Skip to main content

The intermediary roles of foundations in the policy process: building coalitions of interest

Abstract

The role of philanthropic foundations in the policy process is largely hidden and thus significantly under conceptualized. In this paper, we argue that several key characteristics of foundations serve as advantages for them to play an intermediary role in different stages of the policy process. By leveraging their independent resources, credibility, and strategic giving, they are able to build coalitions of interest to advance and secure preferred policy alternatives through agenda setting, policy diffusion, and coordinating implementation efforts. We provide evidence for this intermediary role through two qualitative case studies, (1) the Pew Charitable Trust’s efforts to promote universal pre-kindergarten, 2002–2012, and (2) multiple foundations’ role in supporting extended foster care in California, 2008–2012. In both cases, we find that foundations wielded significant political power within policy communities by serving as central hubs of information, facilitating coordinated action, incentivizing action, and connecting diverse actors. This allows them to play a crucial, yet veiled, role in attempts to advance policy change. This phenomenon may be welcomed for supporting evidence-based policymaking and capacity building, but is troubling in regards to transparency and accountability.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Foundations are allowed to lobby if the legislation directly affects the foundations’ existence.

  2. On January 1, 2004, the Pew Charitable Trusts changed its legal status from a private foundation to a public charity. It was able to do this because there were seven separate trusts providing funding to Pew, which, as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agreed, thus passed the public-support test for public charities. By changing its legal tax status to a public charity, Pew can now directly advocate for its policy agenda.

  3. Susan Urahn, Pew Charitable Trusts, telephone communication, November 9, 2005.

  4. Libby Doggett, Pre-K Now, personal communication, Washington, D.C., June 20, 2006.

  5. Libby Doggett, Pre-K Now, personal communication, Washington, D.C., June 20, 2006; Stephanie Rubin, Pre-K Now, telephone communication, Washington, D.C., June 28, 2006.

  6. In some states, the courts were the most promising path for creating universal preschool. Pew provided a grant to the Education Law Center (ELC) in 2003 to assist legal teams in eight states to win early education litigation (Pew Charitable Trusts 2005b). With Pew funding, the ELC created ‘Starting at 3’ to promote and support legal advocacy to include pre-k in school finance litigation and state legislation.

  7. Jerry Stermer, Voices for Illinois Children, personal communication, Chicago, IL, June 7, 2007.

  8. http://www.ytfg.org/about, accessed October 19, 2017.

  9. The federal Fostering Connections Act was signed in fall of 2008 and made it possible for states to enact legislation like AB12. However, due to the recession at the time, no other state moved as quickly or comprehensively as California.

References

  • Ansell, C., and A. Gash. 2007. Collaborative governance in theory and practice. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 18: 543–571.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barnett, W.S. 1996. Lives in the balance: Age-27 benefit-cost analysis of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bartley, T. 2007. How foundations shape social movements: The construction of an organizational field and the rise of forest certification. Social Problems 54(3): 229–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baumgartner, F.R., and B.D. Jones. 1993. Agendas and instability in American politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baumgartner, F.R., B.D. Jones, and P.B. Mortensen. 2017. Punctuated equilibrium theory: Explaining stability and change in public policymaking. In Theories of the policy process. 4th ed, ed. C.M. Weible and P.A. Sabatier, 55–102. New York: NY, Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berry, F.S. 1994. Sizing up state policy innovations research. Policy Studies Journal 22: 442–456.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Berry, J & Goss, K. This volume.

  • Berry, J., and C. Wilcox. 2018. The interest group society. 6th ed. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bushouse, B.K. 2009. Universal preschool: Policy change, stability, and the Pew Charitable Trusts. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cairney, P., and M.D. Jones. 2016. Kingdon’s multiple streams approach: What is the empirical impact of this universal theory? Policy Studies Journal 44(1): 37–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clemens, E.S. 1997. The people’s lobby: Organizational innovation and the rise of interest group politics in the United States, 1890–1925. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Committee for Economic Development. 2006. The economic promise of investing in high-quality preschool: Using early education to improve economic growth and the fiscal sustainability of states and the nation. Washington, DC, Committee for Economic Development. http://www.ced.org/docs/report/report_prek_econpromise.pdf. Accessed 6 July 2006.

  • Council of State School Officers. 2007a. Pew partners. Council of Chief State School Officers. http://www.ccsso.org/Projects/early_childhood_and_family-education/projects/2974.cfm. Accessed 22 Feb 2007.

  • Council of State School Officers. 2007b. Building a cadre of champions. http://www.ccsso.org/Projects/early_childhood_and_family-education/projects/2973.cfm. Accessed 22 Feb 2007.

  • Courtney, M., A. Dworsky, J. Lee, and M. Raap. 2010. Midwest evaluation of the adult functioning of former foster youth, outcomes at Ages 23 and 24. Chicago: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

    Google Scholar 

  • DeLeon, P., and L. DeLeon. 2002. Whatever happened to policy implementation? An alternative approach. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 12(4): 467–492.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Douglas, J.W., R. Raudla, and R.E. Hartley. 2015. Shifting constellations of actors and their influence on policy diffusion: A study of the diffusion of drug courts. Policy Studies Journal 43(4): 484–511.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fight Crime: Invest in Kids New York. 2003. Cutting pre-kindergarten with increase crime in New York. Washington, DC: Fight Crime Invest in Kids.

    Google Scholar 

  • Friedman-Krauss, A.H. et al. (2018) The state of preschool 2017. Newark, National Institute for Early Education Research. http://nieer.org/state-preschool-yearbooks/yearbook2017. Accessed 22 June 2018

  • Gandara, D., J.A. Rippner, and E.C. Ness. 2017. Exploring the ‘how’ in policy diffusion: National intermediary organizations’ role in facilitating the spread of performance-based funding policies in the states. The Journal of Higher Education 88(5): 701–725.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goss, K.A. 2007. Foundations of feminism: How philanthropic patrons shaped gender politics. Social Science Quarterly 88(5): 1174–1191.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Graham, E.R., C.R. Shipan, and C. Volden. 2013. The diffusion of policy diffusion research in political science. British Journal of Political Science 42(3): 673–701.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hammack, D.C., and H.K. Anheier. 2010. American foundations: Their roles and contributions to society. In American foundations: Roles and contributions, ed. H.K. Anheier and D.C. Hammack, 3–27. Washington: DC, Brookings Institution Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Internal Revenue Service. 2017. Private foundation taxable expenditures: Taxable expenditures defined. https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/private-foundations/private-foundation-taxable-expenditures-taxable-expenditures-defined. Accessed 9 Nov 2017.

  • Jenkins, J.C. 1998. Channeling social protest: Foundation patronage of contemporary social movements. In Private action and the public good, ed. W.W. Powell and E.S. Clemens, 206–216. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jenkins-Smith, H.C., G. St. Clair, and B. Woods. 1991. Explaining change in policy subsystems: Analysis of coalition stability and defection over time. American Journal of Political Science 35: 851–880.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jenkins-Smith, H.C., D. Nohrstedt, C.M. Weible, and K. Ingold. 2017. The advocacy coalition framework: An overview of the research program. In Theories of the policy process. 4th ed, ed. C.M. Weible and P.A. Sabatier, 135–172. New York: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jones, M.D., H.L. Peterson, J.J. Pierce, N. Herweg, A. Bernal, H.L. Raney, and N. Zahariadis. 2016. A river runs through it: A multiple streams meta-review. Policy Studies Journal 44(1): 13–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Karch, A. 2007. Emerging issues and future direction in state policy diffusion research. State Politics and Policy Quarterly 7: 54–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kingdon, J.W. 1995. Agendas, alternatives and public policies, 2nd ed. New York: Harper Collins.

    Google Scholar 

  • Matland, R.E. 1995. Synthesizing the implementation literature: The ambiguity-conflict model of policy implementation. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 5(2): 145–174.

    Google Scholar 

  • McAdam, D. 1982. Political process and the development of black insurgency, 1930–1970. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCarthy, D. 2004. Environmental justice grantmaking: Elites and activists collaborate to transform philanthropy. Sociological Inquiry 74(2): 250–270.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Milward, H.B., and K.G. Provan. 2000. Governing the hollow state. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 10(2): 359–379.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mintrom, M. 2000. Policy entrepreneurs and school choice. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mosley, J.E., and M.E. Courtney. 2012. Partnership and the politics of care: Advocates’ role passing and implementing California’s law to extend foster care. Chicago: Chapin Hall Center for Children.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mosley, J.E., and J. Galaskiewicz. 2015. The relationship between philanthropic foundation funding and state-level policy in the era of welfare reform. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 44(6): 1225–1254.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mosley, J.E., and K. Gibson. 2017. Strategic use of evidence in state-level policymaking: Matching evidence type to legislative stage. Policy Sciences 50(4): 697–719.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • National Council of State Legislatures Pre-Kindergarten Leadership Institute. 2007. Designing early childhood assessment and accountability systems. http://www.ncsl.org/programs/cyf/shultz.com. Accessed 23 Feb 2007.

  • Pew Charitable Trusts. 2005a. Education grant highlight: Action against crime and violence education fund. http://pewtrusts.org/ideas/. Accessed 9 Nov 2005.

  • Pew Charitable Trusts. 2005b. Education grant highlight: Education law center. http://pewtrusts.org/ideas/. Accessed 9 Nov 2005.

  • Pew Charitable Trusts. 2007. Pew prospectus. Philadelphia: The Pew Charitable Trusts.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pressman, J.L., and A. Wildavsky. 1984. Implementation. 3rd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Purdy, J.M. 2012. A framework for assessing power in collaborative governance processes. Public Administration Review 72(3): 409–417.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reckhow, S. 2013. Follow the money: How foundation dollars change public school politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reich, R., C. Cordelli, and L. Bernholz. 2016. Philanthropy in democratic societies: History, institutions, values. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rogers, E.M. 2003. Diffusion of innovations. 5th ed. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schneider, A., and H. Ingram. 1997. Policy designs for democracy. Lawrence: Kansas University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott, L.C. 2005. Leadership matters: Governors’ pre-k proposals fiscal year 2006. Washington, DC: Pre-K Now.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shipan, C.R., and C. Volden. 2012. Policy diffusion: Seven lessons for scholars and practitioners. Public Administration Review 72(6): 788–796.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Terry, L.D. 2005. The thinning of administrative institutions in the hollow state. Administration & Society 37: 426–444.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thomas, M.A. 2002. Political and legislative activity by private foundations. New York, NY, Carter Ledyard and Milburn LLP. http://www.clm.com/publication.cfm?ID=34. Accessed 9 Nov 2017.

  • Tompkins-Stange, M. 2016. Policy patrons: Philanthropy, education reform, and the politics of influence. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Voices for Children. 2007. Mission. http://www.voicesforamericaschildren.org. Accessed 23 Feb 2007.

  • Walker, J.L. 1969. The diffusion of innovations among the American states. American Political Science Review 63: 880–899.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

Authorship is equal and authors names are listed alphabetically.  For the California case, we gratefully acknowledge funding from the William T. Grant Foundation  and the work of co-investigators Mark Courtney (PI) and Amy Dworsky.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Brenda K. Bushouse.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bushouse, B.K., Mosley, J.E. The intermediary roles of foundations in the policy process: building coalitions of interest. Int Groups Adv 7, 289–311 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41309-018-0040-6

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41309-018-0040-6

Keywords

  • Foundations
  • Intermediary
  • Policy diffusion
  • Policy implementation
  • Child welfare
  • Pre-kindergarten