This piece published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy focuses on the importance of foundations pouring significant funds into advocacy. The article highlights the grantees’ success on the healthcare reform debate.
As one of its first projects, the Civic Participation Action Fund (CPAF) joined Koch Industries in supporting the US Justice Action Network (USJAN), a (c)4 arm of the bipartisan Coalition for Public Safety.
USJAN is working in several states and at the federal level on legislative initiatives to reduce mass incarceration and to make the criminal justice system fairer for all. One of CPAF’s goals is to reduce the disparate impact of the nation’s sentencing and incarceration policies on people of color. Given the enormity of the problem and the institutional biases in the current system, criminal justice reform will likely be a high priority for CPAF during its 5 year time frame.
The battle over comprehensive immigration reform has been underway for many years, but is becoming particularly heated in the current run up to the 2016 Presidential election.
CPAF believes that Latino communities should be fully engaged in the democratic process to ensure the outcome of the current debate represents their views. Thus, CPAF has supported several efforts to ensure the voices of Latinos are heard, whether that is in the press coverage of the election, the statements of candidates, or by the make-up of the candidates themselves and whether they are drawn from the communities they purport to represent.
Immigration reform legislation is unlikely prior to the election, but the nature of the debate during the election will set the stage for a renewed effort to enact comprehensive reform in 2017 and beyond. Strong Latino turnout at the polls is essential to ensuring a positive outcome.
Currently, too few foundations and other funders commit adequate resources to public policy advocacy that addresses the key issues facing low income communities and communities of color.
Part of CPAF’s mission is to ensure there is a stable and robust funding source for such issues by the time it sunsets in 2020. “We’re very encouraged by the emergence of new donors willing to fund advocacy,” says Steve McConnell, CPAF’s President. “There is growing recognition that today’s critical issues require the use of all available tools, including lobbying, ballot initiatives and issue based electoral advocacy.”
Traditional 501(c)3 philanthropic resources are the most common type of funding available from most foundations, but there are significant restrictions on the use of these funds because of tax law and the restrictive policies of individual foundations. An increasing number of living donors, especially those drawn from the new class of tech billionaires, are willing to bypass the tax deductibility of their gifts and are funding 501(c)4 advocacy organizations, which have a much wider range of tools available for conducting their work. CPAF is seeking opportunities to partner with these funders on issues of mutual interest.