Nonprofit Lobbying Strategy: Challenging or Championing the Conventional Wisdom?

Abstract

Research on nonprofit lobbying conceives of strategy in various ways. This article presents a more comprehensive view encompassing four components: lobbying motivation (lobbying for organizational or self-interest as well as for societal benefit), concentration (lobbying in a narrow versus wide range of policy domains), type (lobbying policymakers directly or indirectly), and target (lobbying different levels of government). Based on the analysis of the population of nonprofit organizations that registered to lobby in the State of North Carolina in 2010 (N = 402), findings demonstrate the complexity and distinctiveness of nonprofit lobbying strategies: Most nonprofits register to lobby for organizational and societal benefit, in multiple policy domains, directly and indirectly, and at several levels of government. The article discusses the findings and their implications and suggests a research agenda on nonprofit lobbying strategy that would incorporate the roots of these strategic choices.

Résumé

La recherche sur le lobbying sans but lucratif considère ses stratégies sous divers angles. Le présent article offre un aperçu plus complet englobant quatre éléments : la motivation (lobbying pour des intérêts organisationnels ou personnels, et des avantages sociétaires), la concentration (lobbying dans des domaines politiques étroits plutôt qu’élargis), le type (lobbying auprès des décideurs de façon directe ou non) et la cible (différents niveaux de gouvernement). En fonction de l’analyse de la population formée par les organismes sans but lucratif qui faisaient du lobby déclaré dans l’État de la Caroline du Nord en 2010 (N = 402), les résultats démontrent la complexité et la spécificité des stratégies de lobbying : la plupart des organismes sans but lucratif font du lobby déclaré aux fins d’avantages organisationnels et sociétaires, dans plusieurs domaines politiques, directement et indirectement et à divers niveaux de gouvernement. L’article traite des résultats et de leurs implications. Il suggère un calendrier de recherche sur les stratégies de lobbying qui intégrerait les éléments fondamentaux de ces choix stratégiques.

Zusammenfassung

Studien zur Lobby-Arbeit im gemeinnützigen Bereich vertreten unterschiedliche Auffassungen zu den Strategien. Dieser Beitrag präsentiert eine umfassendere Sichtweise, die vier Komponenten einschließt: Motivation zur Lobby-Arbeit (Lobby-Arbeit im Interesse der Organisation oder im Selbstinteresse sowie für den gesellschaftlichen Nutzen), Konzentration (Lobby-Arbeit in einem begrenzten gegenüber einem breiten Spektrum politischer Bereiche), Art (direkte oder indirekte Lobby-Arbeit mit politischen Entscheidungsträgern) und Ziel (Lobby-Arbeit auf unterschiedlichen Regierungsebenen). Beruhend auf der Analyse der Gesamtheit gemeinnütziger Organisationen, die sich im US-Bundesstaat North Carolina 2010 für Lobby-Arbeiten registrierten (N = 402) zeigen die Ergebnisse, wie komplex und unterschiedlich die Lobby-Strategien gemeinnütziger Organisationen sind: Die meisten gemeinnützigen Organisationen sind für Lobby-Arbeiten für organisatorische und gesellschaftliche Nutzen registriert, wobei sie in mehreren politischen Bereichen direkt und indirekt auf mehreren Regierungsebenen aktiv sind. Der Beitrag diskutiert die Ergebnisse und ihre Implikationen und schlägt eine Forschungsagenda zur Lobby-Strategie gemeinnütziger Organisationen vor, die die Wurzeln dieser strategischen Entscheidungen miteinbezieht.

Resumen

La investigación sobre las actividades de lobby o presión política de las organizaciones sin ánimo de lucro concibe la estrategia de formas diversas. El presente artículo presenta una visión más integral que engloba cuatro componentes: motivación para realizar lobby (realizar lobby por motivos organizativos o de interés propio, así como también para el beneficio social), concentración (realizar lobby sobre una gama reducida frente a una amplia gama de campos políticos), tipo (realizar lobby a políticos directa o indirectamente) y objetivo (realizar lobby a diferentes niveles de gobierno). Basándose en el análisis de la población de organizaciones sin ánimo de lucro que se registraron para realizar lobby en el estado de Carolina del Norte en 2010 (N = 402), los hallazgos demuestran la complejidad y peculiaridad de las estrategias de lobby de las organizaciones sin ánimo de lucro: La mayoría de las organizaciones sin ánimo de lucro se registran para llevar a cabo actividades de lobby en beneficio de la organización y de la sociedad, en múltiples campos políticos, directa o indirectamente, y a varios niveles del gobierno. El presente artículo analiza los hallazgos y sus implicaciones y sugiere una agenda de investigación sobre la estrategia de lobby de las organizaciones sin ánimo de lucro que incorporaría las raíces de estas elecciones estratégicas.

要約

对非盈利游说的研究以各种方式考虑策略。本文所介绍更综合的观点涵盖四个部分:游说动机(为组织或自身利益以及社会利益游说)、专注(对狭义对广义的政策领域进行游说)、类型(直接或间接游说政策制定者)和目标(游说不同级别的政府)。基于2010年注册以游说北卡罗来纳州的非营利组织数量 (N = 402),调查结果表明,非盈利游说策略存在复杂性和独特性:大部分注册的非盈利组织都为组织和社会利益、在多个政策领域、直接和间接以及在几级政府之间进行游说。本文将介绍调查结果及其含义,建议非盈利游说策略的研究日程,这会结合这些策略选择的根本原因。

摘要

非営利組織のロビー活動に関する研究は、様々な面から戦略をはらんでいる。本論文では、ロビー活動の動機 (社会的利益と同様に組織または自己の利益のためのロビー活動)、領域(ポリシー・ドメインの狭い範囲と広い範囲のロビー活動)、タイプ(直接または間接的な政策立案者のロビー活動)、目的(政府の様々なレベルのロビー活動)という4要素を含む包括的な視点を提示する。2010年のノースカロライナ州のロビー活動に登録されている非営利組織人口の分析調査結果(N = 402)に基づくと、非営利組織のロビー戦略の複雑さと独自性を示されているが、ほとんどの非営利組織は、政府の複数レベルにおいて組織と社会の利益のために、複数のポリシー・ドメインが直接的および間接的にロビー活動に登録していることを提示する。本論文では、調査結果とその意味について説明して、これらの戦略的な選択肢の根本を組み込む非営利組織のロビー活動戦略の研究課題を提案する。

ملخص

بحث في إقناع المنظمات الغير ربحية بتصور الإستراتيجية بطرق مختلفة. تقدم هذه المقالة نظرة أكثر شمولية تشمل أربعة عناصر هي: دافع الإقناع (الإقناع من أجل التنظيمية أو الفائدة الذاتية وكذلك من أجل المنفعة المجتمعية)، تركيز (الإقناع في نطاق ضيق مقابل مدى واسع من مجالات السياسة العامة)، نوع (إقناع واضعي السياسات مباشرأو غير مباشر)، والهدف (إقناع مستويات مختلفة من الحكومة). إستنادا إلى تحليل من مواطنين من المنظمات الغير ربحية التي سجلت للإقناع في ولاية نورث كارولينا في عام 2010 (N = 402) النتائج تظهر مدى تعقيد وتميزإستراتيجيات كسب تأييد المنظمات الغير ربحية: معظم المنظمات الغير ربحية سجلت للإقناع من أجل الإستفادة التنظيمية والمجتمعية، في مجالات سياسة عامة متعددة ، إما مباشرة وغير مباشرة، وعلى عدة مستويات من الحكومة. تناقش المقالة النتائج والآثار المترتبة عليها، وتقترح وجود جدول أعمال للبحوث على إستراتيجية إقناع المنظمات الغير ربحية التي من شأنها أن تتضمن جذور هذه الإختيارات الإستراتيجية.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We thank Referee number 1 who provided valuable information regarding lobbying laws and regulation outside the United States. Information on lobbying in Canada is available from the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada (https://lobbycanada.gc.ca/eic/site/012.nsf/eng/h_00008.html) and provincially for Ontario from the Office of the Integrity Commissioner (https://www.oico.on.ca/home/lobbyists-registration/overview). Information on lobbying in the United Kingdom is available from the Charity Commission (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/charity-commission) and from the Electoral Commission (http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/party-or-campaigner/non-party-campaigners). Cross-national disparities in the legal definitions and boundaries of lobbying preclude our ability to speak to all audiences; therefore we limit our analysis to the United States.

  2. 2.

    Lobbying data requested on IRS Form 990 vary for 501(c)(3) organizations depending on whether the charity files Form 5768 with the IRS; the form allows charities to opt out of the nebulous “substantial part test” and instead elect into the “expenditure test” under section 501(h). For the substantial part test, the IRS evaluates several criteria (organizational expenses and time committed to lobbying, controversial nature of lobbying, etc.) to assess whether a charity’s lobbying activities constitute a substantial part of its overall organizational activities (a practice that is not permitted under federal law and could result in the loss of tax-exempt status). The boundaries of what constitutes “substantial” are blurry and ill-defined. Thus, a charity may choose to opt out of being evaluated by the “substantial part test” and opt into being evaluated by the “expenditure test,” which only assesses lobbying expenses and provides clear legal guidelines regarding lobbying expense limits.

  3. 3.

    North Carolina law mandates lobbyists to register separately for each organization for which they intend to lobby. The registration form requires lobbyists to identify the principal on whose behalf they intend to lobby, specify if they are an employee of the organization, and designate the policy areas in which they intend to lobby on behalf of the principal. In a separate filing to the Secretary of State, principals name and authorize lobbyists to lobby on their behalf and provide additional organizational information.

  4. 4.

    We used total assets as a measure of organizational size, instead of total expenses or total full-time employees as sometimes found in nonprofit research, for two reasons. First, nonprofits need not be traditional service-delivery organizations with many employees and high operational expenses to have outsized lobbying operations. And second, nonprofit advocacy research suggests that lack of capacity, for example, resource scarcity (Pekkanen and Smith 2014) and dependence on government revenue (Bass et al. 2014) may affect lobbying strategies. We believe total assets capture nonprofit organizational capacity better than total expenses or total full-time employees. Additionally, the use of total assets as a measure of organizational size is consistent with multiple previous nonprofit management studies (for a comprehensive review of the use of financial measures in nonprofit research, see Prentice 2015).

  5. 5.

    Mission areas are determined based on the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) code for each nonprofit. Additional information on NTEE purpose/activity codes is available from the National Center for Charitable Statistics (http://nccsweb.urban.org/nccs.php).

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Prentice, C.R., Brudney, J.L. Nonprofit Lobbying Strategy: Challenging or Championing the Conventional Wisdom?. Voluntas 28, 935–957 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-016-9760-x

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Keywords

  • Lobbying
  • Advocacy
  • Strategy
  • Nonprofit