Thursday, May 14, 2020

Foundation Leaders Admit to Seeking to Influence Public Policy Through Grant Making

According to a study of more than 200 grant makers released by the Center for Effective Philanthropy on Wednesday, nine in 10 foundation leaders say their foundations seek to influence public policy through their grant making and other activities. Not only that, but almost 75% of those foundations have increased their policy efforts during the past three years, most frequently at the state and local levels.

Foundation leaders apparently find nothing wrong with the practice. The study relates that "These efforts are not new, but have increased in recent years." Moreover, "most foundation leaders view efforts to influence public policy as an important way to achieve their goals."

The study published a sample of views held by some foundation leaders:

  •     "Good public policy helps our grants go further, and bad public policy undermines our grant making."
  •     "Public policy can have significantly more impact on the issues we care about than our grant dollars alone can."
  •     "One cannot be serious about, for example, the health of the environment and ignore the importance of policy action on       climate change."

The report maintains that "The primary way foundations pursue their policy agenda is through grant making. Almost three-fourths of foundations that engage in policy work support grantees’ policy efforts."

Yet, the survey found that many foundation leaders run into internal resistance to their policy work. According to the report, "Foundation leaders face some common challenges, particularly when it comes to building board support."

Only 45 percent of leaders said their boards were "completely supportive" of policy efforts, 50 percent said their boards were "somewhat supportive," and 5 percent said their boards were "not supportive."

Of course, we know that private foundations face some limits on their advocacy. For example, they are prohibited from lobbying directly on legislation unless the bill addresses the way foundations operate. Also, they cannot support candidates for public office.

Vaughn E. James

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/nonprofit/2020/05/foundation-leaders-admit-to-seeking-to-influence-public-policy-through-grant-making.html

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