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Started in 2011, the Forum's PolicyWorks for Philanthropy initiative aims to build the capacity of regional philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs) and their philanthropic members to engage in public policy, in order to enhance and advance foundations’ impact on the issues that they fund. In 2017, we will be expanding PolicyWorks to include national PSOs. PolicyWorks seeks to prepare PSOs for individual, collaborative and collective policy work at the local, state, regional and federal levels.

Purpose and Scope

Building and maintaining relationships with policymakers is essential to the philanthropic sector’s ability to: educate policymakers about the work, value and impact of foundations; advise policymakers about potential legislation or regulation that could harm the sector and decrease much needed philanthropic dollars; gain policymakers’ support for legislation that could support the growth and effectiveness of philanthropy; and build partnerships with policymakers to achieve policy reforms that improve the quality of life for those that foundations seek to serve.
The Forum provides a wide range of services to help our members build their capacity for engaging in public policy and government relations work. This includes regular educational programming, ongoing technical assistance, annual capacity profiles to help them track their public policy capacity and compare it to their PSO peers, an annual PolicyWorks Institute, and in-depth sharing and networking among PSO leaders engaged in policy and government relations work.
The PolicyWorks initiative has resulted in some dramatic gains in Forum members' public policy capacity. A few examples,
  • The percentage of regional PSOs that have designated staff for policy work has increased from 48% to 81% since the start of the initiative six years ago.
  • The percentage of regional PSOs that have worked to help their philanthropy members engage with policymakers increased from 41% to 72% over the same time period.

For more information on the Forum's PolicyWorks for Philanthropy initiative, please contact Maggie Osborn, (202) 386-6426.

Building Systems

PolicyWorks Starter Kit & Case Studies

The PolicyWorks Starter Kit has been created for use by the PolicyWorks Community of regional associations of grantmakers who have made a commitment to growing their capacity and increasing their work in government relations and public policy work.

Public Policy Committee Charters

Sample Public Policy committee charters from regional associations in the PolicyWorks for Philanthropy initiative.

RA Public Policy Committee and Affinity Groups Descriptions

Sample descriptions of RA affinity groups working on policy.

Public Policy Job Descriptions

Sample job descriptions and requests for proposals for public policy related positions including fellows, lobbyists, liaisons, and consultants.

Policies on Legislative Positions

Sample policy and procedures that provide a framework for public policy work and the process by which public policy committees adopt and express legislative positions.

RA Policy Positions

Sample public policy agendas, principles, and action plans from regional associations participating in PolicyWorks for Philanthropy.

Endowed Philanthropy

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

Logic Models and Evaluation Tools

Sample logic models and evaluation tools, such as outcome maps, from regional associations participating in PolicyWorks for Philanthropy.

Advocacy Funder Collaboratives

For this suite of resources, GrantCraft captured the wisdom of philanthropic leaders who have participated in multi-party advocacy collaboratives and conducted a literature scan of how foundations talk about advocacy-focused collaborative work.

Tools for Encouraging Members Policy Work

What, Why, and How of Advocacy

An overview of how foundations and their grantees can participate in advocacy developed by the PolicyWorks for Philanthropy community.

Private and Public Foundations May Fund Charities that Lobby

501(c)(3) public charities may legally seek to influence legislation—in other words, lobby – subject to generous limits. In addition, private foundations and public foundations (which are public charities) may support public charities that lobby. Foundations should follow the following rules when making grants to grantees that lobby.

Foundations for Civic Impact - Private Foundations

This advocacy and civic engagement toolkit is designed for private foundations that want to educate and encourage their grantees about getting involved in civic and policy activities to increase organizational capacity and impact.

Foundations for Civic Impact - CommunityFoundations

This advocacy and civic engagement toolkit is designed for community and public foundations that want to educate and encourage their grantees about getting involved in civic and policy activities to increase organizational capacity and impact.

Engaging Members in Policy Work

Briefings with RA members and State Department Officials
Sample materials from regional associations for briefings and other programming with their members and state government officials.

Materials on Policy Briefings for Members
Sample materials from regional associations developed to engage their members in policy issues. Materials range from webinar invites to one-pager info sheets covering topics such as the Charitable IRA Rollover, education reform, and mental health reform.

Case Studies for RA Policy Work
Case studies from regional associations that articulate why grantmaker members should engage in public policy work.

Member Surveys on Policy Work
Sample member surveys from regional associations on public policy work.

PolicyWorks Resources

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 increasingly its 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.

In Search of the Spark: Getting Your Members Fired Up about Policy Work
The guide is based on a premise supported by everyone we interviewed: that regional associations can and should become more intentional about building member support for policy work in order to be more effective in that work, and also, according to some, to be more effective associations generally.

Ask the Right Questions: A Toolkit for Funder Groups Working on Public Policy
How can funders work together to have an impact on public policy? PolicyWorks for Philanthropy has been asking this question as part of an effort to help affinity groups use policy engagement as a strategy to achieve shared program goals.

PolicyWorks 2014 RA Status Matrix
This matrix provides an overview of RA policy activities based on individual RA responses to the Capacity Profile survey.

PolicyWorks 2014 Activities and Results Report
Highlights of the activities and results for the PolicyWorks initiative in 2014.

PolicyWorks Fact Sheet
A one-pager describing the PolicyWorks for Philanthropy initiative.

PolicyWorks Logic Model
A logic model governing the PolicyWorks for Philanthropy initiative, including detailed objectives, activities, and expected outcomes.

Repeal of the Michigan Community Foundation Tax Credit Impacts Charitable Giving
The Council of Michigan Foundations contracted the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy to survey Michigan Community Foundations to determine the impact to community foundations for each of the two years after the repeal of Michigan's Charitable Tax Credit for Community Foundations. Survey findings suggest that the impact of the repeal has been significant. The average number of donations at the key dollar amounts decreased significantly from 2011 - 2013.


Member Spotlight

PolicyWorks Spotlight: Claudia Herrold, Philanthropy Ohio

Claudia Herrold is the Sr. VP of Communications & Public Policy at Philanthropy Ohio, which has led the push for passage of Endow Ohio, an initiative to create a tax incentive in Ohio law encouraging people to donate to permanent endowments at their local community foundations. The bill has already passed the Ohio House of Representative and now moves on to the state Senate. In this interview Claudia shares the origins of the bill and what we can expect as it moves closer to becoming law.

Tools for Engaging Policymakers

PolicyWorks Outreach Worksheet

This worksheet developed by the PolicyWorks for Philanthropy community can help regional associations develop strategies to reach policymakers.

PolicyWorks Outreach Checklist

This checklist developed by the PolicyWorks for Philanthropy community can help you create strategies to reach policymakers. It focuses on seven core questions to explore and includes reflections from regional association leaders.

Sample RA Letters to Congress Regarding Donor Advised Funds and the IRA Charitable Rollover

Sample communications from regional associations and their grantmaker members to Members of Congress encouraging an end to the prohibition for Donor Advised Funds in the IRA Charitable Rollover.

PolicyWorks Materials for Legislators and Candidates

Sample leave-behind information for legislators developed by regional associations to equip their members with tools for engaging state and local candidates on the most important issues to philanthropy.

State and Federal Policy Information

Partnering With Government: Opportunities and Realities
Opening remarks by Laurel O'Sullivan of Donors Forum on "Partnering With Government: Opportunities and Realities" at Independent Sector's 2010 conference.

RA Charitable Deduction Resources
Resources developed by the Charitable Giving Coalition, the Forum, and regional associations around protecting the Charitable Deduction. These include FAQs, infographics, talking points, position statements, op-eds, and other sample articles.

OMB Uniform Guidance

Governments at all levels – local, state, and federal – that hire nonprofits to deliver services are now required to reimburse nonprofits for the reasonable indirect costs (sometimes called “overhead” or “administrative” costs) they incur on behalf of governments when federal dollars are part of the funding stream. The National Council of Nonprofits provides resources that explain the importance of this change in policy.

OMB Uniform Guidance - How Will New York Respond?

This issue brief developed for members of Philanthropy New York explains the implications around OMB Uniform Guidance and indirect costs for the philanthropic sector.