Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing and Civic Engagement in PA

Posted by on February 14, 2011

Study: PA nonprofits brought billions in benefits to needy

Advocacy by nonprofit organizations over the last five years has brought more than $3 billion in benefits to poor people, public school students, people with disabilities and other underserved populations, according to a new study on philanthropy.

The report, released the Washington-based National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, highlights the tremendous impact that more than a dozen advocacy and community organizing groups have brought to Pennsylvania.

In Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities: Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing, and Community Engagement in Pennsylvania, NCRP research associate Julia Craig describes and monetizes the policy impacts of 13 organizations in across the state between 2005 and 2009.

For impacts that could be quantified, the benefit over five years was $3,175,929,346, which included $1 billion in additional wages for minimum-wage and low-wage workers in the state; $827 million in new state funding for public schools; and more than $57 million to help create and maintain affordable housing in Philadelphia and other accomplishments.

“This report shows the supreme value that these organizations bring to communities in Pennsylvania,” said Aaron Dorfman, executive director of NCRP. “The nonprofits often work with shoe-string budgets to help and give voice to those people who are overlooked by the system.”

Foundations from within and outside Pennsylvania provided the bulk of support to the groups’ policy engagement efforts during the five-year period, contributing 85 percent of the $26.1 million spent. According to Craig, for every dollar invested in the advocacy, organizing and civic engagement activities of the 13 nonprofits, there was a return of $122 in benefits to local communities.

Pennsylvanians also benefited from non-monetized impacts, including protecting clean water in rural communities and providing educational opportunities for students with cognitive disabilities.

The Pennsylvania foundations recognized most frequently for being effective partners with nonprofits in their advocacy and community engagement efforts are Bread and Roses Community Fund, Samuel S. Fels Fund, FISA Foundation, Heinz Endowments, William Penn Foundation, The Philadelphia Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation and Three Rivers Community Foundation.

Notably, NCRP’s research showed that Pennsylvania’s nonprofit infrastructure is in jeopardy, with many groups struggling to meet greater community needs with fewer resources.

NCRP offered five recommendations for grantmakers to have more significant community impact at a time of escalating need, which include increasing the percentage of grant dollars devoted to advocacy, organizing and civic engagement for marginalized communities; and providing general operating support and multi-year grants.

“More foundations are recognizing that grantmaking for policy engagement can help improve lives and build communities,” said Debra A. Kahn, executive director of Delaware Valley Grantmakers. “NCRP’s report shows that by supporting strong coalitions, philanthropic organizations can foster common ground and be effective partners in pursuit of public policies that benefit Pennsylvanians.”

“Philanthropy has been a key player in Pittsburgh’s continuing evolution,” said Barbara Taylor, executive director of Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania. “NCRP’s report is a valuable tool that demonstrates how advocacy can help philanthropy and nonprofits work together effectively to develop solutions for some of the problems facing the region’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Nonprofits whose work was included in the report were the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, The Arc of Pennsylvania, Asian Americans United, Consumer Health Coalition, Good Schools Pennsylvania, Just Harvest, Lydia’s Place, Mountain Watershed Association, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Women’s Community Revitalization Project, and Youth United for Change.

The report is available online here.

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