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The Role of Philanthropy in Public Policy: “ABAG Goes to Annapolis”

Posted By Jonalyn Denlinger, Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Updated: Thursday, April 13, 2017

By: Jonalyn Denlinger, Director of Member Engagement

On January 31st, ABAG held its first ever “ABAG Goes to Annapolis” event. Twenty ABAG members and staff met in Annapolis to participate in the legislative session. For many, this was their first time to Annapolis observing the legislative session, for others this was a repeat occurrence. Both seasoned and first-timers commented on the “hurry up to wait” experience of the legislative session, as well as the importance of participating as an active citizen in the decisions made in our state capital. Everyone also agreed that it was a positive experience that exposed members to the legislative process.

This day in Annapolis represents the work of the Association’s Public Policy Committee, which meets quarterly. In 2016, the Public Policy committee, led by chair Kevin Griffin Moreno of the Baltimore Community Foundation, worked together to learn about the various roles our members play in public policy. It was through these conversations and exploration that we learned many of our members had not been to Annapolis, either in their personal life or professional roles. We also learned that our members engage with public officials and policy-related issues in a variety of ways- each unique to the charter and bylaws of their organization. Additionally, we learned that many of our members had hesitations and the need for further clarity about the role philanthropy can play in public policy. As a committee, we wanted to capture the various ways our members both define and act within the context of public policy. Below is our guiding document of definitions:

Public policy advocacy is a means of effecting change in public policy or practice through persuasive communications with elected or appointed public officials.

Advocacy does not equal Lobbying. Public policy advocacy includes a broad range of communications, relationship-building, capacity-building, and other activities. U.S. and federal guidelines limit lobbying to contacting – or urging the public to contact – policymakers for the purpose of: proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation; and/or influencing public policy decisions by Executive Branch employees.

Public policy advocacy includes:

  • Legislative advocacy – aimed at passing, blocking, or changing legislation;
  • Budget advocacy – aimed at affecting the allocation of public resources;
  • Administrative/regulatory advocacy – aimed at affecting the ways that laws are implemented and budgets are spent by public agencies; and
  • Judicial advocacy – aimed at reforming the legal system.

Types of public policy advocacy and potential roles for philanthropy:

  • Capacity Building – grantmaking to advocacy organizations, organizing, leadership development  
  • Coalition Building – mobilizing individuals/organizations around specific policy issues
  • Convening – holding meetings/forming networks around particular issues
  • Education – providing information to public officials and other stakeholders about policy issues
  • Grassroots Organizing – leading organizing efforts around particular issues
  • Litigation – lawsuits, legal representation, etc.
  • Lobbying –direct & grassroots lobbying – includes verbal & written testimony unless formally invited
  • Research – funding and/or disseminating the findings of studies, reports, white papers, etc. for the purpose of effecting policy change
  • Relationship-Building – cross sector relationship building with public, private, and social sector stakeholders
  • Strategic Communications – press releases, interviews, op-ed pieces, blog posts, social media activities, marketing, branding, emails to stakeholders, etc.
  • Funding - direct funding to advocacy organizations to address key issues important to foundation and community

Please join us for continued conversations about the role of philanthropy in public policy at our upcoming Public Policy Committee Meetings:

March 30, 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM

June 19, 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

September 18, 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

November 20, 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM 

Tags:  ABAG Members  Adventures in Philanthropy  Philanthropy  policymakers  policyworks  Public Policy 

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National Policy News You Missed While on Summer Vacation

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Tuesday, August 18, 2015
August 18, 2015
By Adam Donaldson, Member Services Director

Charitable Tax Incentives
On July 21, the Senate Finance Committee approved through 2016 a package of 52 expired tax provisions, collectively known as the "extenders package” (because the temporary measures have to be renewed periodically). Included in the bill was the IRA rollover and enhanced deductions for donations of food inventories and conservation easements. The bill does not make the provisions permanent. It also did not include changes to the foundation excise tax. A bill still needs to be brought to the Senate floor – most likely in the fall. During debate on the legislation, Senators Thune (R-SD), Stabenow (D-MI), Schumer (D-NY), and Wyden (D-OR) offered and withdrew an amendment that would have included all of the other components of the America Gives More Act. The purpose of the amendment was to keep on the table the issue of making the charitable incentives permanent during forthcoming reform negotiations.

Nonprofit Votes Count
A new initiative aims to encourage nonprofit staff, board members, and other volunteers to get registered and to vote. Entitled Nonprofit Votes Count, this nonpartisan voter engagement campaign – spearheaded by Independent Sector, National Council of Nonprofits, Nonprofit VOTE, and United Way Worldwide – provides a wealth of resources that make it easy for nonprofits to ensure all the people connected to their work are registered and ready to vote. At, nonprofits and nonprofit networks can sign up and access tools and resources to engage their own staff, board members, and other volunteers.
DOL Proposed Overtime Regulations Debated
The National Council on Nonprofits provides news about the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed overtime regulations. The draft regulations would increase the minimum salary level that employers must pay their white-collar employees from $23,660 to $50,400 per year to exempt them from time-and-a-half overtime pay. The proposal would also raise the minimum salary level for "highly compensated employees” from $100,000 to over $120,000 per year, and possibly establish a mechanism for automatically raising these salary levels in the future.

The National Council of Nonprofits encourages nonprofits to conduct a mission-based analysis of these proposed regulations. That means answering questions about how the proposed increases in the minimum salary levels would affect operations, resources, and staffing, as well as what impact the draft regulations would have on persons relying on the services and the mission of the nonprofit. Nonprofits should share their answers to those questions with the Department of Labor in the form of comments to the proposed regulations. Comments are due by September 4, 2015. Read the analysis by the National Council of Nonprofits and consider these tips on filing comments.

Tags:  Charitable Tax Deduction  Nonprofits  Policyworks  Public Policy  September 2015 Members' Memo 

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White House Director David Wilkinson Attends PolicyWorks Institute in Baltimore

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Wednesday, August 12, 2015
August 13, 2015
By Adam Donaldson, Member Services Director

On July 23-24 in Baltimore, the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers brought together the staff of philanthropic and nonprofit associations for PolicyWorks Institute 2015. Hosted at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers and Maryland Nonprofits were among those attending to identify state policy trends and to exchange best practices in engaging association members in policy advocacy.

David Wilkinson, Director, White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation joined the institute for a conversation about Paying for Success, an innovative way of partnering with philanthropic and private sector investors in Social Impact Bonds to create incentives for service providers to deliver better outcomes at lower cost. In contrast to rewarding grant compliance, Mr. Wilkinson declared that funding providers for measurable outcomes honors the "heroic work” of nonprofit professionals.
In the current political environment, the government -- the largest grantmaker -- is not likely to increase spending on human services. Government, according to Mr. Wilkinson, could help more people, however, by investing dollars in evidence-based programs that measurably improve lives rather than funding programs for their anecdotes. Locally established, the Maryland Opportunity Compact and Green and Healthy Homes Initiative use principles of Paying for Success. The current White House plans to increase money budgeted for Paying for Success models across federal agencies.

The association audience responded first with a request that the White House not skip the hard work of reducing administrative burdens and application barriers to grassroots nonprofit organizations, sharing information about procurement and government contract reform. There is real nervousness in the nonprofit sector that Paying for Success will bring increased regulations and hoops to jump. The exciting potential of Paying for Success to improve lives did energize the room and surfaced a call to invest first in the capacity building, evaluation and communication needed to prepare the sector to be a strong partner in this new paradigm.

Philanthropic and nonprofit associations will be part of that capacity building effort.

Tags:  Giving Forumm ForumCon15  PolicyWorks  September 2015 Members Memo 

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What is PolicyWorks?

Posted By Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, Monday, April 21, 2014

April 2014

ABAG is proud to participate in a national partnership of regional associations of grantmakers which envisions that policymakers will recognize regional associations of grantmakers as among the most valued voices and expert resources on issues critical to philanthropy and society.

For questions about PolicyWorks, please contact ABAG’s liaisons, Member Services Director Adam Donaldson and Board Member Kevin Griffin Moreno.


Policy Works LogoPolicyWorks for Philanthropy is a multi-year initiative that seeks to build the capacity of regional associations of grantmakers’ staff, board and volunteer leaders to engage policymakers in support of a vibrant and effective philanthropic sector.

Our vision is that policymakers will recognize regional associations of grantmakers as among the most valued voices and expert resources on issues critical to philanthropy and society. There are 28 regional associations participating in this initiative.


The PolicyWorks Community is committed to building their individual and collective capacity to achieve the PolicyWorks vision and goals. That commitment is based on the belief that:

  • Policy work is essential to achieving our missions and helping our more than 3,000 foundation members; and
  • As a network serving foundations in 39 states, the PolicyWorks community offers the best and only coordinated national system for building effective relationships with elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.

By "policy work" we meangovernment relations—related to legislation and regulations affecting the work of charitable foundations; andpublic policy engagement—supporting the achievement of charitable foundations’ mission and goals.

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 foundations seek to serve.


PolicyWorks is designed as a three-stage, multi-year engagement involving regional association executives and senior staff with members of their boards of trustees and volunteer leaders such as committee chairs.

Click here to learn more ...

Tags:  april 2014 Members' memo  forum  policyworks  public policy  regional associations 

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