Funding Systems Hamper Nonprofit Influence on Policy


The advocacy power of Nonprofits is hampered by the way nonprofits are funded.

The John’s Hopkins University project the Nonprofit Listening Post, hosted a Roundtable on Nonprofit Advocacy and found that America’s nonprofit organizations are widely involved in efforts to influence the public policies affecting them and those they serve, but are constrained by a lack of adequate resources, including tight budgets and limited staff time.

The way funding is garnered and by whom, hampers the organization’s ability to be an independent voice for social policy and progress.  Chief Executive Officer Peter Goldberg (Alliance for Children and Families and United Neighborhood Centers of America) pointed out that in the human service field, nonprofit boards have grown more conservative over the past twenty years. “This creates a tension in our organizations that is sometimes easier to avoid by staying away from policy and advocacy.”

Other participants noted that in light of funding challenges, they feel pressured to stack their boards with wealthy community members who possess strong fundraising skills. Hoping to maximize their chances of attracting such people, they focus their advocacy solely on the organization’s programs and funding shying away from issues that affect their stakeholders, but which will ignite controversy.

Find more on the challenges facing civil society advocacy in the complete report here.

Our question is: What opportunities are emergent in these challenges?

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