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Advocacy funding pays off big, study says

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Aaron Dorfman

Aaron Dorfman

Foundation funding to support policy advocacy, community organizing and civic engagement generated significant returns for low-wage workers, communities of color, rural residents and other marginalized groups a new study says.

Over three years, 110 organizations in 13 states received $231 million from at least 321 foundations and other donors and leveraged those funds to produce $26.6 billion in benefits for communities and taxpayers, says Leveraging Limited Dollars, a study by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

That investment in policy work and civic engagement provided a return of $115 in community benefit for every dollar invested, says the study, which summarized the finding of seven earlier studies the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy conducted as part of its “Grantmaking for Community Impact Project.”

Groups that benefited included low-wage workers, communities of color, rural residents and other marginalized groups, the study says.

Organizations receiving those funds affected hundreds of policies on a broad range of issues, the study says, with some leading to additional government spending, some saving government spending or making government programs more efficient and effective, and some helping generate public revenue.

Over 700,000 residents in the 13 states studied were given the opportunity to voice their concerns publicly.

And the 321 grantmakers that supported the work of one or more of the organizations studied contributed, in the aggregate, over three of every four dollars spent on policy work and civic engagement.

Campaigns that advocates and organizers in multiple states undertook focused on raising the local or state minimum wage; increasing funding for public schools and pre-kindergarten; and spurring the development of affordable housing through housing trust funds.

In North Carolina, for example, the Raleigh-based A.J. Fletcher Foundation teamed with housing advocates and the state’s Housing Finance Agency to try to increase allocations for the state’s housing trust fund.

A grant from the foundation to the Campaign for Housing Carolina enabled its leaders to enlist new partners, including AARP, ARC and the North Carolina Bankers Association, the study says.

And the foundation’s principals, including Jim Goodmon, president and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Co. in Raleigh, and his wife, Barbara Goodmon, gave the issue airtime on the company’s television stations and promoted the cause with business leaders and state lawmakers, the study says.

The effort led to an increase in housing funds that benefited 6,000 low-income elderly and disabled households, was expected to generate $232 million in new construction and rehab, created thousands of construction jobs, and generated $44 million in state and local tax revenues, the study says.

“Foundation funding for advocacy and civic engagement results in substantial benefits for families and communities across the nation,” Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, says in a statement. “These strategies enable nonprofits and grantmakers to address complex social and economic challenges and improve the lives of the underserved.”

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