Challenging the Decline in Foundation and Non-Profit Public Advocacy

During the last century, foundations and non-profits led the way in public policy development through advocacy on civil rights, health care, and other fundamental community issues. But over the last 20 to 30 years, a number of factors have effectively squeezed foundations and charities from advocacy and lobbying, to the detriment of the public good—according to Gary D. Bass in his opinion piece in the November 1, 2007 issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

For many publicly funded organizations, engaging in advocacy means biting the hand that feeds – state and federal governments – and thus risking harassment or the loss of crucial funds. Then there is the raging question – just what constitutes illegal lobbying, versus good old-fashioned advocacy? According to the author, confusion about what foundation and non-profit groups can legally engage in is also to blame for the shrinking voice of the philanthropic and non-profit sectors in public policy development. He calls on foundations to turn the trend around by providing ongoing support for non-profit advocacy work.

The full article is available on The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s website – for a fee for non-subscribers or free of charge for subscribers. Click here.

The Council on Foundations has outlined some of the regulations that govern lobbying and advocacy by foundations. To read them click here.