Project Seeks to Strengthen Public Policy Capacity of Nonprofits

In 2000 and 2001, Focus Project, Washington, collected and analyzed various data on barriers and incentives to participation by nonprofit organizations in the public policy process.

The work was part of a project—named the Strengthening Nonprofit Advocacy Project (SNAP)—initiated by both OMB Watch of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and the Lincoln Filene Center for Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University.

Under the grant, the SNAP team analyzed 1,744 responses to a national survey of charities, interviewed executive directors of approximately 40 charities, conducted 17 focus groups of leaders of nonprofits and created a data set combining information from those sources with data from U.S. Internal Revenue Service filings.

Key Findings

  • Most charities (86%) report they participate in the public policy process, but there is a variance among charity subgroups.
  • Most charities (76%) report that they lobby, but the frequency of lobbying is low.
  • The word lobbying carries a negative connotation.
  • Charities generally understand what federal law allows in lobbying and electoral advocacy, but there is significant confusion about the rules beyond a surface understanding. There is also widespread misunderstanding of federal grant rules among health care groups and others.