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State nonprofit associations and agenda setting

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Title:
State nonprofit associations and agenda setting an exploratory study of lobbying strategies
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Miller-Stevens, Katrina Leigh
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Language:
English
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xiv, 194 leaves : ; 28 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Nonprofit organizations -- States -- United States ( lcsh )
Lobbying -- United States ( lcsh )
Lobbying ( fast )
Nonprofit organizations -- U.S. states ( fast )
United States ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 185-194).
General Note:
School of Public Affairs
Statement of Responsibility:
by Katrina Leigh Miller-Stevens.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
656249887 ( OCLC )
ocn656249887
Classification:
LD1193.P86 2010d M54 ( lcc )

Full Text
STATE NONPROFIT ASSOCIATIONS AND AGENDA SETTING:
AN EXPLORATORY STUDY OF LOBBYING STRATEGIES
by
Katrina Leigh Miller-Stevens
B.A., Colorado State University, 1999
M.N.M., Regis University, 2004
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Public Affairs
2010


2010 by Katrina Leigh Miller-Stevens
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Katrina Leigh Miller-Stevens
has been approved
by
Paul E. Teske
*{//£>
Date
Jon Van Til


Miller-Stevens, Katrina Leigh (Ph.D., Public Affairs)
State Nonprofit Associations and Agenda Setting: An Exploratory Study of
Lobbying Strategies
Thesis directed by Professor Paul Teske
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.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed
Professor Paul Teske


DEDICATION PAGE
I dedicate this dissertation to my husband Craig and my parents Pat and Tim whose
love and support have carried me through this journey.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to my committee members, Professors Paul
Teske, Jody Fitzpatrick, Stephen Block, and John Van Til for their continuous support
throughout the dissertation process. It is truly the case that their guidance, considerable
wisdom, and consistent commitment to my educational growth and overall well-being
have been both remarkable and deeply appreciated. I would like to thank Dr. Jon Van
Til for his on-going encouragement throughout this process, and for sharing his unique
perspectives regarding the non-profit sector and pertinent scholarship. I am also
sincerely grateful for the support and advice of Dr. Stephen Block. Working with
Stephen, I have gained insightful theoretical and practical knowledge regarding the non-
profit sector and corresponding dynamics. I am especially grateful to Dr. Jody
Fitzpatrick for her dedication to my work and future. As Dr. Fitzpatricks research
assistant, I have been privy to an exceptional array of research and teaching insights
which constitute the standard to which I will aspire in the years ahead. Jodys support
and guidance have been invaluable. And finally, I sincerely thank Dr. Paul Teske,
committee chair, who has personally, professionally, and expertly led me through the
dissertation process, while successfully navigating my opportunity to undertake a career
in academe. To each of these guides and mentors, I am deeply indebted.
In addition, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to my friends and fellow cohort
members Kristin Schumacher and Kevin Ward. Through the ups and downs, Kristin and
Kevin have always been there with me, and for me. I am thankful to have gone through
the PhD program with such supportive and caring friends.
Finally, I wholeheartedly thank my family for all of the sacrifices they have made in
support of my education for the extra hours my husband put in at work to support our
family, for my mothers calming words during anxiety-filled phone conversations, and
especially for my dads never-ending, unwavering encouragement to conquer the next
mountain. Their belief in me has been the backbone of my academic achievements.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Figures........................................................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
viu


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 publics 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
organizations 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
Services (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
organizations 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 Baumgartners (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 groups
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 movements 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 legislators 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 organizations 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 1940s marked an increase in the publics 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 Americas 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 1950s
and early 1960s 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 1960s the federal
governments 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 1970s, the federal
governments 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 1980s 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 1990s 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 todays 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 & Amsberger,
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 & Amsberger, 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 1980s and early
1990s, 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


modem 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 sectors 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 sectors 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 Services 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 & Amsberger, 1998). Nonprofit
15


organizations that are registered as 501(c)3s are designated as public charities
(charitable organizations) or private foundations. Public charities include human
service organizations, education and health-related organizations, and program
service organizations. These organizations rely on contributions, gifts, grants,
membership dues, and program service revenues for funding. Private foundations
include tax-exempt corporations, specialized associations, or trusts. Foundations are
most often grantmaking organizations that are financially supported and controlled
by a family or corporation. The remaining 35% of nonprofit organizations are
registered with the IRS under a separate section of the 501(c) Internal Revenue
Code. These organizations include business leagues, civic leagues, labor
organizations, and social clubs (Meckstroth & Amsberger, 1998).
Nonprofit organizations registered as public charities under the 501(c)3
Internal Revenue Code are the focus of this research. These organizations make up
the largest portion of the nonprofit sector and have a historical and ongoing
commitment to social services, social causes, and advocacy. Thus, many public
charities are involved with the policy process and are employing advocacy strategies
to influence the policy agenda. Therefore, advocacy strategies of public charities,
hereafter referred to as nonprofit organizations, are of current interest to scholars of
the nonprofit sector and the policy process.
16


Nonprofit Organizations and the Policy Process
According to Child and Gronbjerg (2007), Nonprofit organizations have a
complex and dynamic relationship with government at all levels and across a broad
array of policy arenas and therefore have a deep stake in the formulation and
implementation of public choices (p. 259). Berry (1997) has identified five roles
nonprofit organizations play in the policy process: they represent their constituents
before government, they give people the opportunity to participate in the political
process, they educate the public on political issues, they participate in agenda
building, and they are involved in program monitoring. By this definition, nonprofit
organizations are a valuable and influential force in policymaking. While scholars of
the nonprofit sector argue this to be true, there has been little study regarding how
nonprofit organizations represent their constituents in the policy process (Ferris,
1998; McNutt & Boland, 1999). This study fills this research gap by exploring the
advocacy strategies of nonprofit organizations and the process in which they employ
these strategies to influence policy agendas.
Nonprofit Organizations and Advocacy
On a broad level, nonprofit advocacy has been examined by nonprofit
scholars using a number of definitions. Boris and Krehely (2002) note, advocacy is
a vital, traditional role of nonprofit organizations (p. 299). According to Ferris
(1998), Policy advocacy nonprofits aim to influence the outcomes of the public
policymaking process by shaping the policy agenda, offering and analyzing policy
17


options, and monitoring the implementation of adopted policies (p. 145).
Advocacy in this context is referred to as influencing public opinion, defending the
interests of entire groups of excluded or disenfranchised people, and encompassing
efforts to defend against abuses of public power (Reid, 2000; Fox, 2001). Reid
(2000) states that advocacy is the collective action and social protest as well as the
face-to-face contact of people and their political leaders (p. 4). Reid argues that
advocacy strategies are intended to impact agenda setting, policy design,
implementation, monitoring, and feedback.
Nonprofit scholars suggest that nonprofit organizations choose to advocate
for a number of reasons. First, Berry and Arons (2003) argue that nonprofit
organizations may utilize the political system to pursue or protect important social
programs that will benefit society. Second, nonprofit organizations may be
motivated to defeat a policy that will have negative effects on their organization or
on the nonprofit sector such as shifts in government spending and nonprofit
organizations access to grants or contracts (Berry & Arons, 2003). Third, Child and
Gronbjerg (2007) note that nonprofit organizations advocate when changes in tax
rates modify incentives for charitable contributions, or when regulations require
nonprofits to disclose financial information or refrain from certain types of financial
or political activities (p. 259). Or finally, Nicholson-Crotty (2007) writes that
nonprofit organizations may advocate due to their close political ties to a legislator
working on a specific issue on the policy agenda that is of interest to nonprofit
18


organizations.
With the multitude of conclusions as to why nonprofit organizations
participate in advocacy activities, it is surprising that the number of studies
researching nonprofit advocacy have been limited. Following are three examples of
the empirical research on nonprofit advocacy and the methods used to study this
topic.
Empirical Research of Nonprofit Organizations and Advocacy
Research on nonprofit advocacy attempts to answer the following questions:
Why do nonprofit organizations advocate? What organizational characteristics
determine whether a nonprofit organization will advocate? For which policy issues
do nonprofit organizations advocate? What advocacy tools do nonprofit
organizations use and which are most effective? Scholars of nonprofit advocacy
research have employed a number of different methods to explore these questions.
One perspective on researching nonprofit organizations and advocacy
strategies is to explore the types of strategies used, the relationships between
organizational structures and the nature of these strategies, and the effectiveness of
advocacy strategies at influencing the public or elected officials. At the federal level,
Rees (1999) conducted a survey of all members of Congress and 29 White House
staff in which they were asked to identify the most effective nonprofit organizations
in national public policy debates. Nonprofit organizations effectiveness was
measured in terms of the perceived effectiveness of members of Congress and the
19


White House staff. Rees does not elaborate on the definition of effectiveness.
However, without citing specific authors or studies, she notes that previous studies
on the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations in the policy process at the federal
level have focused on methods such as counting the number of times the
organizations are asked to testify before Congress, are quoted in the newspaper, or
are identified by one another as having influence. Rees argues that she is expanding
the definition of effectiveness by querying the ultimate target of organizations
policy efforts by which she means legislators in Congress and the White House staff
(p. 66).
After analyzing the survey results of the members of Congress and White
House staff, Rees (1999) conducted a case study of the twelve nonprofit
organizations that were rated the most influential in the federal policy arena.
Representatives from each of the twelve nonprofit organizations were asked to
complete questionnaires on their organizational structures including size, number of
members, and budget and advocacy techniques including public policy and lobbying
communications. After analyzing the data, Rees concluded that of the 12
organizations she studied, size, number of members, and budget did not have an
impact on the types of lobbying strategies that were used, but these factors did have
an impact on how often the strategies were used. Of the specific strategies used,
Rees found that three of the twelve organizations made direct contributions to
political action committees in order to gain access to legislators. All of the
20


organizations developed relationships with legislators and their staffs over long
periods of time, and they each used advanced technology such as email as a way of
communicating with legislators and their staffs. The organizations used a number of
lobbying techniques including developing proposals and marketing tools to educate
policy makers and the public, maintaining a presence on Capitol Hill and meeting
with members of Congress, inviting law makers to visit the nonprofit organizations,
testifying to Congress at every opportunity available, and maintaining a constant
information flow with colleagues, legislators, and their staffs.
Rees (1999) study is significant in that she focuses primarily on lobbying
strategies to influence policymakers at the national level. The current research builds
on Rees study by narrowing in on lobbying strategies of state nonprofit associations
and their efforts to influence policymakers at the state level.
In another study, McNutt and Boland (1999) surveyed 54 state affiliates of a
national social-work professional association to determine the types of electronic
advocacy techniques that were used by the affiliates in their efforts to influence state-
level policy agendas. Participants were asked to report on their organizational
structures including number of paid staff, percentage of time staff spent working on
policy change, electronic advocacy techniques used, and effectiveness of electronic
advocacy techniques. Effectiveness was measured by the organizations perception
of their own success in using electronic advocacy techniques as well as by their
perceived effectiveness as rated by other nonprofit organizations. Perceptions of
21


effectiveness were rated on a scale of not effective to very effective.
McNutt and Boland (1999) found that size of an organization does impact
whether the organization uses electronic advocacy techniques in that smaller
organizations will have fewer staff members to devote time to lobbying and
advocacy. Conversely, larger organizations are able to hire consultants and experts
in technology to increase their abilities in electronic advocacy. Furthermore, budget
size impacts the availability of technological equipment to each organization.
With electronic advocacy strategies, McNutt and Boland (1999) found that
the majority of nonprofit organizations reported using email, fax-based strategies,
and conference calls to communicate with legislators and their staffs. These
strategies are perceived by the nonprofit organizations as being effective. Less
effective electronic advocacy strategies include the use of web pages to illustrate
legislative information, case studies, statistics, or links to policy websites.
Similar to Rees (1999) research, McNutt and Bolands (1999) study is
significant in that the researchers identified a specific type or subset of advocacy
strategy (electronic advocacy) used to influence policy at the state level rather than
addressing advocacy as one overarching strategy. In their results, McNutt and
Boland argued that more research on specific advocacy techniques is needed. This
research builds on Rees and McNutt and Bolands studies by exploring a specific
subset of advocacy, that of lobbying, and the use of this strategy by nonprofit
organizations to influence policy at the state level.
22


A second approach to researching nonprofit organizations use of advocacy
strategies is to identity the types of issues a nonprofit organization will advocate for
and whether the issue itself increases that organizations likelihood to advocate. For
example, in their study of advocacy at the state level, Child and Gronbjerg (2007)
compared different types of nonprofit organizations that participated in advocacy by
describing their organizational characteristics including size and age, issues for
which the organizations advocate, and the funding and technological resources they
devote to policy advocacy. Child and Gronbjergs study utilized data from the
Survey of Indiana Nonprofits in which a sample of 9,205 nonprofit organizations
from all IRS categories in Indiana were asked to participate. After analyzing data
from the 2,206 respondents, Child and Gronbjerg concluded that the social issues an
organization addresses increases the degree to which that organization will advocate.
Child and Gronbjerg also found that a nonprofit organizations decision to advocate
increases dramatically if the organization is working in the environmental or health
field. In addition, larger staff, technological equipment, and budget size increase a
nonprofit organizations likelihood to participate in advocacy. Organizational age
does not appear to have an impact on whether a nonprofit organization chooses to
advocate.
A third approach to studying nonprofit organizations and advocacy is to
explore nonprofit organizations utilization of coalitions, collaborations, and
networks to improve their effectiveness in the policy arena. Over the last twenty
23


years, scholars have shown particular interest in researching coalitions of nonprofit
organizations and the role of these coalitions as influential interest groups in the
policy process (Andrews & Edwards, 2004). For example, Covey (1995) discusses
the use of coalitions by nonprofit organizations and concludes that these alliances
can be successful at influencing policy if they use grassroots lobbying techniques
that focus on individuals directly impacted by the policy issue. Similarly, Ferris
notes There are obvious benefits, both in terms of resources as well as impact, to
establishing alliances (Ferris, 1998, p. 146). Likewise, a number of scholars
conclude that success in the policy process increases with collaborations among
nonprofit organizations (Coston, 1998; Ferris, 1998; Snavely & Tracy, 2000; Guo et
al., 2005).
Research on nonprofit organizations use of advocacy strategies also
examines organizations efforts to build alliances with government legislators and
their staffs, thereby creating trust, mutual interest, and a shared vision of policy
interest and formulation (Nyland, 1995; Snavely & Tracy, 2000; Andrews &
Edwards, 2004; Bouget & Prouteau, 2002; Hale, 2004). Nonprofit organizations
build relationships with government officials and agencies through informal issue
networks, which Heclo (1978) describes as issue-activists and issue-experts forming
loose alliances in which they define political affairs by sharing information (Nyland,
1995). These issue networks allow for nonprofit coalitions to play formative roles in
policy formulation by integrating them into policy subsystems of specific policy
24


issues.
For example, Keyes, Schwartz, Vidal, and Bratt (1996) conducted a study to
describe the cross-sector issue networks that formed in support of low-income
housing policies in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Boston. These networks consisted of
nonprofit organizations, government agencies, philanthropic organizations, and
educational organizations. The authors concluded that nonprofit organizations were
successful at influencing low-income housing policy through cross-sector networks
that emphasized long-term relationships of trust and reciprocity, shared vision,
mutual interest, and financial nexus.
By supporting each other through the use of coalitions and issue networks,
nonprofit organizations are able to coordinate their lobbying efforts to influence the
policy process. It is important to understand coalitions, collaborations, and networks
of nonprofit organizations in order to explore the lobbying efforts of state nonprofit
associations. State nonprofit associations represent a membership of nonprofit
organizations. Through the use of collaborations and networks, state nonprofit
associations increase their knowledge of the policy issues that are affecting their
members, and these networks in turn support associations lobbying efforts on the
networks behalf (National Council of Nonprofits, 2008).
As evidenced from these studies, scholars examining nonprofit organizations
use of advocacy strategies employ a number of different approaches for their
research. First, they analyze the organizational structures of nonprofit organizations
25


including staff size, budget size, and technological resources and whether these
organizational characteristics influence advocacy activities. Second, scholars
determine the types of advocacy strategies used by nonprofit organizations to
influence the policy process and whether these strategies are perceived as effective.
The current research study takes this approach by examining the organizational
structures and types of advocacy techniques used by state nonprofit associations in
the policy arena. The study expands on these approaches by not only describing the
specific types of lobbying strategies used by state nonprofit associations, but also
describing the timing and methods in which these strategies are used. Second, the
study examines the effectiveness in which these strategies are used. Effectiveness of
lobbying strategies, as illustrated by Rees (1999) and McNutt and Boland (1999),
will be measured by the state nonprofit associations perceptions of their own
effectiveness. Third, the study determines whether there is a relationship between
state nonprofit associations organizational structures and the nature of their
lobbying activities.
Nonprofit Organizations and Lobbying
As previously indicated, this study narrows the broad topic of advocacy to
focus on lobbying. Throughout the nonprofit literature, scholars discuss lobbying as
a subset or particular type of advocacy (Boris & Krehely, 2002). In its broadest
sense, lobbying is an attempt to influence the public policy and issue-making
functions of a regulatory, administrative, or legislative body (Hopkins, 1992, p.
26


104). More specifically, lobbying is defined as the act of addressing legislators with
a view to influence their votes or any communication to influence specific legislation
(Hopkins, 1992; Boris & Krehely, 2002). Berry (2007) defines lobbying in the
context of nonprofit organizations as the lobbying of a legislative body: Congress,
state legislatures, and city councils. This includes direct lobbying of legislators or
their staffs by nonprofit representatives as well as grassroots campaigns in which a
501(c)3 works to activate its members, clients, or constituents by asking them to
contact legislators about a specific bill (p. 241). Lobbying strategies enable
nonprofit organizations to attempt to become more influential than opposing interest
groups by encouraging and educating the public and elected officials on a particular
policy issue with the goal of ultimately influencing government policies (Wilson,
1981).
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) identifies the five types of nonprofit
organizations that most commonly engage in lobbying activities as 501(c)3
charitable organizations, 501(c)4 social welfare organizations, 501(c)5 labor
organizations, 501(c)6 business leagues, and 527 political organizations. By law,
these organizations are restricted in their use of lobbying strategies (Internal Revenue
Service, Tax Information for Charitable Organizations, 2009; Internal Revenue
Service, Tax Information for Political Organizations, 2009). 501(c)4, 501(c)5, and
501(c)6 organizations share common restrictions set by the IRS in their use of
lobbying activities. These organizations are unlimited in the amount of funding that
27


can be used towards lobbying activities so long as these activities are used towards
an organizations exempt purposes. While these organizations face fewer restrictions
for lobbying, they receive fewer tax benefits under the IRS code. Organizations
registered with the IRS as 527s are limited in the funds they can spend on lobbying,
and they are required to pay federal taxes on any funds spent on lobbying efforts
(Bobo, Kendall, & Max, 2001; Internal Revenue Service, Tax Information for
Charitable Organizations, 2009; Internal Revenue Service, Tax Information for
Political Organizations, 2009)
Organizations registered as 501(c)3s have specified IRS restrictions as well.
As stated previously, the majority of nonprofit organizations in the United States are
registered with the IRS as 501 (c)3 organizations. These organizations are permitted
to spend funding on lobbying activities, but the amount of funding spent on lobbying
activities is limited by a number of federal tax regulations (Bobo, et.al., 2001;
Internal Revenue Service, Information for Charitable Organizations, 2009). Since
501(c)3 organizations are the focus of this research, more detail on lobbying
restrictions impacting these organizations is explored below.
IRS Lobbying Restrictions on 501(c) 3 Organizations
Lobbying restrictions for 501(c)3 organizations were established in 1919 by
the Treasury Department and then updated by Congress in 1934. In 1954, the
Internal Revenue Code prohibited 501 (c)3 organizations from participating in any
political campaign on behalf of a candidate for public office (Internal Revenue Code,
28


Chapter 1, Subchapter A § 501 (c)3,2007). In addition, the regulations established
by the Treasury Department and Congress state that in order for a 501(c)3 nonprofit
organization to qualify for tax-exempt status, a substantial part of that
organizations activities should not be involved in carrying on propaganda, or
otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (Internal Revenue Service, Measuring
Lobbying: Substantial Part Test, 2009). These regulations, which exist to this day,
have created confusion among nonprofit organizations due to the ambiguity of the
word substantial and the governments reluctance to clarify the meaning of this
word (Hopkins, 2001).
Due to the elusive wording of regulations on nonprofit 501(c)3 lobbying, in
1976 Congress passed the Lobby Law (updated in 1990) that established the h-
elective to clarify rules for lobbying by 501(c)3 charitable organizations. The h-
elective declares that many expenditures that have some relationship to public
policy and legislative issues are not treated as lobbying and so are permitted without
limit (Smucker, 1991, p. 68). More importantly, the h-elective specifies that
nonprofit organizations may spend up to a defined percentage of their budgets for
lobbying without threatening their tax-exempt status. Nonprofit organizations opting
for the h-elective can spend 20% of the first $500,000 of their budget on lobbying
activities with a sliding scale that changes as organizations expenditures increase
(Internal Revenue Service, Measuring Lobbying Activity: Expenditure Test, 2009).
These guidelines are known as the lobbying-expenditure test (Avner, 2002). While
29


the h-elective appears optimal for nonprofit organizations participating in lobbying
activities, only 2.4 percent of all 501(c)3 organizations have applied for the h-
election due to a lack of education, ignorance, and misinformation, yet there has
been limited research exploring this issue (Berry, 2007). The current study fills this
gap by identifying whether state nonprofit associations choose to opt for the h-
elective, why they have rejected or taken this opportunity, and whether this decision
has impacted associations nature of use of lobbying activities.
Direct and Grassroots Lobbying Strategies
Lobbying has proven to be a successful strategy used by policy reformers to
influence agenda setting (Berry, 1997). The IRSs lobbying rules for 501(c)3
organizations recognize two types of lobbying strategies: direct lobbying and
grassroots lobbying (Austen-Smith, 1993; Wyszomirski, 1998). Direct lobbying is a
strategy employed by nonprofit organizations in which staff members or lobbyists
working on behalf of an organization make direct contact with legislators and their
staffs, legislative committee members, executive branch officials and their staffs, or
appointed or elected government officials. Direct contact with legislators carries the
purpose of building allies among influential policymakers (Boris & Krehely, 2002).
Direct lobbying includes such strategies as initiating face-to-face contact with
legislators by attending fundraisers, political events, and legislative or committee
meetings to present their expertise on policy issues while establishing relationships
with legislators and their staffs (Miller, 1994; Wolpe & Levine, 1996; Rees, 1999;
30


Nicholson-Crotty, 2007). Nonprofit organizations may also use telephone
conversations, conference calls, and written communication through letters, emails,
and faxes to legislators and their staffs as direct lobbying strategies (Wolpe &
Levine, 1996; McNutt & Boland, 1999; Rees, 1999). Berry (1997) notes that the
lobbying world has been altered by the telecommunications revolution (p. 135) in
which high-tech lobbying has quickened the pace of politics (p. 136).
In contrast to direct lobbying, grassroots lobbying is intended to mobilize
citizens who share similar views to contact elected and appointed officials in order to
build support for nonprofit organizations efforts (Berry 1997). Grassroots lobbying
is a strategy that educates the public by disseminating research findings and creating
educational programs in order to draw on the strength of public opinion (Handy,
2001). Research and educational issues are disseminated through electronic
mediums such as the Internet, use of websites on the World Wide Web, and through
media campaigns via television advertisements or print advertisements (McNutt &
Boland, 1999; Rees, 1999). Through educating the general public, citizens are
encouraged to write letters and emails or to directly call legislators involved in
setting policy agendas (Avner, 2002). In addition, grassroots lobbying builds a
foundational support for nonprofit organizations, which can be used as a basis for
organizations arguments to legislators, their committees, and their staffs (Cobb &
Elder, 1983; Wolpe & Levine, 1996).
31


Umbrella Associations and Lobbying
Coalitions of nonprofit organizations are often represented in the policy arena
by a parent organization that is referred to as an infrastructure or umbrella
organization. Abramson and McCarthy (2002) note that as the nonprofit sector has
grown, the strength and importance of nonprofit infrastructure organizations, or
umbrella organizations, 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). While this may be true for the United States, the
literature on umbrella associations increases when viewed from an international
perspective. International research includes European-based peak associations,
Australian-based peak bodies, Canadian-based infrastructure organizations, and US-
based nonprofit associations.
European literature focuses on peak associations that represent the for-profit
and nongovernmental business interests of a coalition of organizations to build
consensus [with the State] over the problems plaguing particular sectors (Eising,
2004, p. 218). Peak associations are deeply involved in policymaking and
implementation (Pijnenburg, 1998; Beyers, 2002). These associations use lobbying
and advocacy strategies to influence European institutions while also providing a
channel through which various national interest associations can funnel their
objectives (Beyers, 2002, p. 595).
32


Similar to peak associations, research on Australias peak bodies focuses on
the impact these representative organizations have on government relations and the
policy process. Unlike peak associations, peak bodies do not include for-profit
businesses and instead focus solely on non-governmental community-managed
umbrella organizations that represent their members views (Cheverton, 2005). Peak
bodies are designed to provide dissemination services, membership support,
coordination, advocacy and representation, and research and policy development
services for its members and other interested parties (Industry Commission, 1995,
p. 181).
In the United States, nonprofit umbrella associations are defined as
associations with memberships of 501(c)3 organizations (Young, 2001). These
associations act as a means for collective action and a vehicle to shape the nonprofit
sector by providing a wide range of services to their members including support
services, education and communication services, lobbying and advocacy, and a
forum for networking. Nonprofit umbrella associations educate, lobby, and work on
behalf of their members interests (Union Institute, 1996; Hudson & Bielefeld,
1997; Young, 2001). National sector-wide umbrella associations represent the
interests of their national membership by providing education, networking, lobbying,
and advocacy support on a national level. One example of a national umbrella
organization is United Way of America that represents United Way organizations
located throughout the United States (Young, 2001).
33


Studies of umbrella associations have compared and contrasted the role of
peak bodies/umbrella associations in Britain, Australia, and the United States. These
countries are comparable in the structure of their public sectors and public sector
reform movements of the last thirty years (Melville, 1999). In a study by Melville
(1999) the author found that while the role of the peak body/umbrella associations
varied between countries, each of the peak body/umbrella associations participated in
lobbying and advocacy efforts on behalf of their members and many of these
organizations became intimately involved in the policy-making process. However,
Melville found that the British and United States governments are challenging the
roles of peak and umbrella associations to lobby and advocate, thus hindering their
abilities to fully engage in the political and policy-making process. In another study
comparing the three countries, Cheverton (2004) observed that peak bodies/umbrella
associations in Britain, the United States, and Australia share similar concerns of
fully representing their membership in the policy process while also compromising
with the demands of government in order to avoid losing their tax-exempt status.
In Canada and the United States peak and umbrella associations are also
referred to as nonprofit infrastructure organizations. Nonprofit infrastructure
organizations represent the nonprofit sector as a whole by providing advocacy and
fostering relationships between the nonprofit community and policymaking,
promoting research on the nonprofit sector, providing and improving technical
34


assistance of nonprofit organizations, and providing education and training services
to leaders and workers in the nonprofit sector (Abramson & McCarthy, 2002;
Phillips & Stoney, 2006). According to Phillips and Stoneys (2006) study of
Canadian nonprofit infrastructure organizations, The distinctive value of
infrastructure organizations is their ability to communicate among a broad diversity
of community actors, and to bridge the set of actors (p. 5). Canadian nonprofit
infrastructure organizations enhance the policy capacity of the sector as a whole by
providing expertise and knowledge of the policy process to the nonprofit sector.
Phillips and Stoneys (2006) observation is true for nonprofit infrastructure
organizations of the United States as illustrated by organizations such as Independent
Sector, a national coalition of more than 700 members from the nonprofit
community. Independent Sector provides education and advocacy to bring together
the public sector, nonprofit sector, and general public in addition to providing
advocacy services and educational services on behalf of grantmakers and
grantseekers (Abramson & McCarthy, 2002).
A second example of a nonprofit infrastructure organization is the National
Council of Nonprofits that seeks to expand the capacity of state-based and regional
associations of nonprofits and grantmakers via public initiatives and the promotion
of a cohesive vision that emphasizes the importance of nonprofits and philanthropy
(Abramson & McCarthy, 2002, p. 336). The National Council of Nonprofits
membership consists of state nonprofit associations that provide advocacy and
35


member assistance functions on sector-wide issues that are pertinent to the regions
where the state nonprofit associations are located. The National Council of
Nonprofits represents its members, state nonprofit associations, on a national level
while the state nonprofit associations themselves represent their nonprofit members
on a state or local level (Abramson & McCarthy, 2002; National Council of
Nonprofits, 2008).
State Nonprofit Associations
While there are a number of state-based nonprofit associations across the
United States, this research focuses solely on the state nonprofit associations that are
members of the National Council of Nonprofits. The National Council of
Nonprofits current membership includes 40 active state nonprofit associations in 39
states. 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. The National Council of Nonprofits is an umbrella
organization that provides a platform for networking local nonprofit organizations to
a national audience through its 40 state nonprofit associations. The National Council
of Nonprofits supports the state nonprofit associations in their efforts to influence
public policy at a national level in addition to providing technical assistance,
research and publications, and educational events to strengthen state nonprofit
associations impacts on a national level and within their communities. Figure 1
illustrates the structures of the National Council of Nonprofits (NCN), its
36


membership of forty state nonprofit associations (SNAs), and the state nonprofit
associations membership organizations.
Figure 1: Structure of National Council of Nonprofits (NCN),
State Nonprofit Associations (SNAs), and Nonprofit Members
State nonprofit associations have a collective membership of over 20,000
nonprofit organizations (National Council of Nonprofits, 2008). Nonprofit
organizations become members of state nonprofit associations in order to receive
trainings to help manage their 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, 2009). To become a
member of a state nonprofit association, nonprofit organizations are required to pay a
membership due that is based on each organizations yearly expense budget. The
membership due varies between associations.
With the exception of the New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc. that was
founded in 1927, the majority of state nonprofit associations have been established
over the last thirty-three years for varying reasons. For example, in 1982 The Center
37


for Nonprofits of New Jersey (2009) was established to provide leadership and
services for New Jersey nonprofits (|1). The Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of
New York (2009) was founded in 1984 to contest a proposal by the City of New
York to remove the charitable property tax exemption from many of New York's
leading nonprofit cultural institutions (f 5). Also in response to a policy issue, in
1984 the California Association of Nonprofits (2009) was established by three
nonprofit professionals in response to an insurance crisis that caused premiums to
escalate dramatically and endangered the very existence of many California
nonprofits 1). Other state nonprofit associations were formed as the result of a
statewide effort by individuals in the nonprofit community who recognized the need
for centralized training, facilitation, advocacy, and education to strengthen nonprofit
organizations abilities to serve the community; examples include Maryland
Nonprofits founded in 1992, the North Dakota Association of Nonprofit
Organizations founded in 1997, and Wisconsin Nonprofits founded in 2005. When
viewed from an overarching level, the National Council of Nonprofits (2008) writes
that state nonprofit associations were formed to advance the role of nonprofit
organizations to manage and lead more effectively, collaborate and exchange
solutions, save money through group buying opportunities, engage in critical policy
issues affecting the sector, and achieve greater impact in their communities (f 2).
While state nonprofit associations address a number of training, capacity, and
management issues within the nonprofit sector, the associations have been chosen for
38


this study due to the nature of their work in policy advocacy and their representation
of all types of nonprofit organizations in the nonprofit sector, as opposed to nonprofit
associations that have a narrow focus such as health care or social work. On the
broad level of advocacy, state nonprofit associations advocate for issues that affect
all nonprofits. These policy activities include tracking state and federal legislation,
educating nonprofits about policy development, and mobilizing members and other
nonprofits around critical policy issues (National Council of Nonprofit, 2009,13).
While the current study discusses advocacy on a broad level, the focus of this
research explores state nonprofit associations use of lobbying strategies.
State nonprofit associations are different from most public charities in that
they represent a membership of nonprofit organizations in the policy arena, as
opposed to representing citizens in the community (National Council of Nonprofits,
2008). The associations lobbying efforts focus on legislation and policies that
directly impact organizations within the nonprofit sector. Examples of these policies
include bills on lobbying reform, the rights of nonprofit organizations to
communicate and interact with elected or appointed officials, supporting tax-
incentives for charitable giving, seeking to influence regulatory activities of state and
federal agencies that have a monitoring function over the nonprofit sector, or laws
that regulate procurement issues of the nonprofit sector.
State nonprofit associations are of particular interest to scholars studying
lobbying strategies of nonprofit organizations in that, unlike the majority of
39


nonprofit organizations, policy advocacy is a primary goal stated in the missions of
these organizations. For example, the Minnesota Nonprofit Associations (2009)
mission emphasizes advocacy and public policy on sector-wide issues (f 2); the
South Carolina Association for Nonprofit Organizations (2009) mission states that
one of the associations goals is to serve as an affective advocate for the state's
nonprofit community as a whole flj 3); and the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits
(2009) mission notes a strategic imperative to become the leading advocate for the
state's nonprofit sector (]f 3). As evidenced above, state nonprofit associations are
active in the policy arena and, therefore, provide a useful sample for examining
lobbying strategies of nonprofit organizations.
In addition, state nonprofit associations vary significantly in their
organizational structures including size of staff, overall expense budgets, and number
of nonprofit members as illustrated in the table below. Thus, state nonprofit
associations provide a platform to examine the relationship between organizational
structures and the nature of lobbying strategies these associations choose to employ
when attempting to influence policy agendas.
Table 2.1: Examples of Organizational Characteristics of State Nonprofit
Associations
State Number of Paid Staff Annual Expense Budget Number of Nonprofit Members
MD 28 $3,015,000 1,478
NC 17 $1,670,000 1,494
CO 11 $1,290,000 1,168
HI 5 $550,000 336
MT 2 $200,000 382
40


Furthermore, the associations differ in the makeup of their processes for
addressing policy issues. A number of state nonprofit associations have formed
policy committees that include members of the community to identify relevant
policy issues to nonprofit organizations in their prospective states, whereas other
state nonprofit associations only employ their staff members to identify the
important policy issues of their state. Some state nonprofit associations hire specific
staff devoted to public policy and advocacy, whereas others depend on volunteers to
carry out advocacy activities. This study examines the organizational characteristics
of state nonprofit associations and the impacts these characteristics have on the
nature of lobbying strategies of the organizations.
Agenda Setting and Explanatory Factors of Influence
Agenda Setting
Theories of agenda setting provide a platform for researching the process in
which state nonprofit associations influence the policy process. Scholars have
defined agenda setting as follows: Cobb and Elder (1983) refer to agenda setting as a
question of how issues gain access to an institutional agenda... and how these group
conflicts become transformed into public issues... to be placed on the docket for
authoritative decision-making (p. 35). Kingdon (1995) distinguishes agenda setting
as selecting from all possible problems or subjects that are worthy of priority
attention by decision makers. Jones and Baumgartner (2005) describe agenda setting
as the process by which the organization comes to pay attention to some issues
41


rather than others (p. 38). This study applies Jones and Baumgartners (2005)
definition of agenda setting as the process by which policy subsystems come to pay
attention to some issues rather than others [See the definition of policy subsystems
in the Introduction, p. 12].
While there are many definitions for agenda setting, through a process of
building knowledge over the last half-century scholars have identified a number of
explanatory factors that influence the agenda setting process. This study focuses on
three of these factors: issue definition, issue attention, and prevailing power through
the policy framework of punctuated equilibrium theory. 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. As such, the historical
development of these conceptual elements must first be examined.
Explanatory Factors of Influence
Baumgartner and Jones (1993) write that research on agenda setting has been
limited by the difficulty that researchers have encountered in operationalizing the
term agenda setting. Throughout the last half-century, scholars have attempted to
define agenda setting by identifying a number of explanatory factors that influence
the agenda setting phase of the policy process. Beginning with Schattschneiders
(1960) concepts of conflict expansion and scope of participation, scholars have
developed models for influencing agenda setting, each of which include similar
fundamental explanatory factors that determine whether an issue will be placed on
42


the policy agenda.
Schattschneiders (1960) work on agenda setting was the first influential
research to apply the concepts of conflict expansion and scope of participation to
agenda setting and the policy process. Schattschneider argued that the outcome of
every conflict is determined by the extent to which the audience becomes involved in
it, that is by the scope of its contagion, or the degree to which the issue catches on
(p. 2). Conflicts are won or lost due to the audiences attention and involvement in
the issue. Schattschneider concluded that every audience within a scope of conflict
has a bias. New participants to the issue will inevitably change the bias of the
audience, thus influencing the degree to which the issue spreads.
Schattschneiders (1960) views on the role of the scope of conflict in politics
created a new interpretation of the political system. From this new interpretation,
issue networks and policy subsystems emerged. Policy researchers began to
examine the role of conflict expansion and scope of participation through the use of
such terms as issue attention, issue definition, and prevailing power. Schattschneider
set the stage for researchers to think about the operationalization of the agenda
setting phase of the policy process (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993; Kingdon, 1995).
Following Schattschneider (1960), Downs (1972) examined agenda setting
from the perspective of citizen influence. Downs developed the issue attention
cycle in which the surges and declines of public attention shape the policy agenda.
Downs argued that these surges would occur during windows of opportunity.
43


Downs view of agenda setting through an issue attention cycle encouraged many
subsequent researchers to highlight the importance of issue attention and windows of
opportunity in the agenda setting process.
Cobb and Elder (1983) further developed theories of agenda setting by
building on the concepts of issue definition and conflict expansion. Cobb and Elder
argued that groups wishing to influence agenda setting strategically define the issue
at hand in order to build more support in the group, thus strengthening the power of
the groups influence. By increasing the size of the audience, the greater the
likelihood the issue will gain access to the political agenda.
Cobb and Elder (1983) write that groups wishing to influence the general
public or individuals in government make use of symbols to gain their awareness and
attention. Symbols are characterized as either referential symbols that have factual
basis or condensational symbols that have an emotive appeal. Symbols are used to
influence situations and expand conflict, thus increasing or decreasing the entrance
of an issue onto the policy agenda. Finally, Cobb and Elder address the importance
of power as an influential factor of agenda setting. Power is a relationship in which
one person has the ability to affect, modify, or in some way shape the actions of
another (p. 22). Power is the struggle between groups to influence one another.
Building on the aforementioned authors, Kingdons (1984, 1995) multiple
streams theory examined the processes by which agendas are set and alternatives are
specified through windows of opportunity. According to Kingdon, windows of
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opportunity materialize when political streams, policy streams, and problem streams
come together and create an opportunity for an issue to emerge as an agenda item.
These streams are individually influenced by issue attention, problem (issue)
definition, and symbols, each of which must be present in order for a window to
appear.
Similar to Downs (1972) and Cobb and Elder (1983), Kingdon (1995) argued
that a policy issue will not be considered an important agenda item unless it receives
issue attention resulting from a focusing event. Furthermore, the importance of a
policy issue is determined by its problem definition (or issue definition), which
Kingdon defines as the values one brings to an observation, comparison of beliefs, or
the belief as to whether an issue is in need of resolution. Finally, Kingdon posited
that agendas are influenced by three symbols that alter the political system. First, a
crisis or prominent event may signal the need for government attention on a
particular issue. Second, agendas may be influenced by a gradual accumulation of
knowledge of specialists researching a particular area or by studies that produce
significant results that impact policy. Third, agendas are influenced by the political
processes of public opinion, election results, change in administration, and turnover
in Congress (p. 18-19).
Building on the research of Schattschneider (1960), Downs (1972), Cobb and
Elder (1983), and Kingdon (1984,1995), Baumgartner and Jones (1993, 2005)
punctuated equilibrium theory operationalized processes of influences on agenda
45


setting by focusing on the explanatory factors of issue attention, issue definition, and
prevailing power. Baumgartner and Jones used these explanatory factors as criteria
to explain the process of how and why an issue gains access to the policy agenda.
Baumgartner and Jones (1993) define issue definition as the use of policy
images or symbols to define a topic, idea, or concern. The way in which an issue is
defined will impact the attention that the issue receives from public and political
actors. Policy images (symbols) are often a mixture of empirical information and
emotive appeals. Policy images play a critical role in the expansion of issues and
can prompt varying degrees of political and citizen action (Baumgartner & Jones,
1993; Wyszomirski, 1998).
Issue attention is defined as the amount of attention an issue receives by the
public or elected officials. Issue attention is often the result of incremental or
concentrated influence by a reformer or event that brings a policy issue to the public
and medias notice (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993). These focusing events often result
in what Baumgartner and Jones (1993) refer to as waves of popular enthusiasm
that in turn mobilize lobbyists and legislators in the policy arena (p.179).
Finally, according to Baumgartner and Jones (1993), a third variable
influencing agenda setting is that of prevailing power. The authors describe
prevailing power as the ability of one entity to compel another entity to do
something. For example, an interest group may disseminate information compelling
citizens to contact legislators.
46


As illustrated above, the explanatory factors of issue definition, issue
attention, and prevailing power have proven to be essential components in the study
of the process of agenda setting. Using punctuated equilibrium theory as a guide,
this study builds on previous research of agenda setting by examining the process
and extent to which state nonprofit associations lobbying strategies are intended to
change issue definition, issue attention, and prevailing power. Punctuated
equilibrium theory has been chosen for its incorporation of these explanatory factors
in addition to the theoretical presumption that manipulating explanatory factors will
ultimately bring about incremental or dramatic influence to policy subsystems, thus
altering the policy agenda.
Punctuated Equilibrium Theory
While scholars have viewed the role of nonprofit organizations in the policy
process through an empirical lens, the most outstanding research gap in nonprofit
literature is the failure of scholars to apply an established and well-published policy
framework to nonprofit organizations involvement in the policy process (Nyland,
1995; Ferris, 1998; Reid, 2000; Handy, 2001; Gronbjerg & Paarlberg, 2001). The
present research fills this void in the literature by applying Baumgartner and Jones
(1993) conceptual elements of punctuated equilibrium theory as a guide to examine
state nonprofit associations use of lobbying strategies and the methods in which
these strategies are employed to bring about change to policy subsystems and policy
agendas. In short, this study hypothesizes that state nonprofit associations use
47


lobbying strategies to bring about change to explanatory factors of issue definition,
issue attention, and prevailing power with the purpose of influencing policy
subsystems [See Figure 2, p. 58, for an illustration of punctuated equilibrium theory
as it applies to the current study].
Policy Subsystems and Incremental or Concentrated Influence
According to Baumgartner and Jones (1993), policy subsystems or
monopolies are a monopoly on political understandings concerning the policy of
interest, and an institutional arrangement that reinforces that understanding (p. 6).
Policy subsystems have been described as iron triangles, issue networks,
subgovemments, and policy monopolies, [and] each of the dominant theories of the
process acknowledges that the bulk of modem policymaking occurs in the policy
subsystem (Wood, 2006, p. 2). These policy subsystems or monopolies consist of
individuals from administrative agencies, legislative committees, interest groups,
and/or media groups. Policy subsystems meet over long periods of time to influence
policy formulation within a given policy area (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993).
Subsystems remain relatively autonomous in their make-up by warding off change
from political outsiders and rebuffing the efforts of external groups to become part of
the policy making process (Givel, 2006).
Baumgartner and Jones (1993) punctuated equilibrium theory argues that
policy subsystems can be influenced or broken by the intrusion of an outside group
into the policy subsystem or monopoly. Actors, for example interest groups, outside
48


of the subsystem can reframe an issue, mobilize support among the previously
apathetic, and draw sufficient attention to the problem to shift the problem onto the
macropolitical agenda (Wood, 2006, p.2), thus influencing actors within the policy
subsystem. This influence is referred to as a punctuation of the policy subsystem.
This study argues that punctuations are the result of incremental or dramatic
influence brought on by lobbying strategies designed to change issue definition,
issue attention, and prevailing power.
Baumgartner and Jones (1993) observe that incremental changes can be the
result of interest groups taking the initiative to attempt to influence a policy issue, or
they can result from a counter-mobilization where interest groups mobilize to protect
themselves from another group with a political advantage. In contrast to incremental
change, Baumgartner and Jones note that reformers may utilize focusing events, such
as the health care reform movement of 2009, as an instigator to employ their
lobbying strategies during short period of time in order influence a policy issue. The
authors argue that focusing events have a way of grabbing headlines and
dominating the schedules of public officials (p. 10), and therefore these events are
used towards a reformers advantage by illustrating the urgent need for change on
specific policy issues. These observations indicate that the timing of employing
lobbying strategies to influence explanatory factors is an essential component in
determining whether punctuations occur in a policy subsystem. State nonprofit
associations may attempt to create incremental influence by employing lobbying
49


strategies over a long period of time, or they may attempt to create concentrated
influence by employing lobbying strategies during a short period of time. Timing of
influence is explored in the current study to illustrate whether incremental or
dramatic influence is the more effective approach to punctuating policy subsystems.
It is important to note the current researchs interpretation of incremental and
concentrated periods of time. Baumgartner and Jones (1993, 2005) never specify the
boundaries of incremental periods of time, nor concentrated periods of time. Based
on their research, however, an assumption can be made that punctuated equilibrium
theory is to be applied as a framework for policy issues spanning many decades. For
example, the authors study on policies on nuclear power in the United States
researched a period of ninety years of incremental and concentrated change, and
another study on automobile safety researched a period of eighty years. Incremental
periods in each of these studies often lasted decades and concentrated periods usually
lasted somewhere between two to five years. However, as Givels (2006) study on
tobacco sales illustrates, there are exceptions to Baumgartner and Jones
interpretations of these concepts. As discussed below, Givels study researches
tobacco sales and tax policies over a ten-year period of time with much shorter
periods of incremental and concentrated change. Thus, incremental and concentrated
periods of time as they relate to punctuated equilibrium can be interpreted based on
the context of the research.
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For the purposes of this study, periods of time are examined from the
moment a state nonprofit association begins implementing lobbying strategies on a
specific policy issue to the moment the association stops implementing lobbying
strategies on that issue. Since state nonprofit associations primarily address policy
issues within a one-year time frame as indicated by the Manager of Public Policy of
the Colorado Nonprofit Association, incremental influence is measured as influence
spanning a period of six months or more. The Manager of Public Policy also noted
that lobbying for a policy issue for less than six months is considered a short amount
of time to implement lobbying strategies. Thus, concentrated influence is measured
as influence spanning a time period of less than six months.
Empirical Research Using Punctuated Equilibrium Theory to Study Advocacy
Scholars of environmental and health policy have led the theoretical
advancement of using punctuated equilibrium theory as a tool to study advocacy,
most notably in researching interest groups that employ advocacy techniques to
influence explanatory factors and policy monopolies (Baumgartner, 2006). In one
study of old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest, Wood (2006) examined
environmentalists use of policy images to draw attention to the endangerment of the
spotted owl inhabiting the forests that were being cut down. Before the spotted owl
became an issue of concern to legislators in Congress, timber and grazing interests
created and influenced a powerful policy subsystem in Congress that worked to
protect the timber and grazing industries. To advocate in favor of protecting the
51


forest, environmentalists used both direct and grassroots lobbying strategies to
educate citizens and legislators on the endangerment of the spotted owl including
testifying to Congress and providing educational materials to the general public and
legislators. Over time, members of the policy subsystem began to agree that
protection of the spotted owl and the old-growth forest was a necessity in
environmental protection. In his review of congressional records, media reports, and
documents from the Government Accounting Office, Bureau of Land Management,
and Forest Service, Wood found that the environmentalists succeeded in changing
the issue definition and issue attention of this policy issue, in turn changing the
prevailing power of interest groups and punctuating the policy monopoly
(subsystem) to modify the policy agenda.
In another study, Givel (2006) applied punctuated equilibrium theory to a
state level policy issue involving tobacco sales and taxes over a ten year period from
1990-1999. In this study, coalitions of health groups attempted to aggressively
mobilize over a period of thirteen years against a state policy subsystem that was
heavily influenced by the tobacco industry. These coalitions worked to punctuate
policy monopolies through the use of direct and grassroots lobbying strategies,
including meeting with legislators and their staffs and educating the public on the
harmful effects of smoking. The goal of the coalitions was to influence issue
definition by redefining the health impacts of smoking and drawing attention (issue
attention) to these negative health impacts by swaying legislators views on smoking,
52


and finally by shifting the balance of power from tobacco lobbyists to the health
coalitions within the policy subsystem.
In order to determine the effectiveness of the health coalitions lobbying
strategies on state tobacco legislation, Givel (2006) analyzed state-level laws on
policy taxes. Givel posited that the success of the health coalitions would be
reflected in increased state legislation on tobacco sales tax, state funding for anti-
tobacco education programs, and stronger local ordinances with respect to youth
access and clean indoor air programs. The data for this study was collected from the
State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation System: Tobacco Map Reports
created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for
Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of Smoking and Health.
Givels results found that during the period of 1990-1999, 12 states enacted clean
indoor air legislation, 20 states enacted new tobacco youth-access ordinances, and 30
states enacted legislation requiring the licensing of tobacco sellers vending
machines and over the counter sales, which allows for the tracking of tobacco sales
violations. According to Givel, these policy outcomes illustrate the success of the
health industrys use of lobbying strategies to influence explanatory factors that
ultimately impacted policy subsystems formed around this issue, and thus the policy
agenda. Givels study illustrates how punctuated equilibrium theory and the
explanatory factors of issue definition, issue attention, and prevailing power can be
used as a framework to describe legislative influence and policy change.
53


Reflecting on the frameworks of the two previously noted studies, this
research argues that state nonprofit associations use lobbying strategies to change
explanatory factors to bring about incremental or dramatic influence in a policy
subsystem, which in turn can alter the policy agenda. As illustrated above,
punctuated equilibrium theory offers a framework of conceptual elements to explore
the process by which state nonprofit associations attempt to influence policy
agendas.
Bounded Rationality and Punctuated Equilibrium Theory
The roots of punctuated equilibrium theory can be traced to theories of
information-processing and decision-making. The theory argues that there are
incentives for interest groups to actively produce information rather than to withhold
it (John, 2003; Jones & Baumgartner, 2005). This conclusion led Jones and
Baumgartner (2005) to ask how [do] policy makers attend to and prioritize
information? (p.330), and to posit that all legislators are boundedly rational.
Bounded rationality is based on the premise that decision makers cannot be rational
and comprehensive at the same time. These decision makers are bound by
incomplete knowledge and information of existing situations or consequences of
these existing situations (Simon, 1947).
When considering bounded rationality within the context of punctuated
equilibrium theory and agenda setting, changes in issue definition, issue attention,
and prevailing power can lead to shifts in information processing of legislators,
54


which may ultimately lead to different policy alternatives (Baumgartner & Jones,
1993). It is important to note the impacts of bounded rationality on the current study
in that legislators make policy choices based on the information they are given, thus
the information state nonprofit associations choose to disseminate may be weighed
heavily, or not at all, by the public and elected officials. Bounded rationality must be
considered when contemplating the theoretical concepts of this study.
55


CHAPTER THREE
METHODOLOGY
Research Purpose and Research Questions
Due to the rapid growth of the nonprofit sector, it is important for researchers
of the policy process to understand the impacts of state nonprofit associations on the
agenda setting phase of the policy process. As stated previously, 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. These associations play an important role in both the nonprofit sector
and the policy process, yet the organizational characteristics and policy activities of
these organizations have not been researched (Abramson & McCarthy, 2002).
Second, the study expands scholars knowledge of the relationships between
56


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 research adds to the
knowledge of punctuated equilibrium theory and its use as a framework to study
nonprofit organizations and 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.
Therefore, this study answers the following research 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?
5. Is there a relationship between state nonprofit associations organizational
structures and the nature of their lobbying activities?
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6. What are the impacts of the h-election option on state nonprofit associations
use of lobbying strategies?
Study Design
Theoretical Framework for the Study
This study applies the conceptual elements of punctuated equilibrium theory
to explore state nonprofit associations use of lobbying strategies to influence policy
agendas. Figure 2 illustrates the theoretical aspects of this study with a narration that
follows.
Figure 2: Framework for Applying Conceptual Elements of Punctuated
Equilibrium Theory to State Nonprofit Associations Use of Lobbying Strategies
Narration of Figure 2
As illustrated in Figure 2, state nonprofit associations employ lobbying
strategies to create change to one or more explanatory factors (explanatory factors
58


may impact one another as indicated by the two-way arrows). By changing
explanatory factors, state nonprofit associations can influence individuals or groups
in policy subsystems either incrementally or during concentrated periods of time.
This influence may ultimately impact an issue on the policy agenda. As noted
previously, for the purposes of this study incremental periods of time are considered
six months or more whereas concentrated periods of time are considered less than six
months. Conversely, state nonprofit associations may employ lobbying strategies to
change explanatory factors in order to prevent other interest groups from influencing
a policy subsystem. By preventing change to a policy subsystem, the policy agenda
may be influenced. For example, state nonprofit associations may lobby in an
attempt to change explanatory factors to educate legislators on an issue so that the
legislators will not change their opinion of that issue. However, as the dotted lines
indicate, no change to a policy subsystem could also indicate failure of a state
nonprofit association to create intended change to the policy subsystem. If this
occurs, state nonprofit associations will return to using lobbying strategies to change
explanatory factors with the intention of repeating its attempts to create incremental
or dramatic influence to the policy subsystem.
Operational Definitions of the Study
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,
59


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 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 Baumgartners (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 groups
60


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 movements 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 legislators 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 organizations 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.
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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).
Data Collection Methods
This study follows an iterative design for research. According to Caracelli
and Greene (1997), iterative designs are characterized by a dynamic and ongoing
interplay over time between the different methodologies associated with different
paradigms (p.23). These studies use results from one method type to inform the
development of another method type. Thus, progressive reconfigurations and
reinterpretations of the findings will occur with increased insight resulting from the
different methods of data collection. Iterative designs result in greater depth and
richness of information (Caracelli & Greene, 1997).
The iterative design of this study has been approached using two methods.
First, a cross-sectional exploratory survey was administered to individuals working
on policy issues in the 40 state nonprofit associations throughout the United States
with follow-up semi-structured interviews of a sample of these individuals [See
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Appendix A: IRB Human Subjects Approval], It is important to note that the unit
of analysis of the study is the organization. not the individual. Second, a case study
of the Colorado Nonprofit Association was conducted. According to its website, the
Colorado Nonprofit Association is successful at using lobbying strategies to
influence policy agendas (Colorado Nonprofit Association, 2008). Data collected
from the survey and follow-up interviews were analyzed, and results were applied to
the development of interview questions in the case study.
Survey of State Nonprofit Associations
The survey instrument was created specifically for this research study. To
increase the validity of this study, survey questions were taken from three previously
administered surveys related to advocacy, lobbying, and the policy process including
McNutt and Bolands (1999) survey of social work associations use of advocacy
strategies, Berry and Arons (2003) survey of a random sample of nonprofit
organizations on the impacts of tax law on political participation, and Wilsons
(1981) survey of interest groups use of advocacy strategies in the federal policy
arena. Each survey provided questions that were relevant to the current research
[See Appendix B: Cover Letter and Survey to view the final survey].
The survey was created for the purpose of collecting data on the types of
lobbying strategies used by state nonprofit associations in the last two years. The
survey divided lobbying strategies into two categories: grassroots and direct
strategies. Grassroots strategies included such items as writing press releases for the
63


newspaper, creating blogging websites, or emailing associations members to
educate them on a policy issue. Direct strategies included such activities as direct
contact with legislators or their staffs such as meetings, emailing, or telephoning
these individuals.
The survey was divided into three sections. The first section of the survey
asked participants to identify the types of grassroots lobbying strategies their
respective state nonprofit association used to influence policymakers, the frequency
of use of these strategies on a scale of 0= Never, 1= Relatively infrequent, 2=
Sometimes, but not often 3= Often, but not ongoing, 4= Ongoing, and their
perceived effectiveness of each strategy on a scale of 1= Low effectiveness, 2=
Moderate effectiveness, 3= High effectiveness, 4= Very high effectiveness. The
second section of the survey asked participants to identify the types of direct
lobbying strategies used to influence policymakers including the frequency and
perceived effectiveness of these strategies applying the scales previously noted. The
final section of the survey asked participants to identify the organizational
characteristics of their specific state nonprofit association and whether the
association opted for the h-elective and why they made this decision. Participants
were then asked whether they would like to volunteer for a follow-up interview.
The methods for developing and administering the survey followed the
guidelines of Berry, Arons, Bass, Carter, and Portneys (2003) Surveying
Nonprofits: A Methods Handbook. The survey was administered as a mailed hard-
64


copy version and an emailed version with an Internet link to the survey. The Internet
version of the survey was created using Survey Monkey (Survey Monkey, 2009).
Drafts of the survey were reviewed by both academics and practitioners in the
nonprofit field prior to distribution. In addition, the survey was reviewed by a policy
manager at one of the state nonprofit associations and corrections were made to
reflect his comments and concerns. Since the number of state nonprofit associations
is limited to 40, the survey was not piloted with more than one individual from one
state nonprofit association so that the survey sample size would not be affected.
Berry et.al. (2003) suggest multiple mailings for increased return rates of
surveys. This study followed Berry et al.s recommendation by administering the
survey in the following method: The initial survey was sent in an email indicating
the link to the survey in addition to sending a hard copy with a return envelope to
selected individuals who work on public policy from the forty state nonprofit
associations. Three weeks after the initial survey was sent, a second email and hard-
copy version of the survey were sent to the sample. Six weeks after the initial survey
was mailed, a final email and hard-copy mailing were sent to the sample.
The survey was administered to the Director/CEO/President (titles vary by
association) of each of the 40 state nonprofit associations and any other staff member
in the association who could possibly work on policy activities (N= 138). Surveys
were administered to an average of three individuals per state nonprofit association.
The majority of state nonprofit associations include a paid staff of 32 individuals or
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less, therefore only a limited number of individuals at each association work on
policy activities. Of the 138 surveys that were administered to individuals working
on policy activities in the state nonprofit associations, 47 surveys were returned with
a 34% response rate [See Appendix C: Respondents Work Positions for illustration
and discussion of work positions of individual respondents]. Twenty-four surveys
were returned via hard copy and 23 were completed using the online survey method.
The 47 returned surveys represented 27 state nonprofit associations. While this may
appear to be a small sample, 27 associations represents 68% of the total number of
state nonprofit associations.
Follow-up Interviews to the Survey
At the end of each survey, respondents were asked whether they would like
to participate in a follow-up interview. Follow-up interviews were conducted to gain
a more in-depth perspective on the organizational structures and lobbying strategies
used by the associations and the factors that influence their choice of lobbying
strategies. The interviews were semi-structured and were conducted over the
telephone with a length of no more than forty-five minutes [See Appendix D: Survey
Follow-up Interview Protocol for recruitment script and interview questions].
Of the 47 individuals who responded to the survey, 28 volunteered for a
follow-up interview. However, when contacted to set up the interview, only 13
participants agreed to set up a time for the interview. Three additional individuals
asked that follow-up questions be sent via email, but those individuals never replied
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with their responses. For those who did not set up a time for the interview, some
declined the interview due to their limited schedules, others were no longer with the
organization, and the remaining individuals did not reply to the request to set up an
interview. Of the 13 individuals who participated in a follow-up interview, these
individuals represented 11 state nonprofit associations. The 13 individuals
represented a number of different work positions in the state nonprofit associations
including the Director of Public Policy (n= 4), Public Policy
Manager/Officer/Analyst (n= 4), Director/CEO/President (n= 3), Membership
Director (n= 1), and Chief Operations Officer (n= 1). An interview was also
conducted with the President and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits to
explore why state nonprofit associations are formed and dismantled. The interview
was conducted over email as requested by the President and CEO of the National
Council of Nonprofits.
Sample and Unit of Analysis
As noted previously, the unit of analysis for this study is the organization.
Therefore, responses from states with more than one respondent were averaged so
that there was one response per state in the dataset [See Appendix E: Number of
Survey Responses Per State for breakdown of number of survey responses per state].
While 27 states are represented from the survey respondents, one of the surveys for
one of the New York associations (New York is the only state with two state
nonprofit associations) did not answer the questions of the survey and instead wrote
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a note stating that the individual preferred to be interviewed rather than complete the
entire survey. As a result, this particular state nonprofit association was included in
the overall sample of 27 associations since a follow-up interview was conducted, but
it was not included in the survey database since there was no survey data to enter on
the scaled questions. Therefore, data analyzed from the survey were based on an n
of 26 organizations, not 27 organizations.
Case Study
Case studies are used when a research study is asking explanatory questions
and it seeks to explore operational links traced over a period of time. Case studies
ask for explanations of how and why rather than looking at mere frequencies or
incidences over time (Yin, 2003). Case studies provide the opportunity to analyze
specific details that are often overlooked by other methods (Kumar, 2005).
According to George and Bennett (2005), case studies have many strengths. First,
case studies allow researchers to achieve high levels of conceptual validity by
identifying and measuring the indicators that best represent the theoretical concepts
the researcher intends to measure (p. 19). Second, case studies can identify new
variables and hypotheses to the original research question by asking interview
respondents to answer open-ended questions where new information may be shared
with the interviewer. Third, case studies examine in detail the operation of causal
mechanisms in individual cases.
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This case study examined the Colorado Nonprofit Association through
interviews and content analysis of documents. The Colorado Nonprofit Association
(CNA) has been chosen for three reasons. First, the CNA is one of the largest state
nonprofit associations in terms of paid staff (ranking 6th out of 40 state nonprofit
associations), and therefore is presumed to have a more developed organizational
structure. Second, the CNA has one of the highest memberships of all of the state
nonprofit associations with 1,300 members (ranking 7th out of 40). Third, and most
importantly, according to their website the CNA claims to have proven success in
using lobbying strategies to influence policy agendas (Colorado Nonprofit
Association, 2008).
To increase the validity of this research, the case study focused on three
different policies that the Colorado Nonprofit Association attempted to influence
through the use of lobbying strategies. Initially, the case study was going to focus on
four policies two in which the CNA was successful at using lobbying strategies to
influence and two in which the CNA was not successful at influencing but the
Manager of Public Policy of the CNA could only suggest one policy in which the
CNA was unsuccessful at influencing through the use of lobbying strategies. The
Manger of Public Policies noted that the association chooses to lobby for issues they
believe the organization will have success at influencing, thus, since he started his
position in 2005 there has only been one policy issue in which the association was
unsuccessful at using lobbying strategies. The three policies that were researched in
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the case study were identified by the Manager of Public Policy of the Colorado
Nonprofit Association as policy issues in which the Colorado Nonprofit Association
actively participated in lobbying activities. The policies included HB 09-1088,
Referendum C, and Amendment 59. As perceived by the Manager of Public Policy,
HB 09-1088 and Referendum C were successfully influenced by the associations
lobbying activities and Amendment 59 was unsuccessfully influenced by the
associations lobbying activities. By exploring policies that were successfully and
unsuccessfully influenced, this study gains a more in-depth understanding of the
effectiveness of employing lobbying strategies to influence policy agendas.
Following is a brief overview of the three legislative policies selected for this case
study. The case study is discussed in much more detail in the Results chapter under
Questions 3 and 4.
Case Study Policy 1: HB 09-1088 Colorado Nonprofits as Local Public Procurement
Units:
On March 13, 2009, Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado signed HB 09-1088
into law. This bill titled Colorado Nonprofits as Local Public Procurement Units
allowed the Department of Personnel and Administration to certify any 501(c)3
charitable organization receiving funding from federal, state, or local government
sources to purchase supplies, services, or construction at state price agreements.
Nonprofit organizations participating in the program could receive up to 10-40%
deductions on purchases through the state price agreements (Colorado General
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Assembly, 2009; Colorado Nonprofit Association, 2009; Personal communication,
September 4, 2009).
Proponents of this bill argued that the new provisions would save significant
dollars for nonprofit organizations that quality and, ultimately, would assist these
organizations in furthering their missions and goals. In addition, the bill would
bring increased revenue to the Department of Personnel and Administration by
increasing purchases through the states procurement system. The Colorado
Nonprofit Association supported this bill. HB 09-1088 faced little opposition from
Colorado legislators. Those who did oppose the bill argued that local businesses
would suffer if nonprofit organizations bought supplies from the state procurement
system (Colorado Nonprofit Association, 2009).
Case Study Policy 2: Referendum C, Colorado State Spending Act
Referendum C was on the Colorado statewide ballot on November 1,
2005 and was approved by voters with a 52.1% majority. Referendum C
proposed changes to Colorados TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) laws.
TABOR laws in Colorado limit the amount of state spending each year by
tying overall government spending to a calculation of inflation and population
increases in Colorado. This calculation puts a cap on government spending and
taxpayers are refunded tax dollars collected by the state that exceed the cap on
spending.
Referendum C .... allows the state to retain and spend money from
existing revenue sources above the TABOR limit each year beginning
in FY 2005-2006. The state may spend all revenue subject to TABOR
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for five years through FY 2009-2010. Beginning in FY 2010-2011, the
state may spend revenue above the TABOR limit up to a capped
amount known as the Referendum C Cap. The Referendum C Cap
grows from the prior years cap instead of the prior years spending by
inflation plus growth population (Colorado Legislative Council Staff,
2009).
To summarize, Referendum C proposed that for a period of five years
between FY 2005-2006 and FY 2009-2010, Colorado taxpayers would not receive
refunds of tax dollars collected over the TABOR limit. Instead, this money would
be used for health care, public education, and transportation projects.
Proponents of the bill argued that Referendum C provided essential funding
for Colorados schools, roads, and health care that would otherwise not be available.
Proponents also argued that Referendum C would help the state recover from the
states recession of 2001 (Colorado Nonprofit Association, 2006; Colorado
Legislative Council Staff, 2009). The Colorado Nonprofit Association supported this
bill. Opponents of the bill argued that Referendum C would ultimately hurt
Colorados economic recovery that began in 2003 since citizens and businesses
would not receive tax refunds and therefore would not be able to put this money
back into their local economies (Colorado Nonprofit Association, 2006; Colorado
Legislative Council Staff, 2009; Institute for Justice, 2009).
Case Study Policy 3: Amendment 59, TABOR Rebates and Education Funding
Amendment 59 failed to pass on the November 4, 2008 Colorado ballot with
a vote of 45% to 55%. Amendment 59 included a number of provisions that would
have permanently eliminated tax refunds from TABOR (Colorados Taxpayer Bill of
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Rights) and instead would put this money into a state education fund savings
account. This fund, which would start in 2011, would be limited to spending monies
on public education, accountable education reform, school safety improvement,
expansion of preschool and kindergarten programs, and public school building
capital construction (Blake, September 11, 2008; Colorado Legislative Council,
September 2, 2008).
Proponents of Amendment 59 argued that the bill would provide a permanent
source of funding to Colorados public schools and public education and would
preserve the right of citizens to vote on taxes. The Colorado Nonprofit Association
supported this bill. Opponents to the bill argued that reforms to funding for
Colorados public education should focus on addressing minimum spending rather
than eliminating the TABOR tax refund. Similar to Referendum C, opponents
argued that TABOR tax refunds should continue in order to boost the state and local
economies.
Case Study Interviews
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the President and CEO, the
Manager of Public Policy, six members of the Policy Committee, three members of
the Board of Directors, and the Contract Lobbyist of the Colorado Nonprofit
Association [See Appendix F: Case Study Interview Protocol]. Interviews were held
in person or over the phone lasting no more than 90 minutes. Interviewees were
questioned on their role in the Colorado Nonprofit Association and its policy
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advocacy efforts, the process in which the CNA decides to act on a policy issue, and
how lobbying strategies have effectively or ineffectively been used by the CNA to
influence policy agendas in the state of Colorado. Interviewees were specifically
asked to discuss successful and unsuccessful lobbying strategies used to influence
HB 09-1088, Referendum C, and Amendment 59.
Case Study Documents
v
Documents are important in case study research in that they corroborate and
augment evidence from other sources (Yin, 2003, p.87). Therefore, three categories
of documents have been analyzed. First, documents from the CNA on HB 09-1088,
Amendment 59 and Referendum C were analyzed. This includes educational
pamphlets, administrative documents, and printed or online memos related to the
three designated policies that are being researched. Second, legislative reports on
HB 09-1088, Referendum C, and Amendment 59 were reviewed including
memorandums, fiscal impact statements, and ballot issue reports provided by the
Colorado General Assemblys website. Third, news media in the form of printed or
online news articles and magazine articles were examined including any document
discussing the CNAs involvement in HB 09-1088, Referendum C, and Amendment
59.
Analyses
This study incorporated both quantitative and qualitative analytical methods.
Data collected from the survey of state nonprofit associations were analyzed using
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quantitative methods, whereas data collected from the follow-up interviews, case
study interviews, and document analysis were analyzed using qualitative methods.
Quantitative Analysis of Survey Data
Survey data collected through Survey Monkey were exported from the
website data analysis page in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and were transferred to
SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences 16.0 Graduate Student Version,
2007). Survey data collected from hard-copy surveys were entered directly into
SPSS. If more than one survey was received from one state nonprofit association,
the survey responses for that particular association were averaged. Multiple surveys
were sent to each state nonprofit association to increase the likelihood of receiving at
least one response from the individual state nonprofit associations.
Survey data were analyzed using descriptive statistics to determine
frequencies and trends within respondents answers and chi-square were run to
determine relationships between variables. Descriptive statistics were run to: a)
determine similarities and differences between the organizational characteristics of
state nonprofit associations, b) describe the different types and prevalence of use of
lobbying strategies employed by state nonprofit associations with respondents using
the scale of 0= Never, 1= Relatively infrequent, 2= Sometimes, but not often 3=
Often, but not ongoing, 4= Ongoing, c) determine the perceived effectiveness of
lobbying strategies employed by state nonprofit associations with respondents using
the scale of 1= Low effectiveness, 2= Moderate effectiveness, 3= High effectiveness,
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4= Very high effectiveness, d) determine why state nonprofit associations choose to
opt out of, or select, the h-elective option and how this choice impacts their use of
lobbying strategies, and e) describe the different types of lobbying strategies used to
influence issue definition, issue attention, and prevailing power.
Frequencies were initially run to determine any problems with the data set
including missing variables or incorrect numeric entries. Missing responses in the
surveys were coded as a 9 and these missing entries were not included in the
calculations of means and standard deviations. After all problems and missing
responses were addressed and multiple-state responses were averaged, frequencies,
means, and standard deviations were run to determine the types, prevalence of use,
and perceived effectiveness of all grassroots and direct lobbying strategies [See
Appendix G: Frequency of Use and Perceived Effectiveness of Grassroots and Direct
Lobbying Strategies Employed by State Nonprofit Associations]. Frequencies were
also run on all demographic information including such items as age, number of
nonprofit members, and annual expense budgets.
Survey data were also analyzed using chi-square statistics to determine
relationships between independent variables of organizational structures (age, overall
size of staff, overall size of budget, staff working on lobbying, budget spent on
lobbying, and time spent on lobbying) and the independent variable of use of
lobbying strategies. Statistical significance of the chi-square were determined using
an alpha level of significance of .05, thus ^-values below .05 were considered
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significant. Since the independent and dependent variables for this study are
considered continuous variables and the sample size is small (n=26 organizations), a
median split was run to dichotomize the independent and dependent variables into
categorical variables for chi-square bivariate analyses. This statistical approach is
commonly used by social science researchers to simplify continuous variables
(MacCallum, Zhang, Preacher, Rucker, 2002).
Qualitative Analysis of Follow-up Interviews, Case Study Interviews, Documents
The follow-up interviews, case study interviews, and case study documents
were analyzed using template analysis, a technique developed by Nigel King (1998,
2004). The essence of template analysis is that the researcher produces a list of
codes (templates) representing themes identified in their textual data. Some of these
will usually be defined a priori, but they will be modified and added to as the
researcher reads and interprets the texts (King, 2004, p. 256). Template analysis
assumes that there are many different interpretations to be made of any phenomenon,
thus concern with coding reliability is irrelevant. Instead, template analysis
emphasizes the richness of the information produced and the different perspectives in
which topics are approached (King, 2004).
The majority of follow-up and case study interviews were recorded with the
interviewees permission. These interviews were then transcribed for analysis.
Interviews that were not recorded were documented by note-taking during and after
the interview. Following Kings (2004) method for template analysis for coding
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interviews, an initial template of codes was created from pre-existing themes or
issues identified in the research questions. The codes were organized hierarchically
with groups of similar codes clustered together (King, 2004). After the initial
template was created, the codes were systematically applied to each interview and
additional coding themes were identified. This process was repeated three times in
order to create the final template for coding [See Appendix H: Interview Coding
Template]. Case study documents from the Colorado Nonprofit Association,
legislative updates, and media publications were also analyzed using the template
analysis process.
Limitations and Challenges of Analyses
Three limitations were encountered during the analyses of the research data.
First, the small number of 40 state nonprofit associations across the United States
provided limited survey and follow-up interview data with 27 organizations
represented in the sample. However, while this may be considered a limitation to the
study, Berry et.al. (2003) note that most studies in nonprofit research use small
sample sizes and that large nation-wide studies are rare.
Second, two of the questions on organizational characteristics of the
associations did not break down the answer choices so that the data could be used in
a more specific and relevant manner. For example, question 7 asked, About what
percent of your overall budget is spent on policy lobbying related activities? with
choices of 25% or Less, 26-50%, 51-75%, and 76-100%. The choices for this
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question should have been broken down into much smaller increments and should
only have included percentages up to 50%. Question 8, About what percent of
overall time in your organization is spent on policy lobbying related activities? also
had responses of 25% or Less, 26-50%, 51-75%, and 76-100%. The choices for
responses to this question should also have been broken down into smaller
increments and should only have included percentages up to 50%.
Third, the use of only one case study could be considered a limitation.
According to Yin (2003), single-case study research has been questioned by
researchers in its ability to generalize from a single case. In response, Yin notes that
case studies are generalizable to theoretical propositions and not to populations or
universes (p.10). Yin continues that case studies are not developed to represent a
sample, but instead the goal is to expand and generalize theories (p.10). While this
research included a single case study design, the study collected in-depth analyses on
three separate policies that have been influenced by the CNA. By analyzing three
policies, the study increased the validity of results found in this research.
Why Some States Do Not Have State Nonprofit Associations
As indicated previously, this research focuses on the forty state nonprofit
associations in the United States that are registered with the National Council of
Nonprofits. However, as the research progressed, two state nonprofit associations
removed their membership from the National Council of Nonprofits. Therefore, two
additional questions must be addressed. First, why do some states have state
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nonprofit associations while others do not? And second, why do state nonprofit
associations remove their membership from the National Council of Nonprofits? To
answer these questions, the President and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits
was interviewed via email. The President and CEO requested an interview via email
rather than via telephone. Below are his responses:
Q: Why do some states have state nonprofit associations while others do not?
A: Historically, the National Council of Nonprofits has recognized the
need for state nonprofit associations to be organically driven from the
grassroots up rather than imposed from outside a state... Essentially,
new entities require a certain mixture of followership (nonprofits
interested in joining), trusted leadership, sustainable funding, and a
solid plan for programs and operations. Normally, there is a natural
hunger for such an entity (the followership issue), and the solid plan can
be developed to fit the local needs, but efforts can falter due to lack of
funding and geographical distrust (the leadership issue). As for lack of
sustainable funding, many funders are attracted to a specific cause
rather than more generic (yet essential) support for nonprofit
infrastructure; rather than putting their money in a group that helps all
nonprofits, most funders want either more control or tangible proof of
return on investment. As for trusted leadership, typically people
(including those associated with nonprofits) will support people from
their region [he gave an example of nonprofit organizations in Tucson,
Yuma, and Flagstaff not wanting to support a state nonprofit association
based in Phoenix because of the perception that people in the largest
population center will ignore the needs of those outside the region].
Grassroots efforts are underway in several other states right now to
similarly create new state nonprofit associations. There is a rising
awareness of the need to have a meaningful voice for nonprofits at
policymaking tables. Until these efforts reach critical mass, however,
these entities cannot become members of the National Council [of
Nonprofits].
Q: Why do state nonprofit associations remove their membership from
the National Council of Nonprofits?
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A: This is a delicate issue that all membership associations face. The
National Council of Nonprofits is a membership association with
different categories of membership. So rather than being registered
with us, an organization may be come a member of ours. To be a
State Association Member, an organization must meet certain
requirements and be approved for membership. Thereafter, the
organization must continue to meet those qualifications and pay dues.
If an organization fails to meet the required qualifications or fails to pay
dues, then it is no longer entitled to a membership. Out of respect for
our former members, I will simply note that the economy has hit
nonprofits particularly hard for a variety of reasons.
These questions also lend to the concern of selection bias. Selection bias is a
potential concern of this study in that there are ten states without state nonprofit
associations that are members of the National Council of Nonprofits. However,
according to George and Bennett (2005), a researchers preliminary knowledge of
cases allows for a much stronger research design. Additionally, the authors argue
the primary criterion for case selection should be relevance to the research objective
of the study (p. 82). Therefore, this study argues that there is no selection bias in
that states without state nonprofit associations registered with the National Council
of Nonprofits are irrelevant to the study in that they do not have a state nonprofit
association to research.
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CHAPTER FOUR
RESULTS AND INTERPRETATIONS
The following results reflect the findings of the survey, follow-up interviews,
and case study of the Colorado Nonprofit Association. The results have been
organized by research question with each answer incorporating the appropriate data
collection methods noted previously. It should be noted that a number of the
research questions rely much more heavily on certain data collection methods over
others. Therefore, the emphasis on quantitative and qualitative results varies by
question.
Research Question 1: What lobbying strategies do state nonprofit associations
employ to influence policy agendas at the state level?
Results from the survey indicated that, overall, state nonprofit associations
use grassroots lobbying strategies slightly more than direct lobbying strategies in
terms of frequency of use, but direct lobbying strategies are perceived as more
effective than grassroots strategies. Table 4.1 illustrates the ten most frequently used
lobbying strategies by state nonprofit associations, and Table 4.2 illustrates the ten
most effective lobbying strategies as perceived by survey respondents [To view the
frequency of use and perceived effectiveness of all 49 lobbying strategies listed in
the survey, see Appendix G: Frequency of Use and Perceived Effectiveness of
Grassroots and Direct Lobbying Strategies Employed by State Nonprofit
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Associations].
Table 4.1: Ten Most Frequently Used Lobbying Strategies of State Nonprofit
Associations (n= 26)
Lobbying strategy Type of strategy Frequency of Use Mean* (SD)
1. Email members of the association to disseminate information and encourage them to contact policymakers Grassroots 3.56 (0.67)
2. Join coalitions of nonprofit organizations Grassroots 3.10 (1.07)
3. Encourage Board of Directors to Grassroots contact policymakers 2.89 (1.10)
4. Have personal meetings with legislators Direct 2.74 (1.26)
5. Contact staff members of legislators through email Direct 2.73 (1.33)
6. Contact legislators through email Direct 2.66 (1.08)
7. Contact staff members of legislators by telephone Direct 2.46 (1.35)
8. Have personal meetings with staff members of legislators Direct 2.43 (1.22)
9. Develop online community networks (e.g. Facebook or MySpace) Grassroots 2.35 (1.48)
10. Invite legislators to speak at an event/public meeting sponsored by your association Direct 2.35 (1.25)
*Scale of Frequency of Use: 4= Ongoing, 3= Often, but not ongoing,
2= Sometimes, but not often, 1= Infrequently, 0= Never
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As indicated by Table 4.1, disseminating information through email was one
of the most prominent strategies used by state nonprofit associations including
emailing members of the association (M= 3.56), contacting staff members of
legislators via email (M= 2.73), and contacting legislators via email (M= 2.66). As
indicated in Table 4.2, the perceived effectiveness of email as a lobbying strategy
ranked between moderate effectiveness and high effectiveness for all three
strategies. Follow-up interviews revealed that while effectiveness was difficult to
measure with email, staff working on public policy at the state nonprofit associations
perceived this strategy as effective since they often receive feedback or responses to
emails from their members, legislators, and staff members of legislators. This
finding supports McNutt and Bolands (1999) conclusion that email-based lobbying
strategies are frequently used and are perceived as an effective tool for nonprofit
policy advocacy. A likely explanation for this result is that email is a convenient
tool that takes minimal resources in terms of time, staff, and technology. Email is
also an affordable tool when compared to sending letters via postal service, and the
strategy is a highly recognized tool for disseminating information.
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Table 4.2: Ten Most Effective Lobbying Strategies as Perceived by Respondents
(n= 26)
Lobbying strategy Type of strategy Perceived Effectiveness Mean* (SD)
1. Have personal meetings with legislators Direct 3.00 (0.91)
2. Invite legislators to speak at an event/public meeting sponsored by the association Direct 2.89 (0.89)
3. Testify at legislative or administrative hearings Direct 2.79 (1.02)
4. Join coalitions of nonprofit organizations Grassroots 2.79 (0.94)
5. Email members of the association to disseminate information and encourage them to contact policymakers Grassroots 2.77 (0.89)
6. Contact legislators by telephone Direct 2.71 (0.80)
7. Contact staff members of legislators through email Direct 2.67 (1.03)
8. Contact staff members of legislators by telephone Direct 2.58 (1.11)
9. Contact legislators through email Direct 2.53 (0.71)
10. Have personal meetings with staff members of legislators Direct 2.51 (1.00)
*Scale of Perceived Effectiveness: 4= Very high effectiveness,
3= High effectiveness, 2= Moderate effectiveness,
1= Low effectiveness
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Also in accordance with McNutt and Bolands (1999) findings, survey results
indicated that contacting staff members of legislators by telephone was a frequently
used strategy (M= 2.46) of state nonprofit associations ranking higher than
sometimes, but not often with a perceived effectiveness between moderate
effectiveness and high effectiveness (M= 2.58). In contrast, one unexpected
finding was that contacting legislators by telephone ranked fourteenth in frequency
as slightly higher than sometimes, but not often (M= 2.19). However, as Table 4.2
indicates, this strategy ranked as one of the ten most effective lobbying strategies
with a mean of 2.71 indicating the strategy was perceived slightly below high
effectiveness. This result could infer that while it is more effective to contact
legislators directly by telephone, their staff members are easier to reach and
therefore are contacted more frequently.
One interesting finding of this study was that joining coalitions with other
nonprofit organizations in the state ranked as the second highest among respondents
as slightly higher than often, but not ongoing (M= 3.10) with a perceived
effectiveness slightly under high effectiveness (M= 2.79). In the follow-up and
case study interviews, joining coalitions of nonprofit organizations was emphasized
as an important strategy for state nonprofit associations trying to influence policy
agendas.
Follow-up and case study interviews indicated that state nonprofit
associations participated in both short-term and long-term policy coalitions. A short
86