By Todd Cohen
Policy matters, and philanthropy must work harder to shape it.
Policy — the rules and spending decisions that help define and guide society — affects charities, and their clients and work.
Yet, as Ret Boney reports in PJ’s ongoing series on nonprofits and policy, charities can shy from playing a policy role, may lack the resources or skills to play it, or may not even know they can.
And policy work is critical: Fixing social problems depends on fixing the policies underlying them.
Because their job is to address urgent social needs, many charities see first-hand the impact of existing policies, and can offer insights into how to fix them.
First, though, charities need funding to help them find, strengthen and use their policy voice.
So funders must overcome their reluctance to provide operating funds, and their fear of retaliation from a government quick to threaten critics.
By helping gear charities to be more effective policy advocates, funders can help reduce the barriers to social progress, including the skewed power of political donors and lobbyists.
A free and open marketplace of ideas is vital to democracy.
Critical to that marketplace are charities’ diverse voices, speaking loud and clear.
Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.