Nonprofit lobbying seen as underfunded

Because of a lack of resources, many U.S. nonprofits don’t engage in lobbying or advocacy, two critical tools that could be used to further their missions, a new report says.

Many groups also avoid lobbying because they worry that publicizing strong positions on issues could offend their donors or board members, says the report from the Johns Hopkins University Nonprofit Listening Post Project.

And while many nonprofits are adept at responding to policy proposals, they often lack the resources and skills to develop alternative recommendations, the report says.

The report is based on a panel discussion, involving experts and practitioners in nonprofit advocacy, the explored how the sector can boost its effectiveness in the public-policy process.

“Nonprofits are supposed to be the agents of democracy and give voice to the powerless,” Lester Salamon, director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at Hopkins, says in a statement. “But their ability to do this is hampered by limited funding.”

To strengthen their advocacy capabilities, the report recommends nonprofits become more strategic and innovative by recruiting end-users of their services to participate in advocacy.

Nonprofits also should ask board members to reach out to their own social networks, and should encourage foundations to allocate more grant funding to lobbying and advocacy efforts.

And nonprofits should do a better job of educating lawmakers and the public about the role effective advocacy plays, and about the importance of nonprofits’ involvement in the public-policy process.

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