National Study Reveals Nonprofits Face Persistent Barriers in Public Participation
Preliminary findings of a three-year study of nonprofit charitable organizations' public policy participation indicate strong recognition by nonprofit leaders of the importance of public policy participation as it relates to serving their mission and community. However, a number of key barriers stand in the way of unleashing nonprofits' civic potential.
However, a number of key barriers stand in the way of unleashing nonprofits' civic potential.
The Strengthening Nonprofit Advocacy Project (SNAP) was launched by OMB Watch, Tufts University and Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest as the first national research effort designed to investigate the public policy role of nonprofit organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) of the tax code, which are called charities. The goals of the research are to determine nonprofits' level of involvement in public policy issues, and to identify factors that motivate their involvement as well as impede them.
Findings are based on a survey of over 1700 nonprofits from around the country, data from nonprofits' official tax forms from the Internal Revenue Service, and interviews and focus groups with nonprofit leaders.
While 86% of survey respondents say they participate in policy matters through direct lobbying, mobilizing the public to lobby, or testifying, the frequency of such activity is very low.
Although nonprofit leaders cite advocacy on policy issues as important, persistent barriers including time, limited staff and volunteer capacity, money and complexity of the federal lobby rules deter more frequent involvement.
SNAP also found that major institutions including government agencies and private foundations have significant influence over nonprofits' decisions about whether and how they get involved in public policy at the federal, state and local levels. The findings show that as the percentage of an organization's funding from government or foundations goes up, so does their level of participation, but interestingly the perception that this funding is a barrier to participation also increases.
On the positive side, SNAP also found that mission relatedness is the number one motivator for policy involvement. Moreover, nonprofits' public policy role may be enhanced when nonprofit leaders are able to integrate policy advocacy into their programs and understand the legal opportunities and limits for advocacy and lobbying
Related Link: SNAP Research
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Posted May 28, 2002
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