An Independent Sector (IS) report released July 18, 2023, highlights the results of a nationally representative survey of nonprofit institutions that finds a significant decrease in nonprofit advocacy and lobbying over the last two decades.

2022 public engagement nonprofit survey

The research report, The Retreat of Influence: Exploring the Decline of Nonprofit Advocacy and Public Engagement,” fills a 20-year gap in national data on nonprofits’ participation in public policy. It also adds new data on nonprofits’ nonpartisan civic engagement; digital engagement; and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

In addition to exploring the significant decrease in nonprofit advocacy, “The Retreat of Influence” examines how nonprofit advocacy and lobbying interact with other forms of nonpartisan civic engagement.

Among key findings:

-A significantly lower proportion of nonprofits report advocating or lobbying compared to 20 years ago.

-Mission plays the largest role in determining nonprofit advocacy and lobbying.

-Significantly fewer nonprofits know the advocacy activities they can legally do compared to 20 years ago.

-Only 13% of nonprofits conduct nonpartisan activities to help people vote, despite being more effective than other types of organizations at getting people across the political spectrum to vote.

-Nonprofits that belong to collaborative groups advocate at higher rates than those that don’t.

-Although most nonprofits have a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statement, only 36% engage in policy activities to create more equitable systems.

The report emphasizes nonprofits’ essential role in promoting social change and addressing societal issues and identifies several opportunities for nonprofits to increase their impact.