A study released today from a foundation watchdog group says that advocacy efforts by charities can pay off, to the tune of billions of dollars to communities.
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy study examined 110 charities in 13 states and found that work such as pushing for more aid to schools and housing for the poor resulted in $26.6-billion in benefits to communities over five years. Money for the campaigns came from foundations and other donors.
The study comes as the watchdog group is urging foundations to step up their spending on efforts to influence public policy and running a campaign called Philanthropy’s Promise, which asks grant makers to commit to devoting at least 25 percent of their grants each year to advocacy.
Altogether, the report said, the charities spent $231-million on efforts to influence policy makers and the public, meaning every $1 spent led to a $115 benefit to communities, the report says.
Some philanthropy experts say the estimates are not a reliable measure of what charities can achieve. William Schambra, director of the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal at the Hudson Institute says it’s too hard to say that it was precisely the work of the charities that led to the policy changes.
“Any time you try to relate a very specific cause to a very large effect, you’re running into trouble,” Mr. Schambra says. “The notion that a foundation investing X amount of dollars led to this incredible piece of legislation overlooks a few other things, like most of politics, most of economics, and most of culture.”
The report combines the findings of seven studies by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. The three-year project was paid for by $1-million in grants provided by many foundations.