Policy advocacy—pushing for legislative action on an issue — is a busy arena, with a wide range of organizations devoting billions of dollars and significant time and energy to advocacy activities every year. Almost three out of four nonprofit organizations engage in policy advocacy, and our experience suggests that just as many large foundations aim to influence policy through grant-making and other activities, though they cannot engage directly in lobbying. This is not surprising: after all, investments in advocacy can yield significant returns, as government spending in furtherance of any policy dwarfs even what the largest foundations and nonprofits could spend directly.
Despite this attention to advocacy, there is often little clarity about which activities are most effective, even among leaders of organizations that are active in it. But advocacy does not have to be a mystery. Drawing on our experience working with foundations and nonprofits, an extensive literature review, and numerous interviews with current and former policymakers and advocacy practitioners, we have developed a set of frameworks that nonprofit and foundation leaders can use as they formulate their advocacy strategies.
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