Foundations: Need a Resolution?

You don’t have to give up alcohol or sweets to keep these resolutions, but they may just help you get more out of your grantmaking in 2013.  We challenge every foundation to make – and carry out – at least one of these resolutions this year.



Keep learning. Become so familiar with the differences between advocacy and lobbying that you can rattle them off in your sleep.  Lobbying is one form of advocacy, but organizations can do much to influence policy even without engaging in lobbying. Federal tax law limits lobbying, but not all forms of advocacy.

Try new things. If you don’t currently give grants that encourage groups to use education, research, or other forms of advocacy to solve pressing issues, consider adding them to the mix. Advocacy can be the most effective means of advancing social justice and has been shown to generate an impressive return on investment.

Get rid of unnecessary clutter. Many grant agreements contain needless restrictive language that prohibits nonprofit lobbying. Stop constraining your grantees by unnecessarily prohibiting them from using your grant funds for lobbying. Lobbying prohibitions only stifle your grantees; they do not offer greater protection for your foundation. See sample agreements without such restrictions.

Give gifts people really want. Fund more advocacy projects through general support or specific project grants. It allows your money to have more tangible impact on policy, and your foundation can do it without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status.

Make your money go farther. Encourage your nonprofit partners that provide services to share the knowledge they accumulate in their work — and to pass it on to those who make public policy.  It could increase the impact of their work exponentially.

Give with intention. If your foundation has multiple grantees active in one issue area, make sure their work is complementary. Use our free tool for assessing advocacy, the Advocacy Capacity Tool, to engage your grantees in identifying where their strengths lie in impacting public policy, and which skills or capacities are missing that they may wish to develop. Learn more about how funders use the tool.