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Philanthropy’s Unified Voice for Policy Is Vital to Strengthen Giving and Eliminate Inequities

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

It has always been vital for philanthropy to speak with a unified voice to advance good policy for our field and our communities. It was the unified voice of the philanthropy and nonprofit sector that played a key role in ensuring that charities were included in COVID-19 relief bills in Congress last year. It was the unified voice of philanthropy that simplified the private foundation excise tax in 2019 — an issue advocated by the sector for many years. It was the unified voice of philanthropy, together with other sectors, over the past four years that helped ensure a fairer and more accurate census count.

Philanthropy’s unified voice is more vital than ever in 2021, with a new administration and new Congress in Washington. A key annual opportunity each spring for philanthropy to speak with a unified voice to Congress is Foundations on the Hill (also known as FOTH), which is the philanthropy sector’s version of a Hill Day. I have been participating in most FOTH events since it started several decades ago, and each year I got the same feeling that I had in my very first FOTH meetings: I was participating in the democratic process in a tangible and meaningful way to make things better for others.

This year #FOTH2021 will be a bit different. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time Foundations on the Hill will be a virtual event over six days, March 16-18 and 23-25, 2021. Presented by United Philanthropy Forum in partnership with the Council on Foundations and Independent Sector, #FOTH2021 will once again be a vital opportunity for philanthropy leaders to come together over a few days to present a unified voice to seek the support of elected officials for policies that encourage giving and address racial inequities, allow us to focus on our missions, and effectively utilize our resources to maximize our impact. We will be meeting in the virtual environment that we’ve all become so accustomed to by now, but that makes the event no less vital than if we were all physically “hitting the Hill.”

#FOTH2021 will be much more than Hill meetings. In addition to providing space for FOTH delegations, led by Forum members, to meet with members of Congress and legislative staff, #FOTH2021 participants will have the chance to participate in an unprecedented virtual conference experience. This year’s FOTH will provide opportunities to hear from keynote speakers, receive detailed and thoughtful legislative briefings, and participate in immersive panel discussions and breakout sessions. Michael McAfee, President of PolicyLink, and Congressman David Scott (GA-13), new chair of the House Agriculture Committee, headline a roster of over 25 speakers and panelists who will engage with attendees and challenge them intellectually.

I have witnessed firsthand the direct impact of philanthropy leaders coming together for a concentrated period of time to meet with their legislators on the Hill during FOTH. I have seen new relationships form between funders and members of Congress or staff; I have seen supporters secured for important bills for our sector; I have seen legislators and their staffers gain a better understanding of the role and value of philanthropy as potential partners with government to tackle big issues; and much more. There is power in being able to tell your Representative that you are on the Hill with more than 275 of your philanthropy colleagues from around the country who are all behind the same issues that you are advocating for in your meetings.

The future of American generosity is not guaranteed. Public policy is crucial to preserving the spirit and capacity of American generosity and eliminating systemic and structural inequities that persist. If you are a funder who cares about advancing good policy for our sector and our communities, please lend your voice to our sector’s unified voice at #FOTH2021.

To participate in this year’s Foundations on the Hill, reach out to the delegation captain for your region or contact Matthew L. Evans, the Forum’s Director of Public Policy, at

David Biemesderfer
President & CEO
United Philanthropy Forum
Follow me @dbiemesderfer

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