Inside Philanthropy

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

March 15, 2010

Advocacy funding pays off big

By Todd Cohen

A new report underscores the big impact giving organizations can make by investing their charitable dollars in advocacy, community organizing and civic engagement.

Seventy nonprofits in Los Angeles County, Minnesota, New Mexico and North Carolina that received charitable investment in policy work generated nearly $14 billion worth of benefits for their communities over five years, plus other monetary gains, says the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

The return on each dollar of those investments ranged from $89 to $157, the report says.

“Foundation support turns indifference into democracy and the benefits of a thriving democracy are indeed substantial,” says Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the group.

In a new report on policy investment in Los Angeles County, the latest in a series of studies the group has made, it found 15 local nonprofits from 2004 to 2008 generated nearly $6.9 billion in benefits for local citizens from $75.5 million invested in their advocacy, organizing and civic-engagement work, or $91 in benefits for every $1 invested.

The benefits included $2.6 billion in higher wages, $2.2 billion in health-care savings, and over $2 billion in increased use of public transit, construction of new schools and expanded affordable housing.

Kafi Blumenfield, CEO and executive director of the Liberty Hill Foundation in Los Angles, says the research shows “foundations best serve their own objectives and generate the greatest impact on communities when we support advocacy and organizing at the grassroots level.”

The report recommends foundations step up grant for advocacy and organizing; help donors understand the benefits of advocacy funding; back collaboration among community groups; pool resources with other grantmakers; and invest over the long term in the capacity of grassroots groups.

By investing in policy and community work, and in building nonprofits’ capacity, foundations and other giving organizations can spur progress in addressing the symptoms and causes of urgent social and global problems.


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