Back to top
Back to top

Public Policy

Images from Foundations on the Hill 2018

We support and advance the work of our members to engage in government relations and public policy work at the national, state and local level; help regional and national PSOs advance effective policy that will strengthen philanthropy and advance issues that their members support; strengthen relationships and partnerships between philanthropy and government; and provide a strong, collective voice for the Forum network. Some of our key efforts in public policy and government relations include:

  • PolicyWorks for Philanthropy. Started in 2011, the Forum's PolicyWorks for Philanthropy initiative aims to build the capacity of regional PSOs and their members to engage in public policy, in order to enhance and advance foundations’ impact on issues that they fund. In 2017 we will be expanding PolicyWorks to include national PSOs.
  • Federal Policy. The Forum helps our members engage with federal legislators, and other federal policymakers, to advance sound policy that ensures a positive environment for strengthening and growing philanthropy in our country and to help bring philanthropy's voice to other important policy issues. A cornerstone of this work in the annual Foundations on the Hill event, which the Forum presents in partnership with the Council on Foundations and the Alliance for Charitable Reform. Foundations on the Hill is the one time each year when philanthropy speaks with a strong, collective voice on Capitol Hill. In addition to Foundations on the Hill, the Forum provides information, resources, programming and networking to help our members engage with their congressional representatives throughout the year back in their districts.
  • State Policy. Many Forum members engage with legislators and policymakers at the state and local level, to ensure a positive environment for strengthening and growing philanthropy in their state and to help bring philanthropy's voice to other important state and local policy issues. The Forum provides information, resources, programming and networking to help our members engage in policy at the state and local level.
  • Census 2020. Thanks to support from The Joyce Foundation, the Forum is managing a project to engage regional funders in ensuring a fair and accurate census count in 2020. Through our Census 2020 Project, the Forum is working with our members to mobilize regional funders to advocate for policy improvements for the 2020 census, and to raise awareness and understanding of the importance of a fair and accurate census count to philanthropy.


Key Issues

Background and resources on policy issues of interest on the federal level. 

Charitable Deduction
2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the charitable deduction. Since 1917, the federal charitable tax deduction has provided a tax deduction for donations made to nonprofit organizations by taxpayers who itemize their tax returns, roughly one-third of all Americans. See the Forum's position and resources on this issue.

Johnson Amendment
A current law, also known as the "Johnson Amendment," prohibits 501(c)(3) charitable organizations from endorsing, opposing or contributing to political candidates and engaging in partisan campaign activities. Three bills introduced in the 115th Congress would adversely affect this law. See our position and resources on this issue. 

2020 Census
Given the importance of the 2020 census to our communities and the challenges it is facing, the Forum is leading an effort to engage philanthropy in ensuring a fair and accurate census count.

Donor Advised Funds
Donor advised funds are powerful tools – both for average people who want to make lasting commitments to their communities, as well as those with significant financial resources who are looking for an alternative to a private foundation. See the Forum's position and resources on this issue.

Simplification of the Excise Tax
A uniform excise tax rate would increase funds available for local communities by freeing private foundations from the administrative task of calculating the amount of additional eligible expenditure needed to qualify for the lower 1% rate. See the Forum's position and resources on this issue.

Other Issues of Interest

Endowed Philanthropy

Position statements made by philanthropy-serving organizations in defence of endowed philanthropy.


Visit Funders Together to End Homelessness to learn more about how philanthropy can help advance solutions that will prevent and end homelessness in our country.

Immigration & Refugee Resources

Visit the website of Forum Member Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees. Their site provides up-to-date resources and information to help you understand the issues and take action.

Responding to State Budget Issues

This statewide movement, led by The Pittsburgh Foundation and United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, invites Pennsylvania nonprofits, community foundations, United Ways and other funders to advocate for full funding of human services in this year’s budget, as well as for permanent reforms that would protect human services providers in future budget delays. 
Find information on messaging and talking points, nonprofit lobbying, foundation lobbying, a social media tookit, a sample letter to the editor, and more.
Forefront (IL) and Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia respond to the ongoing budget crisis in their respective states.

Resource Spotlight

Strengthening Philanthropy’s Capacity to Engage in Policy: Progress Report on United Philanthropy Forum’s PolicyWorks Initiative

Through PolicyWorks, the Forum provides its regional and national PSO members with a wide range of support, including peer learning and sharing, policy-focused webinars, an annual PolicyWorks Institute, an annual policy capacity assessment and profile, and much more. This report highlights key areas of progress for PolicyWorks during its first nine years, based on the responses of 32 regional PSOs. It documents some dramatic gains in regional PSOs’ capacity to engage in government relations, advocacy and public policy work, and the critical role that the Forum has played indirectly supporting this growth.

Related Resources

Charitable Giving Coalition Letter to Ways and Means Committee Members

The Charitable Giving Coalition sent this letter to all members of the House Ways and Means Committee. The Charitable Giving Coalition (CGC), a coalition of associations representing thousands of charitable and faith-based organizations across the country, strongly supports the enactment of a universal charitable deduction.

Find More By:

Related Events