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Nonprofits are collective endeavors that supply a bewildering range of products and services, including some of value to their immediate members only. Many also advocate policy positions on issues of direct interest to themselves, their clients and beneficiaries, and/or the broader community. There is substantial variation in their advocacy strategies, the scope of policy goals they embrace, and the types of individuals they engage in such activities. Consequently, there are also differences in whether and how nonprofit advocacy activities reduce inequalities, enhance civic participation, and promote deliberative democracy. This symposium interprets and theorizes about emerging nonprofit challenges by showcasing research of nonprofit advocacy and civic engagement scholars. Collectively, the papers demonstrate the vibrancy of the field of nonprofit civic engagement and advocacy and identify important areas for future research to capture the complexity of nonprofits as actors guided by both instrumental and normative goals, serving organizational and social missions, and reducing some types of inequalities but creating new ones.
Advances in Research on Nonprofit Advocacy and Civic Engagement
Nonprofits are collective endeavors that supply a bewildering range of products and services,
including some of value to their immediate members only. Many also advocate policy positions
on issues of direct interest to themselves, their clients and beneficiaries and/or the broader
community. There is substantial variation in their advocacy strategies, the scope of policy goals
they embrace, and the types of individuals they engage in such activities. Consequently, there are
also differences in whether and how nonprofit advocacy activities reduce inequalities, enhance
civic participation, and promote deliberative democracy. This symposium interprets and
theorizes about emerging nonprofit challenges by showcasing research of nonprofit advocacy
and civic engagement scholars. Collectively, the papers demonstrate the vibrancy of the field of
nonprofit civic engagement and advocacy and identify important areas for future research to
capture the complexity of nonprofits as actors guided by both instrumental and normative goals,
serving organizational and social missions, and reducing some types of inequalities but creating
new ones.
Key Words
Nonprofit advocacy, advocacy strategies, civic engagement, volunteering, nonprofit fields.
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Nonprofit organizations face new challenges about how to position themselves and articulate
their roles and contributions in the contemporary political economy. For individual nonprofits,
these challenges include meeting renewed demands accountability, navigating continued
dependence on governments and foundations for funds, and responding to greater demands for
services in the wake of the Great Recession. But there are more systemic challenges related to
increasing levels of inequality, persisting structural unemployment and eroding social safety nets,
all of which threaten to fray the social and economic bonds among different sections of society.
While nonprofits certainly can provide the social glue that hold together different societal
segments, they can also fan the flames of confrontation over such topics of abortion,
immigration, or same-sex marriage, as the literatures on “counter movements,” “dark civil
society” and “bonding” versus “bridging” social capital note (Johnson and Prakash, 2007). Nor
is it clear that nonprofits necessarily provide opportunities for all segments to participate in,
contribute to, and benefit created by the activities of the nonprofit sector. These latter factors,
along with variability in the quality and expertise of the sector and the spread of self-interested
nonprofits that take advantage of the trust society reposes in this sector, present unique
challenges for the health, management, and vitality of this sector.
This symposium interprets and theorizes about emerging nonprofit challenges by
showcasing research of nonprofit advocacy and civic engagement scholars. Scholars tend to treat
advocacy and civic engagement as separate topics, one focusing on organizational efforts and the
other on individual activities. However, as several papers in this symposium suggest, sometimes
civic engagement lays the foundation for advocacy.
The lead authors are all junior scholars who were invited to present papers at the 2015
conference on “Advancing the Field(s) of Nonprofit Management: New Structures, New
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Solutions” hosted by the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at Indiana
University Bloomington. Subsequent to this conference, the guest editors, Grønbjerg and
Prakash, identified a subset of papers for inclusion in the symposium. The papers went through
several rounds of extensive revisions based on the feedback provided by Grønbjerg and Prakash.
Below we describe the key themes and ideas these papers present, and identify important venues
for future research.
Nonprofits are collective endeavors that, in theory at least, are supposed to respond to the twin
failures of the market and government (Kingma, 1997). 1 Arguably, such efforts serve to justify
their favorable tax status. By extension, some scholars view them primarily as the location for
collective action – places where individuals come together to identify shared priorities and
mobilize for communal welfare - and therefore explore how nonprofits confront the attendant
collective action challenges (Johnson and Prakash, 2007). This is crucial because individual
actions, when aggregated, do not always add up to the desired outcome. While nonprofits may
mobilize actions of a large number of individuals, they vary on how they well they are able to
conduct the orchestra and in the quality of melodies these aggregated efforts produce.
In practice, nonprofits supply a bewildering range of products and services, sometimes in
industries populated by governmental and commercial providers. The variety of goods, in turn,
provide opportunities for nonprofits to tap into a several types of revenue sources, ranging from
fees and service charges for private goods, government grants and contracts for public and merit
1 We differentiate nonprofits from Putnam-style self-help groups and the Ostrom-style
community groups that develop rules to use resources in a sustainable manner.
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goods, private donations for merit and collective goods, and membership fees for club goods
(Grønbjerg, 1993; Fisher, Wilsker, and Young, 2011).
For purposes of this symposium, we emphasize a somewhat different set of issues,
namely that in addition to providing specific goods and services, many also advocate policy
positions on issues of direct interest to themselves, their members, clients and beneficiaries,
and/or the broader community (Child and Grønbjerg, 2007). As the articles in the symposium
demonstrate, there is substantial variation in nonprofit advocacy strategies, the scope of policy
goals nonprofits embrace, and the types of individuals they engage in such activities.
Consequently, there are also differences in whether and how nonprofits advocacy activities
reduce inequalities, enhance civic participation, and further deliberative democracy.
Jennifer Dodge’s article, “Crowded Advocacy in the Fracking Controversy,” examines
nonprofit advocacy in the contentious field of shale gas fracking in upstate New York. Dodge
describes the complexity of the advocacy field marked by the prominent presence of economic
interests, most notably gas/oil industry organizations and property owners, as well as a wide
range of other interest groups (environment, justice, health).
She introduces the concept of “crowded advocacy” to capture the density of interest
groups and the extent to which their focus is not primarily on influencing government policies,
but on counteracting and influencing other interest groups that sort themselves into fluid
coalitions. This is an important point because much of the advocacy literature focuses on
governments as the target of advocacy. However, scholars are paying increasing attention to the
role of “private politics” (Baron, 2003) in which advocates target firms to change their practices.
Dodge’s paper looks at environmental advocacy where public and/or community interests clash
with economic interests. What is critical is that economic interests also are represented as
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nonprofit organizations. These organizations are not the typical “counter-movements” (Meyer
and Staggenborg, 1996) or astro-turf (Walker, 2014) organizations established by corporate
interests. Indeed, landowners and other economic interests have an important stake in the
fracking debate and are not necessarily propped up by invisible but powerful commercial
This raises important questions about the usefulness of models of nonprofit advocacy
organizations predicated on the assumption that they are “good” actors because they advocate
liberal causes. As we note subsequently, scholars of nonprofit advocacy need a superior
analytical approach to study nonprofit advocacy that might be motivated by a wide range of
preferences and ideologies (Johnson and Prakash, 2007), and not unduly focus on the
organizations that tend to advocate particular perspectives.
In terms of advocacy strategies, advocacy actors seek to put forward their own
perspectives but sometimes they also actively challenge the perspective of others. They learn
from the arguments of their opponents and subsequently seek to revise their own arguments.
Viewed this way, this sort of interactive advocacy can serve to promote deliberative democracy
although it is crowded and noisy, and the participants are not necessarily trying to find a common
Crowded advocacy poses interesting conceptual challenges for understanding nonprofit
advocacy strategy. How do organizations ensure that their voices are heard? How do they form
coalitions if the field attracts a variety of actors with both overlapping and conflicting interests?
How are coalitions structured? Who is able to shape, may be even control, the agenda and the
substantive content of the deliberations? We believe these are important issues for future research
that this paper raises.
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Why and how does advocacy become crowded? In their paper, “Nonprofit Lobbying
Strategy: Challenging or Championing the Conventional Wisdom?”, Christopher Prentice and
Jeffrey Brudney provide a new perspective to bear on the multi-dimensional aspects of nonprofit
advocacy by tapping into data provided by North Carolina Secretary of State on the population
of lobbying organizations registered in the state. Like any other organization, nonprofits work
with limited resources and can be expected to deploy their resources to address organizational
objectives, and arguably in policy domains where they have the relative advantage.
Consequently, nonprofit scholars tend to study nonprofit lobbying in one policy domain and at
one level of government, the assumption being that nonprofits will focus advocacy resources in
the policy domain that aligns best with their mission and direct it at the level of government
where they expect to have greatest influence.
Prentice and Brudney, however, find that nonprofit advocacy strategies are more
complex, spanning across multiple goals, using both insider and outsider strategies and targeting
multiple levels of government. Furthermore, nonprofits advocacy is motivated by organizational,
self-interests (such as securing government contracts or mitigating the effects of regulatory or tax
policies) along with broader societal interests. As we alluded to previously, these findings
underline the need to develop new models of nonprofit behavior, moving beyond the first-
generation models that emphasized the non-distributional constraint and/or market-state failures,
and assumed that nonprofits tend to pursue liberal objectives (Prakash and Gugerty, 2010).
Indeed, the population of nonprofits is heterogeneous. In part, the sector is a victim of its
own success. The common perception that nonprofits are altruistic actors, combined with low
entry barriers, may attract actors who may neither be motivated to serve the public purpose nor
have the competence to undertake complex tasks. New models of nonprofit behavior should be
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able to describe any type of nonprofit, whether sponsored by liberal interests, commercial
interests or ethnic and religious interests, whether driven by motives of inclusion or exclusion.
The activities of nonprofits not only shape the policy debates, but may also influence who
participates in civic engagement in general and nonprofit advocacy in particular. What skills
and assets might volunteers bring to their civic organization and what motivates participation
given that volunteer actors often incur private costs to do so? The literature recognizes that
because volunteering requires skills, knowledge, and resources, not all individuals are well-
suited to volunteer or likely to be equally in demand by nonprofit organizations. Much of the
work suggests that volunteers tend to come from higher socioeconomic groups (white, middle
class, high income, educated, families with children). However, might some specific nonprofits
attract particular types of volunteers? More generally, to what extent are the demographic
predictors of volunteering endogenous to the type of organization one seeks to volunteer for? Are
marginalized groups more likely to engage with political/advocacy and civic organizations than
with other types of nonprofits organizations?
Rebecca Nesbit’s paper, “Demographic Predictors of Volunteering for Advocacy, Political
and Civic Organizations,” delves into these important questions by drawing on the 2010-2012
Current Population Survey’s annual Volunteering Supplement. She looks at three groups of
particular interest: veterans, foreign born, and minorities. She finds that veterans are drawn to
volunteering for political/advocacy groups, civic organizations, and environmental/animal
organizations. Because the military is a government organization, Nesbit speculates that
veterans developed an interest in politics and civic life through their military service and that
their experiences in military base communities conditioned their interest in civilian communities
after leaving the military.
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For foreign-born individuals, Nesbit finds that they show enthusiasm for volunteering for
immigrant/refugee organizations more than do the native born. She suggests that the role of
identity and the desire to help those with similar backgrounds might motivate foreign born
individuals to volunteer for organizations that help individuals from those locations, particularly
friends and family members. Among racial minorities (Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians) Nesbit
finds that all were less likely than whites to volunteer for civic and environmental organizations
but not for labor unions and immigrant/refugee groups. Regarding political/advocacy groups,
only Hispanics were less likely than whites to volunteer for political parties or advocacy groups.
These findings also raise important questions relevant to Jennifer Dodge’s paper: why are
minorities not volunteering for say environmental organizations since they are often negatively
impacted by environmental hazards – a central tenet of environmental justice (Bullard, 2000), as
demonstrated by the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint? Do racial minority groups
prioritize environmental issues below other pressing social issues? Or, are environmental
organizations branding themselves in ways that appeal to elitist constituencies (Morrison and
Dunlap, 1986; Dolsak and Prakash, 2016)? This has important ramification for the future of
environmental advocacy as America becomes more racially diverse. But there are also
implications for research on understanding how individuals sort themselves into volunteering for
different types of nonprofits or are differentially recruited by diverse organizations.
While Nesbit’s paper outlines how expressive or instrumental interests motivate
individuals to volunteer for specific types of advocacy organizations, in her paper, “Civic
Engagement and Economic Opportunity among Low-income Individuals: Accessing Social
Capital and Human Capital Assets,” Jodi Benenson examines how volunteering in nonprofit
organizations help individuals, specifically, from marginalized communities, in their own
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economic pursuits. How does nonprofit civic engagement influence the abilities of low-income
individuals to accumulate human and social capital that have crucial bearing on their economic
prospects? This is a crucial extension of previous work that explores the consequences of civic
engagement engendered through repeated face-to-face interactions, and how this engagement
generates individualized trust that eventually spills over to generalized trust (Putnam et al.,
1994). Some scholars recognize that civic engagement via volunteering, political involvement,
and philanthropic activities can allow individuals to build connections and develop skills that
may influence participants’ employment and income statuses. However, that work has not
examined the extent to which these individuals are able to effectively deploy these capitals to
further their own economic prospects.
Through detailed semi-structured interviews, Benenson finds that not all civic
engagement experiences with nonprofits provide access to assets that advance economic
opportunity for low-income individuals. What matters for employment prospects is the extent to
which actors can leverage their civic engagement experiences into their human capital assets.
Furthermore, organizational norms, practices, and structures influence by the ways individuals
gain access to and are able to accrue human capital. Benenson’s paper is an important reminder
that by itself, civic engagement will not be able to further economic advancement. The quality of
the civic engagement offered by the organization, the characteristics of the civically engaged
individual and organizational practices jointly have an important bearing on the eventual
However, an important segment of nonprofits that are devoted to helping marginalized
communities are not the bottom-up, volunteer-reliant organizations. Some of them are very large
government “contractors” with complex organizational structures and highly professional, paid
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staff. Dayna Mason and Emily Fiocco’s paper, “Crisis on the Border: Specialized Capacity
Building in Nonprofit Immigration Organizations,” examines how two nonprofit organizations
providing temporary shelters to unaccompanied minors who enter the United States, primarily
from its Southern/Western borders, have positioned themselves in this particular policy field.
The paper offers a novel perspective on how the task environment in which nonprofits
function can transform the relationship between the nonprofit organization and government. In
this policy sphere there are multiple governmental agencies at work and there tend to be a large
number of complex regulations and tasks that nonprofit contractors must accomplish. Thus, the
regulatory complexity makes the task environment hard to negotiate for non-specialized
organizations. This leads to the thinning of the nonprofit market in the policy domain, whereby
only select few nonprofits are able to acquire competencies to meet the demands of the complex
task environment (Brown et al., 2013). Thus, the government unwittingly makes itself dependent
on these select few nonprofit contractors for these policy tasks. More broadly, agency problems
occur not because of strategic actions of the agents (Eisenhardt, 1989), but the political decisions
of the principals who make the task environment excessively complex.
The paper shows that when the task environment is surfeit with funds, nonprofits with a
range of skills are able to flourish by securing governmental contracts. However, when
government reduces its budgetary support for these tasks, nonprofits with specialized skills that
align most closely with the complex environment survive and flourish. The paper therefore raises
important questions about the study of nonprofit-government relationships. For example, what if
nonprofits themselves lobby to make the task environment more demanding? Might this not
create entry barriers for their future competitors and allow them to enjoy economic rents? The
analysis by Dodge and Fiocco can only hint at this process, but it warrants careful consideration.
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Indeed, starting from Stigler (1971), there is a substantial literature that shows how firms
in regulated industries favor stringent regulations because these not only reduce uncertainty, but
serve as entry barriers for other organizations. Further, given the convergence of interests,
regulated firms are in tacit alliance with, sometimes even capture, their regulators. At times this
is reflected in the revolving-door syndrome where government regulators take industry jobs after
leaving government, but that itself reflects underlying alignment of interests. This paper raises
similar questions in the context of the nonprofit sector. Governments or any other entity that
seeks to avail of nonprofits’ services must appreciate that new stipulations or regulations
eventually weaken their bargaining position versus potential nonprofit subcontractors.
Ultimately, this spiral of mutual dependency may come to harm the very constituencies that
governments – and the nonprofits - seek to serve.
This symposium addresses important theoretical and empirical issues in the study of civic
engagement and nonprofit advocacy. In doing so, it contributes to the burgeoning literature on
subjects such as nonprofit advocacy networks (Acosta, 2012; Almog-Bar and Schmid, 2014),
nonprofit advocacy in non-Western settings (Guo & Zhang, 2014), and promises and limits of
advocacy work on social media platforms (Guo & Saxton, 2014).
As the two papers by Nesbit and Benenson demonstrate, nonprofits can address policy
issues, and inequalities in particular, by providing venues for low-income or other marginalized
individuals to be civically engaged and accumulate human and social capital. Nesbit does so by
showing how some types of nonprofits are attractive to individuals with prior collective
endeavors, such as the military, and/or provide a platform for marginalized communities to be
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civically engaged. Benenson does so by examining how low-income individual draw on their
civic experiences in nonprofit organization to accumulate human and social capital.
The three other papers focus more explicitly on the activities that nonprofit organizations
themselves undertake in the policy realm. In some policy fields, the availability of government
contract funding is so extensive and the regulatory environment so complex that government and
their sub-contractors become mutually dependent on one another. These features characterize
most notably military procurement and health care services. However, as Mason and Fiocco
show, they are also present in services to unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. illegally.
These minors, however, do not have the financial resources to pay for any of the services they
receive (as do employers by subsidizing health insurance premiums in the case of health care)
and there are therefore few for-profit providers interested in pursuing the contract market. This
leaves the field of policy making in the intertwined hands of government and the relatively few
nonprofit contractors able to provide the scope and complexity of services required.
Mason’s and Fiocco’s analysis also suggest that nonprofits might benefit from advocacy
undertaken by other groups. While the organizations they study may not have advocated directly
on behalf of the children they serve, they have certainly been able to free ride on the advocacy
efforts of various pro-immigration and human rights organizations. Governments’ attempts to
respond to these concerns has created a policy context in which some types of nonprofits are able
to corner governmental contracts.
The interactions are more complex in the environmental field, as Dodge shows. Here the
focus is not on the amount or form of government funding or subsidies for particular types of
services, but the regulatory regime itself. In the fracking controversy, the focus is particularly on
state and local regulatory action and on the government policy makers who set or revise the
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policies. This particular arena is crowded by the presence powerful lobbying groups representing
particular types of producers and other special economic interests as well as more or less
influential advocacy groups acting on behalf of consumers, local communities, or particular
constituency groups.
As Dodge shows, these groups engage in a complex dance with discernable, but shifting
constellations. Members of the dance constellations contest the dance steps (“facts”),
acknowledge or ignore the presence of alternative dance styles (arguments), and seek to include
or exclude other groups from participating in the policy-making dance arena. Prentice and
Brudney show that policy fields become crowded because nonprofits seek to lobby across policy
realms and across levels of government. Thus, it becomes difficult to tease out a straightforward
relationship between nonprofit mission and their advocacy strategies.
Taken together, these papers demonstrate the vibrancy of the field of nonprofit civic
engagement and advocacy. They identify important areas for future research to capture the
complexity of nonprofits as actors guided by both instrumental and normative goals, serving
organizational and social missions, and reducing some types of inequalities but creating new
They also demonstrate the importance of systematic attention to how cross-sector
relations differ across nonprofit fields of activities. As Grønbjerg and Smith (2015) have
proposed, systemic nonprofit field differences exist in the interactions of nonprofits with
government, market and informal sectors. Clearly, as the analyses by Mason and Fiocco and by
Dodge show, nonprofit-government interactions are very different in the fields of human services
and environmental regulations. So are interactions between nonprofits and market sector
organizations in these two fields – virtually absent in the case of services to unaccompanied
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minor children, but multifaceted and complex in environmental regulations. Similarly, the
findings by both Nesbit and Benenson also draw attention to how interactions between
nonprofits and individuals differ across nonprofits fields. These findings advance our
understanding of the field(s) of nonprofit management, but leave many questions unanswered.
We express our profound gratitude to the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at
Indiana University Bloomington for supporting and hosting the Conference on “Advancing
the Field(s) of Nonprofit Management: New Perspectives, New Challenges” in April 2015
where the papers included in this symposium were originally presented. We also thank
members of the Conference Committee—Matthew Baggetta, Leigh Anne Elliott, Kirsten
Grønbjerg (chair), Al Lyons, Jill Nicholson-Crotty, Nicole Rolf, and Joanna Woronkowicz—
for their work in organizing the conference. Finally, we thank the authors of the five papers
selected for the symposium for their efficient and constructive responses to our suggested
revisions to their manuscripts.
Acosta, R. (2012). Advocacy networks through a multidisciplinary lens: Implications for
research agendas. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit
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Almog-Bar, M., & Schmid, H. (2014). Advocacy activities of nonprofit human service
organizations: A critical review. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 43(1), 11-35.
Baron, D. 2003. Private Politics. Journal of Economics & Management Strategy 12(1): 31-66.
Bullard, R. 2000. Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality. Boulder, CO:
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Brown, T., Potoski, M., and Van Slyke, D. 2013. Complex Contracting. Cambridge University
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Child, C. and Grønbjerg, K. A. 2007. Nonprofit Advocacy Organizations: Their Characteristics
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Dolsak, N. and Prakash, A. 2016. We Feel Your Pain: Environmentalists, Coal Miners, and
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Eisenhardt, K. 1989. Agency Theory: An Assessment and Review. Academy of management
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Grønbjerg, K A. 1993. Understanding Nonprofit Funding: Managing Revenues in Social
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Grønbjerg, K A. and Smith, S. R. 2015. The Changing Dynamics of the Nonprofit-Government
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Sector Research, Munster Germany, July 22-24, 2014.
Guo, C., & Saxton, G. D. (2014). Tweeting social change: How social media are changing
nonprofit advocacy. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 43(1), 57-79.
Guo, C., & Zhang, Z. (2014). Understanding nonprofit advocacy in non-western settings: A
framework and empirical evidence from Singapore. VOLUNTAS: International Journal
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Johnson, E. and Prakash, A. 2007. NGO Research Program: A Collective Action
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Kingma, B. 1997. Public good theories of the non-profit sector: Weisbrod revisited Voluntas:
International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 8(2): 135-148.
Meyer, D. and Staggenborg, S. 1996. Movements, Countermovements, and the Structure of
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Morrison, D. and Dunlap, R. 1986. Environmentalism and Elitism. Environmental
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Cambridge University Press, 2010.
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Walker, E. 2014. Grassroots for Hire. Cambridge University Press.
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... In the last two decades, a growing body of scholarship has been devoted to nonprofits and their advocacy efforts (Grønbjerg & Prakash, 2017). Although several definitions of nonprofit advocacy can be found in the literature (for alternative definitions, see Almog-Bar & Schmid, 2014), the following one is most frequently cited in recent work: "any attempt to influence the decisions of any institutional elite on behalf of a collective interest" (Jenkins, 2006, p. 267). ...
... First, nonprofit advocacy can involve many different audiences, venues and tactics (Grønbjerg & Prakash, 2017). Nonprofits can target governments but also corporations and other nonprofits at a local, subnational, national or international level, as long as it involves collective interests. ...
... In fact, many 501(c)3 public charities are wary of engaging in advocacy and lobbying for fear of losing tax exempt status or becoming too entangled in politics, which could tarnish reputations and lead to a decline in donations (Bass et al. 2007;Berry and Arons 2005;Fyall and Allard 2017). On the other hand, nonprofit advocacy organizations and philanthropic foundations are increasingly engaged in the policymaking process (Buffardi, Pekkanen, and Smith 2017;Grønbjerg and Prakash 2016;LeRoux 2009LeRoux , 2011LeRoux and Krawczyk 2014). ...
... According to O'Neill (2009), an overwhelming majority of the public thinks that nonprofits are fair in their decision-making (76%), good at running programs and services (76%), and spend money wisely (61%). But from a normative perspective, political activity by nonprofit organizations that are successful in advancing policy agendas without a direct connection to beneficiaries raises a number of questions about the legitimacy of this influence in a representative democracy (Grønbjerg and Prakash 2016;Mosley 2015). This influence can be especially complicated in these policy arenas, given that the nature of advocacy is usually one that draws on expertise to identify what is best for the populations in question, without substantial input from the population itself. ...
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Research on nonprofit advocacy has grown in recent years, and many nonprofit organizations have expanded and refined their efforts to influence public policies in ways they believe will benefit society. Despite the growing body of literature on nonprofit advocacy, there is substantial room for development on questions related to public perceptions of nonprofit advocacy activities. Utilizing an experimental design, we examine the ways in which the involvement of a nonprofit organization in the policy process can shift public opinion regarding a specific policy proposal. We also explore how these perceptions vary when we introduce political conflict that questions the effectiveness of the proposed policy. We find that in the absence of political controversy, the involvement of nonprofits in the policy process can significantly increase positive perceptions, relative to the control condition in which there is no mention on nonprofit involvement. However, we also find that the ways in which nonprofit involvement could boost support for a policy proposal may not hold when there is conflict over the policy in question.
... Although nonprofits "have a long history of defending and advancing the rights and interests of their members, clients, and the public, particularly marginalized and excluded groups" (Buffardi et al. 2017(Buffardi et al. , p. 1228, there is no guarantee that all nonprofits do so. Grønbjerg and Prakash (2017) point out that economic interests are well-represented in nonprofit advocacy, and assuming that all nonprofits are "good" actors, advocating on behalf of non-elites, would be shortsighted. Goss (2016) and Skocpol (2020), among others, argue that ultra-wealthy individuals, via private foundation grant-making and networks of high net worth donors, are active players in policy advocacy. ...
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Claims of dark money influence on U.S. political activity are heard from both left- and right-leaning media, both accusing the other side of undue influence from high net worth political donors on American politics. This article explores the issues of donor control, transparency, and publicness of economic policy advocacy organizations. The study focuses on social welfare nonprofit organizations active in economic policy advocacy, utilizing tax filings to compose an index of transparency based on observed characteristics such as; website verbiage, board size, staffing, fundraising spending, relations to other organizations, and other indicators. All of these variables measure legal behavior, yet as L.H. Mayer describes, some organizations appear to be stretching the boundaries of the rules so egregiously as to be in violation of legal rules, with “little fear of negative consequences” (2018, 194). Organizational tactics can reflect a disinterest in public engagement, or worse, a deliberate attempt to keep the organization’s operations opaque. It is impossible to observe, with current policy, the identity of the donors. Given an index as proposed in this article, however, observers can rank organizations on a scale indicating transparent or opaque characteristics.
... We found that dialogue-related tweets contained two primary mechanisms, in which community foundations (a) invited citizens to engage in informal conversations around community issues and (b) convened a formal event for public deliberation on specific policy areas, be it online or offline. Discursive form of engagement is a unique mechanism for producing collective decisions and an important first step in fostering civic identity and inviting citizen inputs on community issues (Carpini et al. 2004;Cooper 2005;Grønbjerg & Prakash 2017). The data showed that this engagement mechanism involved two-way participation, including inviting ideas from the community, through convening face-to-face forums, online and offline events for creating continuous online dialogues with the public. ...
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This study conceptualises four mechanisms—Mobilisation, Advocacy, Dialogue, and Education ('MADE')—through which foundation actors engage the public on Twitter. We analysed stakeholders targeted and message contents of more than 16,000 tweets collected from 299 Twitter accounts of U.S. community foundations during two 12-month periods. We found evidence that foundations tend to serve as 'a knowledge hub' to educate the public. Notably, the 2020 sample suggests lessened dialogic messages yet increased mobilisation and advocacy messages amid the COVID-19 pandemic and political movements. This study reveals foundations’ intermediary and shifting roles in engaging the public in times of normalcy and crisis.
... Dieser teilt sich auf Erkenntnisinteressen aus, die aus der Interessengruppen-und Verbändeforschung, den Internationalen Beziehungen sowie der Protest-, Bewegungs-und Bürgerschaftlichen-Engagement-Forschung stammen sowie im Überschneidungsbereich der Governance-, Policy-und Regierungsforschung liegen. Zentrale Überblickswerke neueren Datums finden sich im Datenreport Zivilgesellschaft (Krimmer 2019), in Bestandsaufnahmen der Verbändeforschung (Reutter 2018) und der Zivilgesellschaftsforschung (Zimmer 2018;Zimmer und Simsa 2014;Grønbjerg und Prakash 2017), im Bereich der Lobbying-Strategien (De Bruycker/Beyers 2019; Wonka et al. 2018;Junk 2016;Klüver et al. 2015) sowie in Beiträgen zur Rolle von Expertise von NGOs (Hilton et al. 2013) und zu Öffentlichkeit und Medienbeziehungen (Remus und Rademacher 2018). Im Folgenden soll es darum gehen, den Begriff der NGOisierung zu konkretisieren, beginnend bei dessen Ursprung, verschiedenen Konzepten der NGOisierung und der Frage, wie sich die NGOisierung der Interessenvermittlung gestaltet. ...
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Zusammenfassung Der einführende Beitrag dieses Special Issue widmet sich dem wechselseitigen Verhältnis von Veränderungsprozessen der Interessenvermittlung und dem Funktionswandel von Nichtregierungsorganisationen (NGOs). Unter Bezugnahme auf das Konzept der NGOisierung werden organisationale und strategische Anpassungen umrissen, die den veränderten institutionellen Rahmenbedingungen von Interessenvermittlung und Politikgestaltung Rechnung tragen und die nicht allein auf NGOs begrenzt sind. Der Wandel einzelner NGOs und des Systems der NGOs als Ganzem lässt sich entlang von zwei Funktionen untersuchen: die öffentlichkeitswirksame, kritische Anwaltschaft für Anliegen strukturell schwacher Interessen einerseits und die Mitwirkungen an der Aushandlung, Implementation und Überwachung regulativer Standards andererseits. Diese beiden Funktionen und die damit verbundenen Zielkonflikt bilden den analytischen Rahmen für die nachfolgenden Beiträge, die kurz und bündig vorgestellt werden. Außerdem werden über die in dem Special Issue vereinten Beiträge hinausweisende Forschungsdesiderate skizziert.
... First, advocacy can involve many different actors, venues and tactics (Grønbjerg & Prakash, 2017). Nonprofits can target governments but also corporations and other nonprofits at a local, subnational, national or international level, as long as it involves collective interests. ...
Advocacy, essential to the unique role of the nonprofit sector, is a term that suffers from a definitional morass that is both crowded and inconsistent, undermining research progress. This problem has been exacerbated by changes in our understanding of the wide variety of nonprofit and voluntary organizations involved in advocacy. To address construct clarity and help research bridge disciplinary silos, we present a framework that, while drawing clearer boundaries around the construct’s peripheries, integrates three major dimensions of organizational advocacy among nonprofits: goals, tactics, and motivations. This integrative framework focuses on the targets, contexts, and types of nonprofit actors associated with these dimensions, pointing to avenues for new lines of comparative research. We demonstrate how this framework can elucidate institutional change and advance the field by promoting new understandings of advocacy that better matches changing empirical reality.
It is widely recognized that nonprofit organizations provide benefits to society such as goods and services that promote social well-being, activities fostering social inclusion and cohesion, and community spaces and opportunities for minority interests. To understand these particular civic benefits and the contributions of nonprofit organizations we use the metaphor of the ‘civic footprint’. To develop a model of a nonprofit organizations’ civic footprint this study utilized a cross-sectional research design and surveyed a random sample of nonprofit organizations in Ontario, Canada to assess the extent to which they promote civic engagement activities. Using principal axis factoring, a three-factor model was found to adequately operationalize the extent of a nonprofit’s civic footprint. Factors included efforts that bring community members together, promote education and awareness, and involve community members in programs and services (such as volunteering and donating). This research provides a valid and reliable measure of a nonprofit’s civic footprint that can be utilized by nonprofit organizations to increase their level of civic engagement.
Environmental nonprofit organisations (ENPOs) have become crucial policy actors who have undertaken information campaigns to attract public attention and to gain public support for policies. However, the credibility of policy information released by ENPOs is understudied. To fill the gap, this study utilised Douglas and Wildavsky’s cultural theory (CT), to seek answers to two questions: 1) how do ENPOs’ public faces affect public perception of the credibility of the policy information released by their organisations? 2) how do the public’s worldviews affect trust in information released by ENPOs with different types of public faces? The evidence from an online survey confirms what CT predicted: Hierarchs tend to believe information released by policy actors with proper authority; individualists tend to believe information released by policy actors who favour economic growth over environmental protection; egalitarians favour all pro-environmental policy information even if the information is released by noncredible policy actors.
Despite plethora of research on environmental participatory processes, the forms of NGO involvement in these processes, and the influence of their involvement on participation outcomes, are still under-conceptualized. This paper aims to develop a conceptual typology for NGO roles in environmental participatory processes and to suggest how these roles might be associated with participation outcomes. Following a review of public participation literature and NGO capacities, we present four prototypes of NGO roles along two axes: orientation axis and nature of involvement axis. The prototypes include Entrepreneur, Service-Provider, Enabler, and Partner. We then offer an empirical illustration of the typology using eight case studies across the globe, and discuss how the four NGO roles might be associated with outcomes of participatory processes. The framework acknowledges the complex, sometimes limited, contribution of NGOs to participatory processes and suggests practical implications.
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Policy advocacy is widely regarded as an eminent feature of nonprofit organizations' activities, allowing them to represent their constituencies. The article presents a literature review of research on nonprofit policy advocacy that has been published over the last decade, focusing on advocacy by nonprofit human service organizations (NPHSOs) and its unique characteristics and contributions. The review focuses on several key topics, including: the definitions and origins of the term advocacy and its current uses in studies related to NPHSOs; the current situation and prevalence of NPHSO advocacy activities; organizational and structural variables as they relate to policy advocacy; dependence on external funding sources and policy advocacy; strategies, tactics, modes of operation, and the effectiveness of NPHSO policy advocacy. The article presents and discusses the implications of this research and suggests directions for future research.
How are nonprofit organizations utilizing social media to engage in advocacy work? We address this question by investigating the social media use of 188 501(c)(3) advocacy organizations. After briefly examining the types of social media technologies employed, we turn to an in-depth examination of the organizations’ use of Twitter. This in-depth message-level analysis is twofold: A content analysis that examines the prevalence of previously identified communicative and advocacy constructs in nonprofits’ social media messages; and an inductive analysis that explores the unique features and dynamics of social media-based advocacy and identifies new organizational practices and forms of communication heretofore unseen in the literature.
This paper introduces the subject of private politics, presents a research agenda, and provides an example involving activists and a firm. Private politics addresses situations of conflict and their resolution without reliance on the law or government. It encompasses the political competition over entitlements in the status quo, the direct competition for support from the public, bargaining over the resolution of the conflict, and the maintenance of the agreed-to private ordering. The term private means that the parties do not rely on public order, i.e., lawmaking or the courts. The term politics refers to individual and collective action in situations in which people attempt to further their interests by imposing their will on others. Four models of private politics are discussed: (1) informational competition between an activist and a firm for support from the public, (2) decisions by citizen consumers regarding a boycott, (3) bargaining to resolve the boycott, and (4) the choice of an equilibrium private ordering to govern the ongoing conflicting interests of the activist and the firm.
Complex Contracting draws on core social science concepts to provide wide-ranging practical advice on how best to manage complex acquisitions. Using a strong analytical framework, the authors assess contract management practices, suggesting strategies for improvement and ways to avoid the pitfalls of managing contracts for large and sophisticated projects. An in-depth analysis of the US Coast Guard's Deepwater program is included to illustrate ways to respond to real-world contracting challenges. This high-profile and controversial case consisted of a projected 25-year, $24 billion contract through which the US Coast Guard would buy a system of new boats, aircraft, communications, and control architecture to replace its aging fleet. The authors explore the reasons why this program, launched with such promise, turned out so poorly, and apply the lessons learned to similarly complex contracting scenarios. This engaging and accessible book has broad applicability and will appeal to policymakers, practitioners, scholars and students. © Trevor L. Brown, Matthew Potoski and David M. Van Slyke 2013.
Although ‘grassroots’ conjures up images of independent citizen organizing, much mass participation today is sponsored by elite consultants working for corporations and powerful interest groups. This book pulls back the curtain to reveal a lucrative industry of consulting firms that incentivize public activism as a marketable service. Edward Walker illustrates how, spurred by the post-sixties advocacy explosion and rising business political engagement, elite consultants have deployed new technologies to commercialize mass participation. Using evidence from interviews, surveys and public records, Grassroots for Hire paints a detailed portrait of these consultants and their clients. Today, Fortune 500 firms hire them to counter-mobilize against regulation, protest or controversy. Ironically, some advocacy groups now outsource organizing to them. Walker also finds that consultants are reshaping both participation and policymaking, but unethical ‘astroturf’ strategies are often ineffective. This pathbreaking book calls for a rethinking of interactions between corporations, advocacy groups, and elites in politics.