Community foundations as advocates: social change discourse in the philanthropic sector

David Suarez, Kelly Husted, Andreu Casas Salleras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Foundations are much more than disinterested philanthropic institutions that award grants to service-providing nonprofits. Foundations are political actors that seek to produce social change, not only by donating resources to nonprofits that promote causes but also by supporting policy reform in a more direct manner. We investigate engagement in advocacy among community foundations in the USA, which we define as the effort to influence public policy by proposing or endorsing ideas and by mobilizing stakeholders for social change. Drawing primarily on organizational sociology, we posit that the environmental context in which community foundations are situated and particular structural characteristics or operational features of community foundations (institutional logics, identity and embeddedness, and managerialism) will be associated with advocacy. We utilize machine learning techniques to establish an outcome measure of advocacy discourse on community foundation websites and ordinary least squares regression to model that outcome with a cross-sectional dataset compiled from multiple sources. We find considerable support for our conceptual frame, and we conclude by offering an agenda for future research on foundations as interest groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-232
JournalInterest Groups & Advocacy
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • advocacy
  • foundation
  • philantropy
  • nonprofit
  • mission

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