Is Advocacy Worth Investing In?

capitol dome

What is the return on investment for charities to invest in advocacy, community organizing and civic engagement initiatives? A recent study by the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy poses this question. And the results are pretty remarkable.

The answer: billions of dollars to communities.

The study looked at 110 charities across 13 (U.S.) states. It found that charities advocating for more government funding to community programs – like housing for the poor or public health programs – garnered more than $26.6 billion over five years. That’s a lot of dough.

Overall, the study revealed that $231 million was spent on advocacy efforts (among the sampling of 110 charities). This means that for every dollar spent on policy and civic engagement, the donors reaped $115 in community benefit.

But are the numbers fully reliable? There’s no doubt that advocacy can and often does yield great results. But it can also be difficult for organizations to quantifiably measure their impact. There are a lot of variables that influence an official’s vote for policy change. It may be, at times, difficult to measure.

I suppose the old adage may apply here: “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” You probably shouldn’t focus all your spending on advocacy initiatives (depending on your organization, of course). But you shouldn’t rule it out. As the study suggests, long-term civic engagement and advocacy can yield some long-term benefits.

What are your thoughts on this study? Have you found advocacy effective for achieving your organization’s goals? Can the rise of e-advocacy and social media affect an organization’s investment in civic engagement?

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