Measurable Impact from Policy Engagement Philanthropy in the Northwest

posted on: September 29, 2010

If you’re on the fence regarding the relevance and effectiveness of funding nonprofit advocacy and community organizing, check out our newest report: Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities: Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing and Civic Engagement in the Northwest Region.

Philanthropy in the Northwest region is an interesting study – it’s home to some foundation heavy weights, as well as several of the “philanthropic divide” states. It is a region of staggering diversity (in terms of its demographics, geography, culture and history), complex social and political environments and longstanding disparities. Yet, our research shows how, despite these challenges, nonprofits in the region use creative and innovative strategies that bring real and long-term benefits to their communities such as children’s access to health care, minimum wage, environmental protection, LGBTQ rights and protection from predatory lending.

In addition, an analysis of information from 20 nonprofits from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington shows some impressive numbers:

  • Together, these groups and their allies brought in more than $5 billion for marginalized communities in the form of higher wages, state investments, savings and other benefits.
  • They trained more than 11,000 leaders, turned out 417,000 in public actions and registered more than 7,100 voters.
  • For every dollar invested in their policy engagement efforts, there was a return of $150.

Foundations provided 69 percent ($23.2 million) of funding for the groups’ advocacy and community organizing efforts – and considering the staggering ROI – I’d say that was a pretty good investment!

For those foundations that are concerned about impact and getting the biggest bang for their limited philanthropic dollars during a time of great need, NCRP invites them to consider these numbers.

Not convinced? Check out the four other reports (looking at New Mexico, North Carolina, Minnesota and L.A. County). You’ll see that it’s not just a fluke.

These reports look also at specific practices for effective policy engagement grantmaking. In the Northwest, our recommendations include:

  • Talking to you board and/donors about how advocacy and community organizing can help achieve long-term goals.
  • Adding policy engagement in your foundation’s toolkit, or consider increasing support for these strategies.
  • Working with other funders and learning from each other.
  • Investing in grantees’ organizational capacity and advocacy infrastructure.
  • Providing general operating support and multi-year grants.
  • Don’t forget rural states, or states that may seem too resistant to change.

Learn more! Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities in the Northwest Region is available for free on the website, along with a quick summary of our findings, and the press release.

Tell us what you think about the report – we look forward to hearing your feedback.

Yna C. Moore is communications director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP).