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Nonprofits and Advocacy

Engaging Community and Government in an Era of Retrenchment

edited by Robert J. Pekkanen, Steven Rathgeb Smith, and Yutaka Tsujinaka

Publication Year: 2014

When the Susan G. Komen foundation pulled funding for Planned Parenthood’s breast exam program, the public uproar brought new focus to the high political and economic stakes faced by nonprofit organizations. The missions of 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations, political action committees, and now Super PACs have become blurred as issues of advocacy and political influence have become increasingly entangled. Questions abound: Should a nonprofit advocate for its mission and its constituents with a goal of affecting public policy? What are the limits of such advocacy work? Will such efforts fundamentally jeopardize nonprofit work? What can studies of nonprofit advocacy efforts reveal? Editors Robert J. Pekkanen, Steven Rathgeb Smith, and Yutaka Tsujinaka recognize the urgent need for relevant research and insight into these issues as direct and indirect government services are squeezed by federal cutbacks. Nonprofits and Advocacy defines advocacy and clarifies the differences among advocacy, lobbying, political activity, and education, as well as advocacy measurements. Providing original empirical data and innovative theoretical arguments, this comparative study is organized into two parts. The first part focuses on local and national dimensions of nonprofit advocacy, and the second part looks at organizational politics and strategies. The conclusion considers basic questions about nonprofit advocacy and seeks to draw lessons from research efforts and practice. Providing a critical look at the multidimensional roles and advocacy efforts of nonprofits, this volume will be valued by scholars, students, leaders, and activists—many of whom advocate for the interests of their organizations while delivering services to the same group of constituents. The research is also relevant for policymakers involved in cross-sector public policy initiatives as they strive to provide more efficient public-private solutions to challenging governance issues.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-v


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Nonprofit advocacy across a wide range of issues has received unprecedented attention in recent years. The decision of the US Supreme Court in the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, allowing unlimited campaign...

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pp. xiii-xiv

The two surveys of nonprofits in Seattle and Washington, DC, led by Robert J. Pekkanen and Steven Rathgeb Smith, were conducted by the Survey Research Division (SRD) of the University of Washington and the Urban Institute, respectively. We thank Diane Christiansen, Kimberly...

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Introduction: Nonprofit Advocacy: Definitions and Concepts

Robert J. Pekkanen, Steven Rathgeb Smith

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pp. 1-17

Although nonprofit advocacy has received plenty of attention in recent years, we have relatively little understanding of how nonprofits advocate for themselves and their strategic considerations. These central research questions animate this volume, and each...

Part One: The Local and National Dimensions of Nonprofit Advocacy

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1. The Group Basis of City Politics

Jeffrey M. Berry, Kent E. Portney

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pp. 21-46

Most nonprofits are local in nature. A high percentage is neighborhood based, serving the interests of a compact and relatively small area of a city or town. Although we do not know what percentage of the nation’s more than 1.1 million 501(c)(3) nonprofits operate...

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2. Nonprofit Advocacy in Seattle and Washington, DC

Robert J. Pekkanen, Steven Rathgeb Smith

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pp. 47-65

How do nonprofits advocate? This central research question animates this volume. We adopt an empirical approach to investigating this question, relying here on data gleaned from surveys of nonprofits in King County, Washington (hereafter Seattle), and...

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3. Shaping the Government–Nonprofit Partnership: Direct and Indirect Advocacy

Elizabeth T. Boris, Matthew Maronick, with Milena Nikolova

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pp. 66-84

The Great Recession of 2007–10 affected families, communities, businesses, nonprofits, foundations, and governments at all levels. Unemployment increased and tax revenues declined. Philanthropic giving decreased as demands for supportive services increased....

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4. Nonprofit Advocacy in the Nation’s Capital

Carol J. Devita, Milena Nikolova, and Katie L. Roeger

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pp. 85-106

Civil society advocacy lies at the heart of democratic government. In the United States, the ability to assemble and petition the government is explicitly stated as a constitutional right, and although these rights are afforded to individuals, nonprofit organizations...

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5. From Skid Row to the Statehouse: How Nonprofit Homeless Service Providers Overcome Barriers to Policy Advocacy Involvement

Jennifer E. Mosley

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pp. 107-134

The role of the nonprofit sector in advocating for the public good has been a topic of recent increased scholarly attention. Drawing on existing research on social movements and interest groups, this work has investigated the degree to which nonprofit organizations...

Part Two: Organizational Politics, Strategy, and Tactics

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6. Advocacy in Hard Times: Nonprofit Organizations and the Representation of Marginalized Groups in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina and 9/11

Dara Z. Strolovitch

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pp. 137-169

What are the effects of national crises on nonprofit advocacy, particularly when it comes to organizations that represent marginalized and underrepresented groups in national politics? Following the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon...

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7. Gender Identity and the Shifting Basis of Advocacy by US Women’s Groups, 1920–2000

Kristin Goss

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pp. 170-201

American democracy is increasingly responsive to political elites and moneyed interests (Bartels, 2008; Gilens, 2012; Hacker and Pierson, 2010; Skocpol, 2003). These factions are not representative of the American public (Bartels, 2008; Fiorina and Abrams, 2009...

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8. The Political Voice of American Children: Nonprofit Advocacy and a Century of Representation for Child Well-Being

Doug Imig

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pp. 202-221

Public interest groups, citizens’ groups, nonprofits, and social movement organizations play a critical representative role in American democracy (Berry, 1977; Schlozman and Tierney, 1986; Truman, 1951). In the words of a recent Aspen Institute study, “active...

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9. Analyzing the Practice of Nonprofit Advocacy: Comparing Two Human Service Networks

Jodi Sandfort

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pp. 222-253

Engaging in public policy is an important and well-established role for nonprofit organizations. Yet, as other contributors to this volume explain, initial research about nonprofit advocacy assessed public policy in relation to abstract frames from social science...

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10. Effective Advocacy: Lessons for Nonprofit Leaders from Research and Practice

Gary D. Bass, Alan J. Abramson, Emily Dewey

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pp. 254-293

Most of the chapters in this volume report on original research studies that have as their main goal the scholarly objective of deepening understanding of nonprofit advocacy. In contrast, this chapter has a more applied purpose: to draw on scholarship—from...

List of Contributors

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pp. 295-296


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pp. 297-303

E-ISBN-13: 9781421413501
E-ISBN-10: 1421413507
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421413495
Print-ISBN-10: 1421413493

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 25 line drawings
Publication Year: 2014