Nonprofit advocacy seen paying off

Advocacy efforts by nonprofits in Pennsylvania over the last five years have led to more than $3.1 billion in benefits to underserved populations in the state, a new study says.

Each dollar invested in advocacy during the five-year period by 13 nonprofits in returned $122 in benefits to local communities, says the report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

That does not include non-monetary benefits like protecting clean water and providing educational services for students with cognitive disabilities.

About 85 percent of the $26.1 million spent on advocacy was provided by foundations, including the FISA Foundation, Heinz Endowments, Philadelphia Foundation and William Penn Foundation.

“More foundations are recognizing that grantmaking for policy engagement can help improve lives and build communities,” Debra A. Kahn, executive director of Delaware Valley Grantmakers, says in a statement.

Investments from 2005 to 2009 yielded benefits of nearly $3.2 billion, including $1 billion in extra wages for minimum- and low-wage workers and $827 million in additional funding for public schools.

Based on these findings, the report provides five recommendations for funders:

  • Increase the share of grant dollars targeted to advocacy, organizing and civic engagement for underserved populations
  • Be a “responsive” funding partner to grantees by providing assistance that goes “beyond the grant”
  • Support the nonprofit advocacy and organizing infrastructure
  • When possible, combine funding for services and advocacy
  • Award general operating support and multi-year grants

“The recent recession has threatened the fabric of the advocacy infrastructure and many gains are at risk,” the report says. “Funders can ensure that ground is not lost and enhance their impact by increasing grants for civic and policy engagement.”

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