Skip to main content


Search Tip: Search with " " to find exact matches.

During the first week of October, more than 60 sector leaders and advocates from foundations and regional and national philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs) gathered virtually for United Philanthropy Forum’s 2023 Philanthropy + Policy Institute. Esteemed guest speakers and attendees convened to discuss and develop ways to position PSOs as the catalysts for sector advocacy efforts and foundations' role as both advocates and in supporting year-round public policy work.

The rules and practices of lobbying for nonprofits and foundations, along with opportunities to advocate for equity in the Farm Bill, state-level voting policies, and a fair and accurate Census count, were just a few of the topics presented and discussed. An integral component of the Forum’s annual public policy and advocacy programming, the Philanthropy + Policy Institute strengthens the capacity of our network and their foundation partners to collaboratively advocate for a strong sector and vibrant, healthy, and equitable communities.

The 2023 Institute’s throughline – PSOs leading advocacy efforts and foundations advocating and supporting nonprofit capacity – was coupled with a consistent emphasis on advocacy work as a means to advance solutions.

Framing Public Policy Solutions and Advocacy Initiatives

Many speakers and attendees stressed the opportunity that public policy work presents to PSOs and foundations an opportunity to advancesolutions to issues affecting the sector and communities. This focus and orientation ties neatly into the FrameWorks Institute’s primary recommendation for effectively framing social change communications: Lead with Solutions.

FrameWorks identifies three key steps to lead social change communications with solutions:

  1. Cite concrete solutions and relatable stories about how actions will make a difference.
  2. Note collective solutions and institutional changes rather than individual behavior.
  3. Recommend possible (though not necessarily easy) solutions that will affect social change aligned with your mission.

In these unprecedented times, according to FrameWorks, organizations can over-emphasize problems in their communications in a way that actually decreases audience engagement and action. Stressing the enormity and complexity of a problem without showing a tangible solution can dissuade your audience from understanding their role in addressing the challenge.

During this year’s Philanthropy + Policy Institute, speakers and attendees spoke about how PSOs can engage in advocacy work to educate foundations, nonprofits, lawmakers, and the broader public about potential solutions that would strengthen the sector and the communities we work with and in. The conversation also touched on the role that foundations can play as advocates and by supporting policy and advocacy efforts year-round.

For example, Demos President Taifa Smith Butler kicked off the Institute by speaking about Demos’ support for a network of frontline nonprofit democracy advocates, enhancing civic engagement, and the importance of year-round philanthropic sector engagement. Other presentations touched on engaging board members about advocacy, the role of 501(c)3s and (c)4s in power-building, using data to strengthen charitable tax incentives, and more.

Philanthropy Day of Action for the Charitable Act: Collectively Advocating for Legislative Change

The Institute's programming highlighted advocacy efforts as a means to advance practical public policy solutions. The Charitable Act, for example, which would restore and expand the non-itemizer charitable deduction, was discussed as a solution to help turn the tide on the historic decline in giving and increase in the concentration of giving among people with higher incomes.

The first day of the Institute coincided with the Philanthropy Day of Action in support of the Charitable Act. The Day of Action exemplified collective action for institutional change. Because of Forum PSO members’ efforts to mobilize their foundation members and the broader sector, dozens of Members of Congress received letters, phone calls, and social media posts asking them to co-sponsor and support the Charitable Act, and one senator, Ted Budd (R-NC) signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill on the Day of Action.

#PPI2023: Tools for PSOs to Lead the Way

Despite the challenges facing communities across the country, the Philanthropy + Policy Institute showed that PSOs have a broad set of tools that can be used to lead advocacy efforts for the sector and the communities we work with and in. The Forum is proud to help lead that work and appreciates the guest speakers, presenters, and attendees who helped to ensure that #PPI2023 has a lasting impact on the work of our member network and the broader sector.

Next Steps: Advancing Solutions for the Sector and Communities

The other essential public policy and advocacy event the Forum leads – Foundations on the Hill – provides the next opportunity for our member PSOs, their foundation members, and sector advocates to gather together in person and lead advocacy efforts that seek to advance solutions. Registration will open soon for the 2024 Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). The largest annual public policy and advocacy conference for the philanthropic sector, #FOTH2024, will take place in Washington, D.C., from February 25-28.

Mark your calendars, save the date, and begin making your travel plans to join sector advocates and leaders for an engaging and impactful public policy conference experience. #FOTH2024 will build on the success of this year's Foundations on the Hill, providing multiple days of insightful conference sessions, opportunities to advocate together, and the chance to continue to build relationships with Members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

© 2024 United Philanthropy Forum. All Rights Reserved.


Sign In

Not a Member? Join the Forum to help increase philanthropy’s impact.