Van Scoyoc Associates has the only government relations and consulting practice in Washington that is devoted exclusively to philanthropy, led by one of the sector’s former top advocates on Capitol Hill. We recognize the enormously important role philanthropy has in American society and culture, and we strive to help foundations and other philanthropic organizations highlight their work for policymakers.
From the largest research foundations to individual philanthropists, and from billion-dollar corporate foundations to community foundations of every size, philanthropies play an essential role investing in ideas and communities all across the country. Yet as the Philanthropy Awareness Initiative discovered several years ago, the work of the foundation sector is not always well understood by those in government or in a position to influence public policy. VSA’s Philanthropy Practice helps individual foundations and others in the philanthropy space educate policymakers about their program work, as well as the positive impacts they are having in local communities.
Whether it’s reaching key staff on an authorizing committee; helping build relationships with Members of Congress that represent the communities served by a foundation; acting as the “eyes and ears” on Federal policy issues of concern to a foundation’s donors, board members, or staff; or helping an affinity group or collaborative project break through the noise, the experts at Van Scoyoc Associates can help your foundation or philanthropic group achieve its core mission.
At a time when philanthropy is contributing greatly to public policy development, and when organized philanthropy and endowed giving are also increasingly threatened, we believe it’s time for the sector to have a bigger seat at the table. Just being part of a membership group, or funding a few grantees that engage in direct advocacy, does not create a full picture for policymakers about the work and accomplishments of the field. That’s where we come in. We can help foundations, regional associations, impact investors, or other philanthropic groups talk about what they do, and ensure that they reach the right audiences. Or we can provide intelligence and strategic advice without representing the organization in any public way.
Of course, private foundations face certain unique lobbying restrictions. But even with these restrictions, they are allowed to visit with Members of Congress and their staffs to build relationships and share information about their activities, provided that they do not take positions on pending legislation or issue a call to action. They can also lobby in certain circumstances, and the experts at Van Scoyoc Associates can help your foundation advance its mission while staying on the right side of the “lobbying” line. Public foundations (and other philanthropies organized as public charities) are allowed to lobby or advocate just like any other public charity, which gives them additional options for engaging with policymakers.
The Philanthropy Practice is predicated on the knowledge that there are many benefits that could result from the philanthropic community becoming more engaged in our Nation’s Capital. Our main thesis is that when key people in Washington hear from the sector only on sector-wide concerns, it doesn’t always help Congress or the Executive Branch understand what the sector does. What’s happening in the field? What does a foundation do in my state or district? What are its key accomplishments? Our goal at the Practice is to play a small role in broadening that understanding, to complement the work of organizations that represent the field on sector-wide concerns.
Current and Former(*) Clients of the Philanthropy Practice:
- Community Foundation Public Awareness Initiative (click for participants)
- Chicago Community Trust
- Silicon Valley Community Foundation
- The New York Community Trust
- Bipartisan Policy Center
- The Washington Monthly (curating a special series on “Successes of Philanthropy”)
- Council on Foundations*
- Americans for Community Development*
- U.S. National Advisory Board on Impact Investing*
- James Lee Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center*