time to make a difference!
The cost of funding this lobbying firm is $5,000 dollars. Will you help Jeff with his goal to hire a lobbyist for the Peace Corps?
Here is Jeff's Story in his own words:
My name is Jeff and I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Vanuatu from 2009-2011. As a RPCV, you understand the enriching experience we gain as volunteers and hopefully witnessed first-hand the impact we have in the international society. I believe that more than ever we need concerted efforts to bridge divisions and understand the perspectives of others. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, many qualified potential volunteers are being denied the opportunity to serve because congress won’t increase the Peace Corps budget, which has remained relatively unchanged since 2010.
I am asking you to donate to this crowdfunding campaign that supports the Peace Corps which I started with Lobbyists 4 Good. The campaign will aim to increase the Peace Corps’ funding to match the growing desire to serve.
For more information, check out Jeff's fundraising page to hire a lobbyist for the Peace Corps.
Billy is the Co-founder and CEO of Lobbyists 4 Good, a crowdfunding platform that allows everyday Americans to hire lobbyists. The opinions in this blog post are his, and do not represent the position of Lobbyists 4 Good.