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Be Bold! How Foundations Can Engage In and Support Advocacy

Is there a role for foundations to play in advocacy? The answer is yes! Advocacy enables foundations and nonprofits to shape the public debate on important social issues and is one of the most powerful tools foundations possess for creating change.

As part of the Alliance for Justice Bolder Advocacy team, I provide foundations and nonprofits the confidence, tools, and resources to effectively advocate to advance their missions. During this time of great political change, many foundations and nonprofits that have hesitated to step into the advocacy realm now feel compelled to speak out, and those already engaging in advocacy want to learn how they can engage in more sophisticated strategies and campaigns. Foundations can engage in a broad range of advocacy activities, from addressing recent executive actions like the Grantmakers Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees’ joint statement with 50 foundations to forming strategic partnerships with state agencies as did the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

Philanthropy’s role in advocacy is not only to engage, but also to support their grantees’ advocacy campaigns. In a Philantopic blog, the President and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy shared six things funders should keep and mind, emphasizing at “the first and most important is to invest heavily in advocacy, civic engagement, and community organizing.” “Restrictive” grants – grants that include language that prevent 501(c)(3) grantees from lobbying with grant funds – make it much harder for grantees to engage in their full spectrum of available advocacy activities. Federal tax law does not require foundations to include this language. In fact, the law allows foundations to make two types of grants to 501(c)(3) grantees that provide the flexibility to fully engage in advocacy efforts while providing a safe harbor from any taxable expenditure to the foundation.

Foundations have an essential role to play in advocacy. Join Grant Managers Network and Bolder Advocacy on Tuesday, February 28th at 2pm ET to discuss what every foundation needs to know about engaging and supporting advocacy.

Keely Monroe