Foundations' investment in advocacy pays off, study shows

2010-09-28T09:00:00Z Foundations' investment in advocacy pays off, study showsCHARLES S. JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette
September 28, 2010 9:00 am  • 

HELENA - When foundations invest in nonprofit advocacy and organizing efforts, it can pay off for families and communities, a new study that covers Montana concludes.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy of Washington, D.C., has released its study, "Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities: Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing and Civic Engagement in the Northwest Region."

"What we see in Montana as in the other states, when foundations invest in nonprofit advocacy and organizing work, it has a tangible, real benefit for families and communities," Aaron Dorfman, its executive director, said Monday.

The group looked at advocacy activities by 20 local nonprofit organizations in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon that received a combined $23.2 million from foundations from 2005-09. Foundation-funded advocacy, which also drew support from membership dues and other local contributions, produced a return of $150 for each dollar invested, it said.

The study concluded that foundation investments had produced millions of dollars of benefits in Montana, including:

-- A successful 2008 ballot initiative expanded the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid eligibility. When all eligible 30,000 children are enrolled, the state will have access to $22 million in state funds and $70 million in federal funds. Groups working on it were the Montana Human Rights Network, Montana Women Vote, Montana Children's Defense Fund, Forward Montana, Service Employees International Union, medical and hospital associations and other members of the Healthy Montana Kids Coalition.

-- A successful 2006 ballot measure raised Montana's minimum wage by $1 an hour and added an annual cost-of-living adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index. Through 2012, that should mean cumulative pay hikes totaling $237 million for about 24,500 workers, the study said. Working on this initiative were the Montana Human Rights Network, Montana Women Vote, Forward Montana, Montana AFL-CIO, Progressive Labor Caucus, Working for Equality and Economic Liberation, MEA-MFT union, religious groups and other members of the raise Montana Coalition.

-- A 2005 move to secure $6.4 million in state funding for Indian Education for All, which allowed the state to begin to meet the Montana Constitution mandate that all public school students learn about Native American culture and history. Active in this effort were the Montana Indian Education Association, Office of Public Instruction, MEA-MFT, Montana Human Rights Network and Montana Quality Education Coalition.

-- An effort by Northern Plains Resource Council in 2008-09 helped secure $15 million in federal stimulus money to make energy-efficiency improvements in Montana public schools.

"With the support of foundations, nonprofits are helping improve the lives of vulnerable Montanans," said Brian Magee, executive director of the Montana Nonprofit Association.

The report is aimed primarily at leaders of nonprofit foundations and organizations to urge them to invest more money into community organizing and advocacy.

"We hope our report will draw attention to the good work being done in Montana and draw the attention of some of the organizations there and help them attract some additional funding outside the state," Dorfman said.

One of the co-authors of the report, Gita Gulati-Partee, will discuss the findings Tuesday at the Montana Nonprofit Association's announce conference in Helena.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Billings Gazette

Popular Stories

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Featured Businesses