The stages of nonprofit advocacy



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Texas A&M University


This dissertation argues that advocacy is a two-stage decision in which organizations must first decide whether or not to undertake political activity through advocacy or lobbying and then choose between the set of strategic actions that, based on available financial and human resources, are available to them. These are separate decisions with separate constraints. The decision to advocate is a strategic stance taken by nonprofit organizations in policy environments that necessitate such activity and in which it is politically conducive for them to undertake the cost of such actions. Once an organization has decided that it will undertake advocacy activities, it must determine the specific activities, collaboration, grassroots advocacy, or direct lobbying, that will help it to pursue that course most effectively. These hypotheses are tested in an analysis of the advocacy activities of over 500 nonprofit reproductive health service providers. Data for this study were gathered from the National Center for Charitable Statistics within the Urban Institute and directly from IRS Form 990s filed by the organizations. The findings suggest that there are strong and consistent relationships between policy and politics and the political activity of nonprofit service providers. In states with more restrictive reproductive health policy environments, nonprofit organizations that provide these services are more likely to engage in advocacy activity. The findings also suggest that, even when controlling for the policy environment, 501(c)(3)s are more likely to become politically active in states where they have a larger number of political allies. Additional analyses suggest that there is a negative relationship between government monies and the aggressiveness of advocacy and the use of multiple advocacy strategies. Interestingly, this finding is consistent with the expectations offered in the resource dependence literature and the results suggest only a tenuous relationship between institutional variables and decisions regarding organizational aggressiveness in the choice of advocacy strategies.