Year of Publication

2011

College

Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Executive Summary

Nonprofit organizations are often a tool by which citizens can engage in the policy process. Many nonprofit organizations engage in issue advocacy. For some nonprofit organizations issue advocacy is the purpose for their existence. For others, issue advocacy is a means of meeting organizational goals. Many nonprofits avoid issue advocacy altogether. The IRS places a financial limit on how much issue advocacy a nonprofit organization may engage in. However, most nonprofits won’t ever come close to this limit. Most simply don’t have as great a need for advocacy, while some will self regulate to avoid losing funding sources. Some literature suggests that there is a negative relationship between some funding sources and the level of advocacy a nonprofit is willing to engage in.

Literature from the field is researched to present a study of nonprofit advocacy, their structures and methods, and the political and financial environment within which they operate. Using data from IRS Form 990 this study then analyzes the relationship between lobbying expenses and funding sources. The funding sources studied are direct public support, indirect public support, government grants, program service revenue, and membership fees and assessments. The study finds a statistically significant positive relationship between several sources of funding (direct public support, indirect public support, and program service revenue) and the level of lobbying expenses reported. The study does not find any statistically significant negative impact of funding source on advocacy activity. Further conclusions are problematic, however, due to limitations in the research design. To truly focus on how nonprofits engage citizens in the policy process through advocacy activities and how they self regulate to protect funding sources will require further research with more and richer data. A recommendation for further studies is made in the conclusion of this paper.

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