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State nonprofit associations and agenda setting: An exploratory study of lobbying strategies

Dissertation
Author: Katrina Leigh Miller-Stevens
Abstract:
With the fast-paced growth of the nonprofit sector, nonprofit organizations have established influential positions in the formulation of public policies at the national, state, and local levels. As a result, scholars have become increasingly interested in nonprofit organizations' use of advocacy to influence agenda setting and the policy process. This study explores nonprofit advocacy by examining lobbying strategies of state nonprofit associations in state-level policy arenas. The study determines the types, methods, and perceived effectiveness of lobbying strategies employed by these organizations in addition to examining relationships between the associations' organizational structures, IRS h-elective status, and nature of use of lobbying strategies. This study employs a mixed-methods approach including a survey and follow-up interviews of directors and policy staffs working in forty state nonprofit associations that are members of the National Council of Nonprofits and a case study of the Colorado Nonprofit Association. The study incorporates conceptual elements of punctuated equilibrium theory including issue definition, issue attention, and prevailing power as a guide to explore how state nonprofit associations influence policy agendas. Findings indicate that state nonprofit associations employ grassroots lobbying strategies more frequently than direct lobbying strategies, but they perceive direct lobbing strategies as being more effective. The most frequently used lobbying strategies of state nonprofit associations include emailing members of the association, joining coalitions of nonprofit organizations, and encouraging the Board of Directors to contact policymakers. The most effective lobbying strategies, as perceived by staff members of the state nonprofit associations, include having personal meeting with legislators, inviting legislators to speak at events sponsored by the associations, and testifying at legislative hearings. The findings also suggest that organizational characteristics such as size of annual expense budget, number of staff, and number of nonprofit members do have an impact on the nature of lobbying strategies used by state nonprofit associations when nature of lobbying strategies is interpreted as frequency of use. The h-elective has very little impact on the types of strategies employed by the associations, but it does guide the amount of funding spent by the associations on lobbying activities. Finally, results suggest that state nonprofit associations primarily employ lobbying strategies to change each of the explanatory factors of issue definition, issue attention, and prevailing power to influence policy subsystems incrementally over a period of approximately one year. However, the external environment of a policy issue may lead a state nonprofit association to lobby to change one explanatory factor over another, and rarely, specific circumstances may require the association to lobby during a concentrated period of time of less than six months.

Figures TABLE OF CONTENTS xiii Tables xiv CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION 1 Rationale and Importance of the Research 1 Operational Definitions 6 Research Questions 9 Research Significance 10 2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE 12 The Rise and Identity of the Nonprofit Sector 12 Nonprofit Organizations and the Policy Process 17 Nonprofit Organizations and Advocacy 17 Empirical Research of Nonprofit Organizations and Advocacy 19 Nonprofit Organizations and Lobbying 26 IRS Lobbying Restrictions on 501(c)3 Organizations 28 Direct and Grassroots Lobbying Strategies 30 Umbrella Associations and Lobbying 32 viii

State Nonprofit Associations 36 Agenda Setting and Explanatory Factors of Influence 41 Agenda Setting 41 Explanatory Factors of Influence 42 Punctuated Equilibrium Theory 47 Policy Subsystems and Incremental or Concentrated Influence 48 Empirical Research Using Punctuated Equilibrium Theory to Study Advocacy 51 Bounded Rationality and Punctuated Equilibrium Theory 54 3. METHODOLOGY 56 Research Purpose and Research Questions 56 Study Design 58 Theoretical Framework for the Study 58 Narration of Figure 2 58 Operational Definitions of the Study 59 Data Collection Methods 62 Survey of State Nonprofit Associations 63 Follow-up Interviews to the Survey 66 Sample and Unit of Analysis 67 Case Study 68 ix

Case Study Interviews 73 Case Study Documents 74 Analyses 74 Quantitative Analysis of Survey Data 75 Qualitative Analysis of Follow-up Interviews, Case Study Interviews, Documents 77 Limitations and Challenges of Analyses 78 Why Some States Do Not Have State Nonprofit Associations 79 4. RESULTS AND INTERPRETATIONS 82 Research Question 1: What lobbying strategies do state nonprofit associations employ to influence policy agendas at the state level? 82 Relationship of Frequency of Use and Perceived Effectiveness of Lobbying Strategies 96 Research Question 2: To what extent are state nonprofit associations' lobbying strategies designed to change issue definition, issue attention, and prevailing power? 100 Research Questions 3: To what extent do state nonprofit associations lobby to bring about incremental or dramatic influence to policy subsystems? And Research Question 4: Are state nonprofit associations more likely to use issue definition, issue attention, or prevailing power to bring about incremental or dramatic influence to policy subsystems? 104 Process of Deciding When to Take Action on a Policy Issue 104 x

Findings from Case Study Policy 1: Colorado HB 09-1088 Colorado Nonprofits as Local Procurement Units 110 Findings from Case Study Policy 2: Referendum C Colorado State Spending Act 116 Findings from Case Study Policy 3: Amendment 59 TABOR Rebates and Education Funding 120 Conclusions to Research Questions 3 and 4 124 Research Question 5: Is there a relationship between state nonprofit associations' organizational structures and the nature of their lobbying activities? 127 Research Question 6: What are the impacts of the h-election on state nonprofit associations' use of lobbying strategies 140 Summary 142 5. CONCLUSIONS 143 Contributions to the Field of Public Affairs 143 Contributions to the Nonprofit Sector 143 Contributions to Agenda Setting Theories 150 Reflections on Punctuated Equilibrium Theory As a Framework for the Study 154 Further Research 156 Limitations and Challenges of the Study 159 Conclusion 161 xi

APPENDIX A. IRB Human Subjects Approval 162 B. Cover Letter and Survey 163 C. Respondents' Work Positions 170 D. Survey Follow-up Interview Protocol 171 E. Number of Survey Responses Per State 173 F. Case Study Interview Protocol 174 G. Frequency of Use and Perceived Effectiveness of Grassroots and Direct Lobbying Strategies Employed by State Nonprofit Associations 178 H. Interview Coding Template 182 I. Assumptions of Chi-Square Analyses 184 BIBLIOGRAPHY 185 xii

FIGURES Figure 1.1 Structure of National Council of Nonprofits (NCN), State Nonprofit Associations (SNAs), and Nonprofit Members 37 2.2 Framework for Applying Conceptual Elements of Punctuated Equilibrium Theory to State Nonprofit Associations' Use of Lobbying Strategies 58 xiii

TABLES Table 2.1 Examples of Organizational Characteristics of State Nonprofit Associations 40 4.1 Ten Most Frequently Used Lobbying Strategies of State Nonprofit Associations 83 4.2 Ten Most Effective Lobbying Strategies as Perceived by Respondents 85 4.3 Chi-square Analysis of Relationship Between Frequency of Use of Lobbying Strategies and Perceived Effectiveness of Lobbying Strategies 98 4.4 Chi-square Analysis of Relationship Between Frequency of Use of Lobbying Strategies and Perceived Effectiveness of Grassroots Lobbying Strategies 99 4.5 Chi-square Analysis of Relationship Between Frequency of Use of Lobbying Strategies and Perceived Effectiveness of Direct Lobbying Strategies 99 4.6 Chi-square Analysis of Relationship Between Budget Size and Frequency of Use of Coalitions as Lobbying Strategy 129 4.7 Chi-square Analysis of Relationship Between Budget Size and Frequency of Use of Meeting with Legislators as Lobbying Strategy 130 4.8 Chi-square Analysis of Relationship Between Staff Size and Frequency of Use of Emailing Staff Members of Legislators as Lobbying Strategy 131 4.9 State Nonprofit Associations' Organizational Structures 132 4.10 Chi-square Analysis of Relationship Between Nonprofit Membership and Frequency of Use of Lobbying Strategies 135 4.11 Chi-square Analysis of Relationship Between Budget Size and Frequency of Use of Lobbying Strategies 136 4.12 Representation of State Nonprofit Associations' Membership as Compared to Total Nonprofit Organizations Per State 139 4.13 Number of State Nonprofit Associations' that Sought to Obtain the IRS H-elective Option 140 xiv

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION Rationale and Importance of the Research Over the last thirty years the number of nonprofit organizations in the United States has more than doubled in response to a growing political movement to reduce American citizens' reliance on government (Boris & Steuerle, 2006). Consequently, a dependence on the nonprofit sector has developed as nonprofit organizations have filled the gap to provide public goods and services (Hall, 1992; Salamon, 2002; Berry & Arons, 2003). With this increasing responsibility, many nonprofit organizations have taken on the role of advocate for the public's welfare, and thus have established an influential position in the formulation of public policies at the national, state, and local levels (Boris & Mosher-Williams, 1998; Child & Gronbjerg, 2007). With the fast-paced growth of the nonprofit sector, scholars have become increasingly interested in nonprofit organizations' use of advocacy to influence agenda setting and the policy process (Berry, 2007). A majority of this literature seeks to determine motivations for nonprofit organizations' participation in advocacy with an emphasis on resource factors such as developed networks, funders, and normative rules for organizational behavior and organizational characteristics such as staff size, budget size, and access to technological resources (Nyland, 1995; 1

Wyszomirski, 1998; Andrews & Edwards, 2004; Hale, 2004). Research has shown that there is a relationship between the types of issues a nonprofit organization addresses and whether or not an organization chooses to advocate. In addition, an organization's staff size, budget size, and access to technological resources greatly impact the nature of nonprofit organizations' advocacy activities (McNutt & Boland, 1999; Rees, 1999; Boris & Krehely, 2002). This study explores these relationships further by taking a closer examination of nonprofit organizations' organizational structures and the issues for which they advocate to determine whether these factors impact the nature of advocacy strategies used to influence policy agendas. A second important focus of the literature on nonprofit advocacy centers on a subset of advocacy, that of lobbying, and the impact of the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) regulations on the 501(c)3 subsection of the nonprofit sector. Specifically, the IRS has established a regulation for 501(c)3 organizations titled the "h-elective" criterion that specifies the amount of spending nonprofit organizations can apply to lobbying activities without threatening their tax exempt status. A nonprofit organization opting for the h-elective can spend 20% of the first $500,000 of its budget on lobbying activities with a sliding scale that changes as the organization's expenditures increase. These guidelines are known as the lobbying- expenditure test (Internal Revenue Service, Measuring Lobbying Activity: Expenditure Test, 2009). While the h-elective appears optimal for nonprofit organizations participating in lobbying activities, only 2.4 percent of all 501 (c)3 2

organizations have applied for the h-elective due to a lack of education, ignorance, and misinformation (Berry, 2007). According to Berry (2007), "The IRS has made it remarkably easy for a nonprofit to take the h-election," yet "most nonprofits have no idea that there is such a thing" (p. 56-57). In order to fully understand nonprofit organizations' advocacy and lobbying practices, it is important to examine the federal regulations for lobbying on this sector. This study explores this issue further by seeking to determine why nonprofit organizations opt for or reject the h-elective and whether this decision has impacted the nature of their lobbying activities. As indicated previously, this study addresses nonprofit advocacy on a broad overarching level, but then narrows the topic to lobbying. According to McNutt and Boland (1999), "there is very scant literature that deals with adoption of innovative advocacy techniques by nonprofit [organizations]" (p. 448). To address this gap in the literature, this study analyzes one type of nonprofit organization, state nonprofit associations, that maintain to be successful at using advocacy and lobbying strategies to influence both the public and the policy agenda. State nonprofit associations have been chosen for this study due to the nature of their work. From this point forward, when state nonprofit associations are referenced, this will only include the 40 active state nonprofit associations of the National Council of Nonprofits. State nonprofit associations are parent organizations known as infrastructure or umbrella organizations that were formed to advance the role of nonprofit 3

organizations in resource management, community outreach, and the policy arena. Abramson and McCarthy (2002) note that as the nonprofit sector has grown, the strength and importance of nonprofit infrastructure and umbrella associations has grown as well. However, there has been little systematic analysis of these organizations and few data sources or previous studies from which to draw information (p. 331-332). State nonprofit associations represent a diverse membership of nonprofit organizations (Young, 2001; Abramson & McCarthy, 2002). Nonprofit organizations become members of state nonprofit associations in order to receive trainings to help manage the organizations more efficiently, to create networks between local nonprofit organizations, to receive information and representation on policy issues impacting the nonprofit sector, and to ultimately achieve greater impact in the nonprofit community (National Council of Nonprofits, 2008). One of the specified goals in the missions of state nonprofit associations is policy representation through the use of advocacy and lobbying strategies. State nonprofit associations advocate and lobby for or against policies that directly impact their members and the nonprofit sector (National Council of Nonprofits, 2008). According to the National Council of Nonprofits (2009), over the last twenty years state nonprofit associations have proven to be a powerful force in the policy arena. Therefore, these associations are not only of interest to scholars of the nonprofit sector, they are also of interest to scholars studying umbrella associations, legislative 4

influence, agenda setting, and the policy process. In order to provide a platform for exploring lobbying strategies of state nonprofit associations, the study focuses on the agenda-setting phase of the policy process. By studying the agenda-setting phase of the policy process, scholars provide explanations as to why certain issues are addressed through policy actions and others are not (Dearing & Rogers, 1996). Scholars of agenda setting have identified a number of explanatory factors that influence whether an issue will gain access to the policy agenda (Schattschneider, 1960; Downs, 1972; Cobb & Elder, 1983; Baumgartner & Jones, 1993; Kingdon, 1995). This study has narrowed the explanatory factors identified by scholars of agenda setting to focus on issue attention, issue definition, and prevailing power [for definitions, see Operational Definitions on p. 14] to operationalize the process by which state nonprofit associations influence agenda setting. The explanatory factors of issue attention, issue definition, and prevailing power are important conceptual elements of punctuated equilibrium theory. This study employs the conceptual elements of punctuated equilibrium theory as a guide to examine the process by which state nonprofit associations employ lobbying strategies to bring about change to policy subsystems and policy agendas. The present study is not attempting to test punctuated equilibrium theory, but instead is using the conceptual elements of this theory to guide the exploratory research. 5

Baumgartner and Jones' (1993) punctuated equilibrium theory builds on theories of incrementalism by positing that periods of incremental influence on policy subsystems can be broken by focusing events that cause concentrated influence on policy subsystems. In the case of this research, policy subsystems may consist of administrative agencies, legislative committees, interest groups, or media groups. The focus of this study is reformers' abilities to create both incremental and concentrated influence on policy subsystems. This study argues that state nonprofit associations, the reformers, employ lobbying strategies to change explanatory factors that will result in either incremental or concentrated influence on members of policy subsystems, thus altering the policy agenda [See p. 58 for an illustration of punctuated equilibrium as it applies to state nonprofit associations and their influence on policy subsystems and policy agendas]. Operational Definitions There has been little research applying well-established policy frameworks to studies of the nonprofit sector (Nyland, 1995; Ferris, 1998; Reid, 2000; Handy, 2001; Gronbjerg & Paarlberg, 2001). Before proceeding with the research purpose of this study, it is important to clearly identify the operational definitions used in the current research. State Nonprofit Associations- For the purposes of this study, state nonprofit associations refer to the forty associations that are members of the National Council of Nonprofits. State nonprofit associations are infrastructure, or umbrella, 6

organizations that represent a membership of nonprofit organizations. State nonprofit associations are formed to advance the role of nonprofit organizations in resource management, community outreach, and the policy arena (Young, 2001; Abramson & McCarthy, 2002). Direct Lobbying - Direct lobbying is a strategy used by nonprofit organizations in which staff members of the organization or lobbyists working on behalf of the organizations make direct contact with legislators and their staffs, executive branch officials and their staffs, or appointed or elected government officials to educate or influence these individuals on a policy issue. Grassroots Lobbying - Grassroots lobbying is a strategy that educates the public by disseminating research and creating educational programs or resources to inform citizens of a policy issue (Handy, 2001). Grassroots lobbying is intended to draw on the strength of public opinion to mobilize citizens to contact their elected and appointed officials regarding a policy issue (Berry, 1997). Agenda Setting - Applying Jones and Baumgartner's (2005) definition, for the purposes of this study agenda setting is defined as the process by which policy subsystems come to pay attention to some issues rather than others (p.38). Conceptual Elements of Punctuated Equilibrium Theory: Issue Attention - The amount of attention a policy issue receives will influence whether that issue emerges on the policy agenda. A policy issue may receive increased attention due to incremental activities such as an interest group's 7

dissemination of educational materials to the public and elected officials over a long period of time, or the issue may receive concentrated attention due to a focusing event that causes an interest group to employ lobbying strategies to influence the public or elected officials during a short period of time. Issue Definition - The way in which an issue is defined will impact the attention that issue receives from public and political actors. Therefore, reformers use policy images, symbols, or emotive appeal to redefine a policy topic, idea, or concern to bring renewed attention to that issue or to persuade individuals to change their perception of that issue to reflect the viewpoint of the reformer. An example of renewed issue definition is the environmental movement's adoption of the word "green," which has invigorated the movement and given it new meaning to many individuals. Prevailing Power - Prevailing power refers to the ability of one entity to compel another entity to do something. For example, nonprofit advocacy organizations may compete for a legislator's attention on a particular policy issue. Prevailing power is associated with the nonprofit organization that is the most successful at accessing and influencing the legislator or the policy subsystem. Or, prevailing power can be a nonprofit organization's success at influencing citizens through educational tools and events to take action and contact their legislators regarding a policy issue. In both cases, one entity is compelling another entity to do something. 8

Policy Subsystems - Policy subsystems consist of individuals from administrative agencies, legislative committees, interest groups, and/or media groups that meet over long periods of time to influence policy formulation within a given policy area (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993). Members of policy subsystems view policy issues from similar perspectives. Subsystems remain relatively autonomous in their make-up by warding off change from political outsiders and rebuffing the efforts of these external groups to become part of the policy making process (Givel, 2006). Research Questions Using conceptual elements of punctuated equilibrium theory as a framework for this study, the research seeks to answer the following questions: 1. What lobbying strategies do state nonprofit associations employ to influence policy agendas at the state level? 2. To what extent are state nonprofit associations' lobbying strategies designed to change issue definition, issue attention, and prevailing power? 3. To what extent do state nonprofit associations lobby to bring about incremental or dramatic influence to policy subsystems? 4. Are state nonprofit associations more likely to use issue definition, issue attention, or changing prevailing power to bring about incremental or dramatic influence to policy subsystems? 9

5. Is there a relationship between state nonprofit associations' organizational structures and the nature of their lobbying activities? 6. What are the impacts of the h-election option on state nonprofit associations' use of lobbying strategies? Research Significance On a broad level, the purpose of this research is to expand the literature on nonprofit organizations' use of advocacy strategies to influence the policy process. More specifically, the purpose of this research is to explore the process by which state nonprofit associations employ lobbying strategies to influence the agenda setting phase of the policy process. This study adds to the literature of numerous subfields of public affairs including research on the nonprofit sector, the policy process, and legislative influence. First, the study expands the literature on nonprofit organizations by exploring state nonprofit associations that are members of the National Council of Nonprofits. The organizational characteristics and policy activities of these organizations have not been previously researched, yet these associations play an important role in both the nonprofit sector and the policy process (Abramson & McCarthy, 2002). Second, the study expands scholars' knowledge of the relationships between organizational structures, h-elective status, and nonprofit organizations' lobbying activities. Third, the research furthers the literature on nonprofit infrastructure and umbrella associations in the United States. Fourth, the 10

research adds to the knowledge of punctuated equilibrium theory and its use as a framework to study nonprofit organizations in the policy process. Fifth, the research advances scholars' knowledge of legislative influence by exploring effective lobbying strategies of nonprofit organizations. Finally, understanding the various roles of nonprofit organizations in the policy process will enable nonprofit leaders to act more strategically in the policy arena. 11

CHAPTER TWO REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE The Rise and Identity of the Nonprofit Sector Over the last sixty years, the nonprofit sector has witnessed tremendous growth (Salamon, 2002; Berry & Arons, 2003; Hall, 2006). Peter Dobkin Hall (2006) notes that this spur in growth can be traced to the beginning of World War II when the role of the nonprofit sector expanded significantly in size, responsibility, and visibility. According to Hall, the 1940's marked an increase in the public's trust and reliance on nonprofit organizations. This trust was built on nonprofit organizations' participation in lobbying efforts and information dissemination to the American public to prepare citizens for America's involvement in the war. As a result of these efforts, the federal government emerged as a major supporter of the nonprofit sector by giving direct and indirect subsidies to nonprofit organizations providing health, research, and education services. From this point forward nonprofit organizations filled a visible and essential role in providing services to the public. Following the growth of the nonprofit sector by decades, in the late 1950's and early 1960's the civil rights movement mobilized nonprofit organizations to advocate for rights-oriented policy issues such as racial segregation, individuals with 12

disabilities, and gender and race issues. With nonprofit organizations' increasing visibility as advocates for social causes, the nonprofit sector grew in its role as a central figure in policy formulation (Hall, 2006). In the 1960's the federal government's funding support of the nonprofit sector increased further when the federal government declared a War on Poverty that relied heavily on nonprofit organizations to provide assistance and services to help the underprivileged overcome poverty and health-related issues (Berry, 2007). In the 1970's, the federal government's reliance on the nonprofit sector further expanded to provide funding for nonprofit organizations working in a wide array of service areas including universities, hospitals, and employment training organizations (Salamon, 2002). During the 1980's the federal government decreased funding to nonprofit organizations, but encouraged a movement to reduce citizens' dependence on government. Thus, issues of social services and health care were turned over to the nonprofit sector resulting in an increase of nonprofit organizations that were privately funded (Berry & Arons, 2003). The 1990's witnessed an increase of nonprofit organizations as the federal government encouraged public sector reform and efficiency, thus resulting in privatization of services to the nonprofit sector (Salamon, 2002). As the history of the second half of the twentieth century indicates, nonprofit organizations have become an integral and essential part of today's society. To illustrate the growth of this sector, in 1940 no more than 12,500 charitable tax- 13

exempt organizations, or nonprofit organizations, existed in the United States (Hall, 1992, p. 62). In 1989, the number had increased to over one million, and in 1995 the number jumped to over 1.2 million (Weisbrod, 1997; Meckstroth & Arnsberger, 1998; Salamon, 2002). In 2000, approximately 1.36 million nonprofit organizations registered with the IRS, and today that number is estimated at over 1.5 million (Van Til, 2000; Boris & Steuerle, 2006; Internal Revenue Service, Internal Revenue Service Data Book, 2008). In a snapshot, over a twenty-year period from 1975 to 1995 the number of nonprofit organizations filing tax returns with the IRS increased by 44% (Meckstroth & Arnsberger, 1998). Comparatively, from 1989 to 2000 nonprofit organizations filing tax returns with the IRS increased by 25%. This rise in numbers is primarily due to the expansion of registered 501(c)3 organizations which increased from 464,138 to 819,008 organizations during this eleven year period (Boris & Steuerle, 2006). With the significant growth of the nonprofit sector in the 1980's and early 1990's, scholars began to examine the relationship between nonprofit organizations, government failures, and market failures. Economists, historians, and nonprofit scholars gained considerable interest in nonprofit organizations as this sector consistently and successfully provided public goods and services in response to government and market failures (Lowry, 1995; Gronbjerg & Paarlberg, 2001; Brinkerhoff & Brinkerhoff, 2002). With the ability to fill gaps resulting from these failures, research has documented that nonprofit organizations are an integral part of 14

modern health industries, social service industries, the arts, and higher education (Clotfelter, 1992; Keyes, Schwartz, Vidal, & Bratt, 1996; Guo & Muhittin, 2005). In addition to researching the nonprofit sector's role in filling the gaps of public services, a major focus of nonprofit scholars in the last twenty years has been an attempt to define the sector. With the sector's inclusion of churches, hospitals, museums, universities, and many other groups, scholars debated, and are still debating, the meaning of "nonprofit sector" (Clotfelter, 1992). The current research defines the nonprofit sector within the parameters of nonprofit organizations' tax- exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) where nonprofit organizations are exempt from federal income tax under one of the 501(c) subsections of the Internal Revenue Code. In 1954, the Internal Revenue Service's Internal Revenue Code was rewritten to include new definitions of what types of organizations could be considered tax exempt organizations and how these organizations qualified as tax exempt organizations. The Internal Revenue Code of 1954, which was rewritten as the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, designated subsections in which nonprofit organizations can claim exemption from federal income tax (Scrivner, 2006; Internal Revenue Code, Chapter 1, Subchapter A, 2007). Twenty-seven subsections exist today. According to Block (2001), the advantages of tax exemption are an integral part of forming and maintaining a nonprofit organization. The majority of nonprofit organizations, approximately 65%, are registered with the IRS under section 501(c)3 (Meckstroth & Arnsberger, 1998). Nonprofit 15

Full document contains 209 pages
Abstract: With the fast-paced growth of the nonprofit sector, nonprofit organizations have established influential positions in the formulation of public policies at the national, state, and local levels. As a result, scholars have become increasingly interested in nonprofit organizations' use of advocacy to influence agenda setting and the policy process. This study explores nonprofit advocacy by examining lobbying strategies of state nonprofit associations in state-level policy arenas. The study determines the types, methods, and perceived effectiveness of lobbying strategies employed by these organizations in addition to examining relationships between the associations' organizational structures, IRS h-elective status, and nature of use of lobbying strategies. This study employs a mixed-methods approach including a survey and follow-up interviews of directors and policy staffs working in forty state nonprofit associations that are members of the National Council of Nonprofits and a case study of the Colorado Nonprofit Association. The study incorporates conceptual elements of punctuated equilibrium theory including issue definition, issue attention, and prevailing power as a guide to explore how state nonprofit associations influence policy agendas. Findings indicate that state nonprofit associations employ grassroots lobbying strategies more frequently than direct lobbying strategies, but they perceive direct lobbing strategies as being more effective. The most frequently used lobbying strategies of state nonprofit associations include emailing members of the association, joining coalitions of nonprofit organizations, and encouraging the Board of Directors to contact policymakers. The most effective lobbying strategies, as perceived by staff members of the state nonprofit associations, include having personal meeting with legislators, inviting legislators to speak at events sponsored by the associations, and testifying at legislative hearings. The findings also suggest that organizational characteristics such as size of annual expense budget, number of staff, and number of nonprofit members do have an impact on the nature of lobbying strategies used by state nonprofit associations when nature of lobbying strategies is interpreted as frequency of use. The h-elective has very little impact on the types of strategies employed by the associations, but it does guide the amount of funding spent by the associations on lobbying activities. Finally, results suggest that state nonprofit associations primarily employ lobbying strategies to change each of the explanatory factors of issue definition, issue attention, and prevailing power to influence policy subsystems incrementally over a period of approximately one year. However, the external environment of a policy issue may lead a state nonprofit association to lobby to change one explanatory factor over another, and rarely, specific circumstances may require the association to lobby during a concentrated period of time of less than six months.