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2016 Elections Jolt Foundations Into Advocacy Spending

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor , December 12, 2018


While US foundations cannot engage in political lobbying, advocacy work has been boosted since the 2016 elections, according to a study.

A study of US foundations shows that a quarter of them are devoting a chunk of their funds to advocacy work, even if they are banned from outright lobbying, as a result of the election in 2016 of Donald Trump to the White House.

Some 25 per cent of 450 foundations polled by Exponent Philanthropy said that more than half – 54 per cent – have started to pay for advocacy-related programs, or increased their allocations to advocacy.

The organization’s Pulse Check Survey gauges the opinions of its members – foundations with few or no staff, philanthropic families, and individual donors – on certain topics. The most recent survey fielded just after the 2018 mid-term elections examined how changes in Washington, DC, have influenced philanthropic behavior or could affect giving in the year ahead, both in terms of giving practises and investments. Other ways grant-makers said they had changed since 2016 included: changing their allocations to specific funding areas (32 per cent); adding a new funding area (30 per cent); giving more general operating grants (29 per cent), and giving more capacity building grants (23 per cent).

“While the pace of change is often slow in philanthropy, this survey shows that philanthropy, particularly those who operate with few or no staff, can be nimble in responding to current events and the changing needs of a community,” said Henry L Berman, Exponent Philanthropy’s chief executive officer.

Exponent Philanthropy says it is a non-partisan organization with nearly 2,000 members from across the US, representing a range of political viewpoints.

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