On one D.C. couple’s first date, they discovered that they both shared a goal of starting a nonprofit.
Less than a year after their wedding, Billy and Callie DeLancey kicked off Lobbyists 4 Good.
They want to focus on helping people “navigate Congress,” Billy DeLancey said. The goal is to give the general public access to D.C. lobbyists.
“We want to be the go-to resource for people to get their voice heard in government,” he said.
The organization uses a crowdfunding platform, which allows anyone to create advocacy campaigns around social issues they care about and start raising money. People have a year to reach their funding milestone.
Anybody who creates a campaign and raises $31,000 within a year gets access to either a lobbyist or a lobbying firm on retainer for six months to work on the issue, or a partnership with other nonprofits in the field.
“Billy came up with the concept and the goal was, full time, we’ll start this nonprofit together and run it and the timing just kind of fell into place,” Callie DeLancey said.
The organization launched in February 2016, but the DeLanceys changed the model after a year to the current platform.
Under the original model, the group raised lobbying funds for government programs that either promoted peace or worked to change campaign finance rules. But the couple decided it would be more effective to allow people to decide their own issues.
This summer, the DeLanceys are ramping up efforts to ensure lobbyists are in place on Capitol Hill by September when lawmakers return from August recess.
“We know hiring lobbyists works, but the only people who can afford them are wealthy donors and corporations,” Billy DeLancey said. “Long-term, we hope to see as many lobbyists working for the people as there are lobbyists working on behalf of the business community.”
After returning from a two-year stint with the Peace Corps in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, Billy DeLancey spent three years, from 2012 to 2015, at the Department of Agriculture as a program analyst and a public affairs specialist.
“A couple years ago, [he] saw firsthand the power of lobbying and came up with the idea to crowdfunding lobbyists,” Callie DeLancey said of her husband. “We knew there was potential for the idea to change the way government listens and responds to the people and we both agreed it was worth pursuing.”
Callie DeLancey has been working full time at Lobbyists 4 Good since April. She previously worked at the Committee for Economic Development for just under three years as a foundations relations manager.
She had been helping out with the nonprofit when “all of a sudden, a couple hours at night turned into five hours at night,” she said.
“I took the leap and I left my job,” she said.
The name of the organization speaks to the couple’s goal.
“Many people advised us not to use the word ‘lobbyists’ in the name because the term is so misunderstood and carries such a negative connotation outside of D.C.,” Callie DeLancey said. “However, we decided that not using the word would be disingenuous to our mission of giving everyday Americans the same access to lobbyists as businesses and special interest groups.”
So, they included the word to show that “lobbying can also be used as a force for good.”