Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

March 7, 2007

Media fight shows power of advocacy

Nonprofits can shape public policy.

Just ask Free Press, a nonprofit that has led a grass-roots drive against a push by the Bush administration to let newspapers and broadcasters own one another in most markets.

As The Wall Street Journal reports today, while progressive grass-roots activitists are better known for opposing the Iraq war, their bigger impact may have been on national media rules and telecommunications policy.

“Free Press has effectively blocked some of the most-wanted issues on corporate wish-lists,” the Journal says.

Not all nonprofits are advocacy groups, but all nonprofits can get involved in efforts to shape policies that affect their constituents or the charitable marketplace overall.

Fear of payback or lack of knowledge about the advocacy role they can play may be keeping nonprofits from getting involved.

By learning the rules of nonprofit advocacy and getting involved, not necessarily in a leading role but by lending their voice to a larger effort, nonprofits can indeed make a difference.

The rest is silence.

Congressional eye on nonprofits

Nonprofits will be the focus of a new caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, The Examiner reports.

Co-chaired by Republican U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes of North Carolina, the bipartisan Congressional Philanthropy Caucus could be matched by a new caucus in the Senate, The Examiner says.

Accounting for roughly 5 percent of gross domestic product and receiving $260 billion in annual charitable contributions, the nonprofit sector clearly is on lawmakers’ radar.

Yet the charitable marketplace is largely unregulated, and many lawmakers and regulators have voiced serious concerns about scandal and excess in that marketplace.

So the new caucus gives all nonprofits yet another reason to get involved in advocacy and help keep Congress informed about the challenges they face.

For too long, lobbying on issues affecting the nonprofit sector has been dominated by a few big trade groups like Independent Sector and the Council on Foundations.

But those groups do not represent or speak for the entire nonprofit sector, which is huge, fragmented and diverse.

It is time for all nonprofits to make their voices heard.


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